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                                              Is a meta-analysis on                                                  the ecology of                                                        salamanders in                                                        proximity to wetland,                                                  farmland, pastureland,                                                and cattle troughs. As an ecologist, I’m interested in the ways in which liminal, changing environments create novel systems that organisms either thrive or die in. Amphibians are at a very delicate place in the Meghalayan era due to humanity’s destruction of a majority of wetlands across the globe. Though depressing, there are a lot of possibilities for conservation and harmony with our slimy friends without even changing our behavior as a society that significantly.

                                              Is a management plan I                                                wrote in November of                                                  2020. The piece                                                        analyzes the current                                                  state of Riparian                                                      Wetlands in the American West, their declining state, and solutions to the threats affecting this essential natural resource. I also discuss some of the issues with my proposed radical plan and oppositional groups to these wetlands conservation.

Scientific Work

Scientific Experience

        When I was a kid, I loved science with every piece of my soul. I was amazed by how much people had learned about the universe, how confusing the real world actually is. I remember spending countless hours watching Nature and Nova, learning about physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, science history, psychology, and geoscience. This education was supplemented by my parents, who took me into nature regularly as a child. I spent a lot of time in the woods, learning about ecology via the actual experience of being present in natural ecosystems.

        I was incredibly privileged to have this regular access to nature and I can say with good certainty that it helped my development in a number of fields, not just science. However, the science that I’ve always been most interested in is not done in a lab. My connection to science is tied closely with my connection to nature; my interest in ecology came directly from the observations I made as a kid.

        When I was around 10 or 11, I began to learn from a naturalist who worked at the Cincinnati Nature Center, Mr. Jason Neumann, through a program one Saturday per month. Jason was a great teacher and taught me a lot about the ecology of Ohio’s forests, wetlands, streams, and prairies. We planted pawpaw trees and tapped maple trees. I was surrounded by other people who were interested in nature ABOVE science. The land itself informed our understanding of its processes, not necessarily the science (though they often go in tandem).

        After about a year, Jason suggested that I join the Summer Camp that he directed as a Counselor In-Training (CIT). I have always been interested in education, so I accepted the offer. I finally had an outlet for my interest in science. I helped out with the camp each summer, learning more about nature as well as teaching what I already knew to the campers. I also volunteered during the winter in the production of maple syrup at the Cincinnati Nature Center. I learned a ton about the sap production of trees, how to work with fire, and the history/science of maple syrup.

        I continued volunteering at the Cincinnati Nature Center for the next four years until I could be paid for my work as an actual camp counselor. I worked with a variety of people, many of them biologists or in biology-adjacent fields. I felt very comfortable in those kinds of spaces and was proud of my knowledge concerning ecology, flora, fauna, and fungi. I was now at the end of my childhood and I felt like my whole life had led me to be a biologist, so I went to college for biology at Denison University.

        I started college believing that I was going to leave as a medical student, not an artist. Looking back now, I can see clearly my naivete, my ignorance about my own self. I was bored by the science classes at first: most of the material was old hat to me. I had been learning about this topic since I was a child, so a lot of ideas in biology were more accessible to me than for many of the other students. It was clear to me that research was where the most interesting work was being done, not in an intro class. Ergo, I asked Dr. Andrew McCall, plant scientist extraordinaire, if I could join his research group. He obliged and I began to learn about Lindera benzoin, the Northern Spicebush. I applied to do research that summer with the good doctor and took samples most weekdays (no matter the weather) and eventually helped with the massive spreadsheets and statistics. At the end of that research, Dr. McCall suggested I volunteer to help with his colleague’s field research trip to Colorado. I jumped at the opportunity; I had never been so far away from Ohio.

        A few weeks later I was driving a rental pick-up truck down I-70 and loving every minute of it. I was working with Dr. Allison Bennett from the Ohio State University: she’s a soil microbiologist. Though it was only two weeks, that trip seemed to last for a long time. We got up early every morning and drove to a new location to try to find soil containing Selenium. We looked for certain plants that accumulated the element and processed it (which is actually the same method as how Uranium was found in the Southwest of America for the atom bomb). I learned so much about science during that time. I learned about the camaraderie scientists have in the field, the small jokes that wouldn’t make sense to people outside your overly specific discipline, and how adventurous some scientists are, willing to cross plateaus off road and crack rocks to find whatever specimen they’re after.

        When I returned from Colorado, a lot changed in my life. I had few friends and a lot of loneliness my freshman year of college, so after the revitalizing summer of research I decided to meet new people. During this time I joined the Homestead, a sustainable living community at Denison University. The people I met there were so various; there were scientists living with sociologists living with artists living with activists living with humanists. I felt almost overwhelmed by the incredible variety of ideas that bounced around those cabins in the woods. I began to play music more again and do a greater variety of activities. I began to mentally separate from science; I was finding more joy in other disciplines at this time and I realized how tiring it was to actually do science as I continued in the field. I was worn down by production of graphs, statistical analyses, and soundly produced experiments. I still found joy occasionally, but I was experiencing a pretty severe disconnect from the discipline.

        I walked a lot in the woods, trying to remember why I was doing what I was doing. Why did I want to be a biologist? To my horror, I realized I hadn’t considered it. I kept thinking and could only think of how much I loved the world around me, the warmth I felt when lying down in cool, moist moss. I realized that I wasn’t a scientist, I was a naturalist. I was always more interested in the edible and toxic plants than the ones that just gave flowers. I was always more interested in how humans interacted with the natural world, not the processes behind the natural world. In this realization, I floundered. I could have changed my major at this time, but I didn’t… I said, “I’ll teach high school”. Then later I mumbled, “I’ll be a climate scientist! That’s talking about how humans interact with nature”. I was making excuses so that I didn’t have to change. As the amount of art I was making grew, I began to realize that I could do more good by sharing ALL the knowledge I have via my art, not just teaching specific people about a specific discipline.

         I want to be clear. My thoughts about science are complex, and in a way I grieve the piece of me that saw my career in biology. But, I don’t DO science. I DO art, right now. It’s probably hard to read this whole story and see me ending up here. You might be thinking to yourself, “They should have stuck with it”. But, what’s the point? We already know how bad things are right now. All of us do, even if some of us deny it. I feel like science is not going to solve the issues in our world alone.

         I remember in sixth grade, a teacher told me that it was up to me to save the world. Imagine that, a grown-ass adult crouching down to the level of a child and telling them to save the world. I don’t think I fully understood. I latched onto the idea that science would save us, save me. But, here’s the thing, I grew up. I learned about the myriad of social issues affecting many societies and harm being done to innocent people. I knew, deep down, that science didn’t have an answer to that. You can’t build an anti-poverty machine. You can’t theorize and solve the equation for homelessness. You can’t stop the corporations and fossil fuel monsters pumping death into our skies. Scientists keep saying the same thing, “Stop! You’re taking it too far!”. I don’t see any change. Hell, I see some scientists pushing misinformation through their teeth. I think art is the only thing that can change somebody’s mind. How many papers will be written about the climate before it’s too late? How many scientists will think they are fighting the good fight? I don’t know. We need these scientists, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate what scientists do, what they find to be true. However, science wasn’t for me because I can’t be okay with just letting the other stuff go. I can’t just focus on climate change when there are so many people dying from other things, things that need to be talked about as well.

         I could say that my move to art is completely selfless, but that isn’t true either. I enjoy the rigor of making art, music, theatre, dance, and producing critical studies papers far more than the rigor of statistics and science. I want to feel like I’m saying something, even if it’s just a call in the dark. I think I will always learn about science. I will walk in the woods and learn from the land. I will watch nature and science documentaries for fun. I will crack open a science book and read some journal articles from time to time. I don’t think that the love for science I first had is gone. I think my love of science is now informed; I know what parts I like to do and what parts I don’t like to do. All disciplines work like this depending on one’s disposition. For instance: lots of people love stats while hating field work (which I will never understand). I’m happy when I’m creating. I’m happy when I’m changing and working with new ideas. I want to learn in both breadth and depth, not just in depth.

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