One of the most exciting things about working with kids on science is that suddenly you have a dozen curious and eager eyes, much sharper than yours and much closer to the ground, who are alert to things that older eyes might have missed. This summer, while we're teaching at the Trinity River Audubon Society, I am taking the opportunity to use these sharp eyes and bright minds to help me investigate patterns of biodiversity at TRAC.
Trinity River Audubon Center is built on the old Deepwoods Lanfill, a notorious spot in Dallas that was a major source of pollution through the 80's and 90's. It was declared a brownfield remediation site and was cleaned up and Audubon TRAC took over about 4 years ago.
Hello to the K. B. Polk 4th graders!
I enjoyed your visit to Cedar Ridge Natural Preserve. As I told some of you, I'm a scientist and I was going out to South Texas that weekend to find some dinosaur prints. I told your teachers I'd write a letter about my adventures, because scientists love having adventures.
Under the science/environment topic, one tidbit of hot news this past week was a paper linking a synergestic effect between a fungus and a virus and the death of honeybee hives. What was not reported is that the paper's lead author, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, received funding from Bayer Crop Science to uncover what caused the deaths. Bayer Crop Science is hardly a disinterested party, as they manufacture pesticides.
Bromenshenk (who was a witness in a lawsuit by bee farmers against Bayer) is reported as saying that the paper "did not examine the impact of pesticides."
The article also states:
Continuing along on my previous theme (having cleared my soul of the rant on etic viewpoints of cyberculture), many studies I've seen fail to convince the "internet native" because of a number of flaws that could easily be addressed. For brevity, I'm listing them as bullet points with short discussion.
* Determine size, number of posters, average number of posts or interactions per day. It's easier to think of these spaces as functioning somewhat like a large mall -- if you want to study one, you need to get a grasp on how many people usually show up and which areas or shops they frequent. So too with message boards and other spaces (such as Second Life.) To begin to understand the perspective, you first have to see it as the entity it is.
I promised myself that I would try to do a regular Wednesday blog about some aspect of my researches. I thought I would start out with something I've been considering for awhile -- methodologies of studying large user communities on the Internet.
Only a few researchers such as Nick Yee have ventued into the complex realm of studying large communities online -- and they can get vast and complex. MMORPGs such as the World of Warcraft that Yee studied can have over 10 million users worldwide and require a lot of time and human resources to maintain. Even message boards listed on the Big Boards watch pose special problems when you step in to study them.
(I'm quite tired now, but just wanted to note this down. This ain't science; it's just a diary.)
As it says in my profile, I'm a volunteer part-time fossil preparator for the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. It's a wonderful avocation, and for the past 2 1/2 years (give or take a month), I've been at work scribing limestone off an Alamosaurus cervical vertebra.
Yes, it probably sounds boring, but deeply intriguing to me.