Category Archives: science outreach

Why is our Garden green?

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

 

It’s spring, and our Garden is beginning to turn green.  That sounds utterly unsurprising; and yet, lurking in that simple observation is one of the deepest mysteries in the science of ecology.  Why, exactly, is the world green? Continue reading

The botany of henna

Photos: Henna body art NYHENNA via flickr.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Henna flowers and leaves J.M. Garg via wikipedia.org CC BY-SA 4.0

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

 

Henna-based body art has thousands of years of history in India, Africa, and the Middle East, and it’s an increasingly common sight in the Western world too.  The intricate designs are beautiful, and many traditional designs are packed with symbolism and story.  But the henna itself has a story, too – a botanical one.  For those of us who love plants, history, and naming, there’s a lot to like about henna. Continue reading

Life under the snow

Photo: Vole tunnels revealed by melting snow, © John Fowler (johnfowler.photoshelter.com), used by permission.

 Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

             On a cold February day, when breath hangs visible in the frigid air and even our winter-resident birds are huddling out of sight, it’s easy to think that life outdoors waits suspended for a thaw.  Think twice, though, because when that thaw comes it will bring evidence – like the networks of vole tunnels in the photo above – that this apparent suspension was just an illusion.  There’s a lot going on, even on the coldest days of winter; but a lot of it is happening out of sight, under the snow. Continue reading

Knowing, and naming, your audience (with “lay audience” poll results)

Last week, I asked for advice on preferred terminology for what’s often referred to as a “lay audience”.  I’d been uncomfortable with that term, because to some ears it carries an unfortunate implication of scientists as a priesthood.  I did wonder, to be honest, whether I might be the only one who cared, but that clearly isn’t the case – responses were thick and enthusiastic both in the Replies and on Twitter.  (Only 5% of poll respondents picked the option “Holy overthinking it, Batman”.)  I’ll report here on the poll results and on the other suggestions people offered for better terminology.  But I’ll also build from that to a more general and very important point about writing – one that emerged from discussion around the poll that was, happily, much more interesting that I expected.  Continue reading

Is this blog a “science blog”? If not, what is it?

Warning: mostly navel-gazing, albeit with some thoughts about SciComm and the openness of science.

I didn’t know much about the blogosphere before Scientist Sees Squirrel was born. Turns out maybe I still don’t, since I’m asking the rather obvious question in the title of this post.

So is Scientist Sees Squirrel a “science blog”?  Well, it’s about science (inasmuch as it’s about anything), so in that sense, surely the answer should be “yes”.  But I’ve just read Science Blogging: The Essential Guide, and according to that book, the answer is pretty clearly “no”.  This surprised me a little, but it also crystallized something I’d been wondering rather vaguely about anyway: what is, and what should be, my audience here? Continue reading

There’s fungus among us

Photos:  Top, yellow fly agaric, Amanita muscaria, Bernie Kohl via wikimedia.org, released to public domain; middle, chicken-of-the-woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, Gargoyle888 via wikimedia.org, CC BY 3.0; bottom, parasitic Cordyceps on fly, Moisés Silva Lima via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

 

Autumn has arrived, and that brings fresh pleasures to a walk in our Garden: fall-blooming asters and goldenrods, the first tinges of fall colour in the trees, and (less obviously) fungi.  While you can see mushrooms and their fungal relatives almost any time of year, the fall is their peak season. If you train your eye just a little, you can see an amazing diversity of forms, and beauty to rival anything the plant kingdom has to offer. Continue reading

What is UpGoer Five for? Poll results, and thoughts on polls

In my last post, I asked what UpGoer Five (along with its constrained-vocabulary ilk) is for.  Survey says:  UpGoer Five is a toy.

At least, that’s what my readership poll (data above) says.  The sample size is small, and it’s an utterly unscientific poll (more about that later).  But 63% of respondents believe UpGoer Five is a kind of stunt writing, something we might do for fun, but having no connection to actual science communication/outreach (“SciComm”).  Continue reading