Happy New Year to the Ecologist’s Diary readership!
As some of you may also be doing at the turn of a new year, I have been assessing the good, bad and ugly of 2017, while also looking ahead and planning (an incredibly successful) 2018. Launching the TeaComposition H2O initiative was probably largest and most rewarding project I had taken on last year. It has been one year since the launch, and since then more than 300 sites have been signed-up in ~35 countries. I have also been able to meet, either in-person or online, more than 100 research and citizen scientists who have been interested enough in the initiative to deploy more than 19,000 tea bags in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (check it out!).
While musing, my thoughts took a bit of a detour and started wondering how I got into the decomposition business. Unless you work at The Body Farm, researching rotting things is typically not a ‘sexy’ science. My first decomposition project was not on seagrasses during my PhD in Sydney… actually – it took me a minute to realise this – my first decomposition project was for a science fair in elementary school.
A lot of science has filled my brain since I was 10, but a few details remain. Certainly, using a pre-made science project from a book in the library felt cheap. Instead, testing which conditions led to greater decomposition of wide-ruled loose-leaf paper somehow felt right. I think I was on the right track by adding water to a treatment, but perhaps not the case for the vinegar treatment. I only had one replicate for each treatment, but I did manage to get a couple tufts of fungus to grow, and that is about it. The judges must have thought the author of that tri-fold poster was an odd kid. Maybe. But considering I am still here in decomposition research and am undoubtedly working in good company, I think the decay project was an overall success.
The memory also reminds me (and I need to be reminded every so often while under the constant need to do and write) how science experiences in school can be impactful. We have made some progress in translating TeaComposition H2O to the classroom and for the general public, and there are several programs out there that have already done this successfully. Have you all had similar experiences in translating your science for schools? I’d love to hear about it.
As I sign off, best wishes for a balanced and productive 2018, and remember to share your science with a kid or two.
Until next time,
Until next time!