Sketchbook Snapshot: tortoises & hares in Tanzania

“There’s so much of everything! All of it inextricably tangled together […] To describe is to select – and to select only a microscopic sample from this overwhelming profusion.”

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So wrote travel journalist Michael Frayan in Travels with a Typewriter, one of several books I read during my month-long research trip to East Africa. Frayan distills into two sentences the opportunity, challenges, and complexity of traveling to conduct research, particularly in a new field site.

As I mentioned in my previous update, this was my first trip to Africa. In addition to a mélange of language, landscapes, and villages/cities, the region struck me with its boggling biodiversity, and a host of socio-political situations that resist categorization or outsider resolution. I spent much of the trip mulling over my own reactions to what is ordinary life there, and pondering how to honestly incorporate it in my project without oversimplifying, romanticizing, or otherwise inadvertently appropriating.

Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: tortoises & hares in Tanzania

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Is this SciComm? A book review about a non-science book

I’ve been mulling over the boundaries of #SciComm, in the wake of a book review I published this week on The Volta Blog.

The book I reviewed, Spring Ulmer’s The Age of Virtual Reproduction (Essay Press 2009), is a riveting eloquent set of “meditations on torture, slaughter, and the severity of so many human relationships.”* It is also a book fixated on relentless technological development and scientific discovery (e.g. photography, nuclear weapons).

But, there isn’t any explicit science in the book.

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Continue reading Is this SciComm? A book review about a non-science book

Sketchbook Snapshots: Tortoises and Hares in the Kenyan Highlands

This is my first trip to Kenya, and to Africa more generally. So far, it has been a fascinating blend of rural and urban, English and Swahili (and with it a reminder that learning a language isn’t a one-month project), and wildlife, plants, and landscapes utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

I’ve come to the Kenyan Highlands in exactly the right season. It’s the rainy season, and out of ten days so far, yesterday was the only day without rain. This consistent rainfall makes all the difference for my chances of seeing tortoises. They tend to only be visible this time of year. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshots: Tortoises and Hares in the Kenyan Highlands

3 reasons why we should tell stories about scientists, not just science.

1. Human details tangibly bring Conserving Quebec caribou_Ia story to life.

Being able to relate to a researcher is key to having an interest in what that person researches. When a science story includes the scientist, a reader can hope for a quirky anecdote, a personal revelation that is highly intriguing, or even a zany description of the scientist’s physical attributes. Continue reading 3 reasons why we should tell stories about scientists, not just science.