Sunday, March 28, 2010

Science Friday on Talk of the Nation = aquatic caterpillars, and Snacks = Science

I was driving south on I-5 last Friday afternoon (3/26/2010), headed to my rocky intertidal sampling locale, and my companion and I decided to tune in to Science Friday, the special weekly science injection courtesy of Talk of the Nation, a national radio program.

First thing I notice is the phrase amphibious thing I realize is, it's Dan's voice!

Dan, Dr. Daniel Rubinoff to the public at large, was being interviewed about his discoveries, and did a GREAT job. Very interesting and fun. Dan's one of those rare breeds: a scientist with great people skills. Not just good, but great. So the interviewers were also clearly enjoying themselves. I highly recommend the podcast.

During the interview, Dan was describing the names they've come up with for some of the sacs the caterpillars cover part of their bodies with. Mind you, this is not just the aquatic caterpillar, it's the 80+ species they've discovered in the Hawaiian chain of islands. Names like burrito, bugle (the snack, not the musical instrument), candy wrapper, and the interviewer commented that it seems like there's a lot of names associated with food. And Dan said, "When you do fieldwork, you think about food."

Couldn't agree more.

During my first interaction with Dan, when he visited the park I worked at, looking for a research permit to sample there, he and I walked down a trail, he looking for his bugs and their habitat, me chatting to get to know him and his work, and doing my usual "here's what to expect doing research in this park" spiel.

At one point we were both getting spacey, not articulating at all well. Then he produced a giant bag of generic cheetos, so we munched on extremely orange snack food for a while. Before long, we could both speak coherently again, and continued our conversation.

Fieldwork needs to be fed.

And I was reminded of this just this morning.

I dined in one of my favorite breakfast places, and ate a LOT. And I was rather surprised, not usually being such a big eater. Then I was reminded that I'd done hours and hours of field work yesterday, and was going to do more  today, so it was probably a very good thing. And necessary.

Years ago, doing fieldwork with a crew of mostly volunteers, I learned that a fed volunteer is a happy volunteer. You can see people's eyes light up when presented with an array of homemade scones, or a dozen doughnuts. It's kind of amazing.

Have snacks, will sample.

So here's to Dan's discoveries, their snacky names, and all the people doing fieldwork, paid and otherwise.

While snacking with one hand, and collecting data with the other, they are also feeding the public information about the amazing natural world we all live in. Ultimately, providing us with information on the proper care and feeding of a planet.

Nice work!


  1. Recently found your site, fully believing the tall, unnamed biologist was a friend of mine from back when. Nope. Still am impressed with your blog and have added it to my posted list of nature blogs of CA. Totally love, "Have snacks, will sample"! I know!

  2. =) I'm so glad you are enjoying it, and yes, there's probably a surprising number of tall enthused biologists flitting hither and yon. Re: snacking begets sampling--Yup. =)


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