Wild Science

Bewilderment

Grass stained knees and palms of dusty dirt,

Old brown boots and a tattered, torn shirt,

Over and under the rusted, barbed wire.

Young hoping heart would – nay, could – not tire

To go and see the wild.

 

Science, then, was opaque - strange. unknown;

Featherless, furless and dry as old bone.

“Biologist?” They said, “I was to be?”

“Not I”, I said. Lab coats wouldn’t help me,

To go and see the wild.

 

I’d rather tell stories of beak and claw,

Embody their merits and relate the awe 

Than reduce nature to a simple equation.

Such was my naïve, shrugging evasion,

To go and see the wild. 

 

My degree? It’s just a means to an end

I thought, yet my ignorance it did amend.

This thing – Science – was not callous or cold,

It would not stop me, as clichés had told,

To go and see the wild.

 

Feathers and fur, and yes – even dry bone,

Take on new life when new facts become known.

You can imagine my young mind’s surprise

When Science came knocking and opened my eyes.

And now - I see the wild.


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Chris McCormack
Chris graduated from The University of Melbourne with a Master of Science in Zoology and has spent the past two years working for the Victorian government delivering citizen science projects. He is the Managing Director of Wild Melbourne and pursues his interests in science and natural history through the mediums of film, photography and written communication. 


Banner image courtesy of Robert Geary.

More Wild Science

This year for National Science Week, the team at Wild Melbourne want to know how YOU feel about science and nature - why is science important to you when you explore the natural world and how has it changed your perspective? Whether it's chasing birds, growing plants, understanding ecology, or painting a landscape, science affects the way we perceive nature in so many ways. Today, more of the Wild Melbourne team share their thoughts on science and its relevance to their relationship with nature. If you haven't already seen our first Wild Science article, make sure you have a read here.

Ella Kelly - PhD Candidate // Wild Melbourne Writer

In Year 12, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. On a visit to the University of Melbourne Open Day, we walked past the Zoology building and my dad suggested we check it out. Ten years later, I’ve completed my Bachelor, Master's, and am now working on my PhD in Science, all in that building (I really need to get out more). I work in conservation, which can be incredibly challenging – there’s a lot of sad stories out there – but I still have hope. I work on protecting predators threatened by the cane toad invasion. When the toads originally arrived, things looked grim; native predators were poisoned by them and populations disappeared fast. Now, we're seeing species adapt to the toads, and with the help of a bunch of very dedicated people and some really cool science, they have a good chance of survival.

Trish Koh - Master of Science Candidate // Wild Melbourne Social Media Volunteer

To me, science isn’t just about lab coats and counting species; it forms the backstory to everything in this world. When I was a kid, I wanted to find out everything about anything. Unfortunately, sometime during high school, I fell out of love of science and just wanted good marks. While studying a completely different university course, a chance encounter with a science communication lecturer re-ignited my passion for science. I want to make sure that everyone can still re-connect with science because we can appreciate everything a little more if we know the story behind it. That’s why I love making science accessible to everyone by summarising the latest science and nature news for the Wild Melbourne social media pages.

Master of Science candidate Trish Koh is passionate about making science accessible to everyone.  Image: Trish Koh

Master of Science candidate Trish Koh is passionate about making science accessible to everyone. Image: Trish Koh

Evatt Chirgwin - PhD Candidate // Wild Melbourne Writer

A friend once asked if I was pursuing a career in science because I like knowing things. She was surprised when I told her it was actually because of the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I like knowing things; I’ve spent countless enjoyable hours learning facts and theories from books, journal articles, teachers, researchers, and friends. In more recent years, my own research into how natural populations adapt to environmental change has lead to results that I personally find extremely interesting and that I hope can aid broader conservation efforts. However, for me, science is at its most exciting when it gives me the feeling of curiosity upon encountering the things we don’t know or understand. Above all else, this feeling of curiosity – whether it arises from my research or simply observing critters at my local beach – is why I pursue work and a life in science.

Cathy Cavallo - PhD Candidate // Science Communicator // Wild Melbourne Social Media Manager

Growing up around science has helped me understand and question life as it goes on around me. I always want to learn more, and while this curiosity fuels investigation, every investigation triggers further curiosity. Seriously! Science is an endless, immersive cycle of discovery and intrigue that I find utterly captivating. Through science communication and engagement, I try to spark this curiosity in others. I am currently turning this curiosity towards understanding the foraging ecology of little penguins and how we might employ them to study change in the marine environment. By doing so, we may be better placed to protect our marine biodiversity in our changing environment. But science doesn’t have to be formal, hard or empirical. Wondering at the world about us is an exercise in science. I wish more people realised that.

Elodie Camprasse - Wild Melbourne Community Outreach & Events Manager

I have been passionate about marine life for as long as I can remember and was fortunate enough to learn diving as a kid. I was in awe immediately and felt very blessed to see incredible creatures that not a lot of people get to see: fishes, invertebrates, marine mammals... Later on, I became interested in seabirds. They were creatures I could very rarely see underwater. Nowadays, technology allows us to put tiny devices on seabirds and other animals, in order to track them. As they spend most of their time at sea, this is the only way we get to find out what they're doing in a meaningful way. With the devices I used on birds such as penguins during my PhD, I could know where my study individuals went, and even at which depths and in which places they were attempting to catch prey. We are now even able to deploy miniature cameras on the heads of marine creatures to know what they're up to. This is only one of the many ways science and technology help us understand our natural world in order to better protect it.

Elodie Camprasse developed a love for the ocean from a young age, and has been fortunate enough to see some amazing things during her PhD research.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

Elodie Camprasse developed a love for the ocean from a young age, and has been fortunate enough to see some amazing things during her PhD research. Image: Elodie Camprasse

Rachel Fetherston - Wild Melbourne Publications Manager

The collaboration of the arts and sciences has always been a part of my life. From reading and writing, to walking and snorkelling, without either school of thought it is safe to say my perspective of the world would be very different. Art informs science and science informs art, in more ways than one. Writing about how humans perceive nature, whether in a creative or simply informative way, is reliant on how I understand nature through science. And vice versa too - science can be dependent on art and creativity, and the process of simply writing down your ideas to stimulate the mind and encourage novelty is so important. The most vital perspectives that I believe science brings to a person’s view of the world are complexity and understanding. Nothing is what it seems, but I think that everything can be or will one day be understood. You don’t need to fear the unknown - instead embrace it, with the knowledge that science may one day reveal more about the world than we ever thought possible. If this is the case, we have no excuse not to protect the natural world when we so clearly know what is happening to it.

Tim Brown - Master of Science Candidate // Wild Melbourne Productions & Social Media

One of my favourite possessions as a child was this personalised mug. On it were three words beginning with T, I and M and my favourite Looney Tunes character - the Tasmanian Devil. While I didn’t care about the words at the time, I distinctly remember one of them was ‘inquisitive’. It seems this mug was a prophecy of sorts. My inquisitive nature has only blossomed as the years have passed, thanks largely to science. Science has helped me learn so much about the natural world around us. But science not only provides answers - it also teaches us what questions we need to ask. This has lead me to my current research on helping the recovery of a native wetland fish. While they're no Tasmanian devils, dwarf galaxias (my study species) can survive for months without surface water by hiding in yabby burrows or under stones.

Stephen McGain - Wild Melbourne Writer

From the earliest age I can remember, I have always explored the natural world and been fascinated by the complexity and diversity of the plants and animals that live all around us. I always wanted to know why certain animals looked a certain way or fed only on specific food types. More broadly, understanding science helped me to make sense of what I came into contact with in my everyday activities, and explained why some things behaved the way they did, whilst others behaved differently. Science is now more than just an interest to me. I see it as a way of the future - that is, the way new technologies will be integrated into modern society and how they will transform the way we know and live into the future. This, to me, is incredibly exciting.

Stephen McGain loves learning about the complexity and diversity of life on Earth through science.  Image: Stephen McGain

Stephen McGain loves learning about the complexity and diversity of life on Earth through science. Image: Stephen McGain


Let us know YOUR thoughts on science and nature by commenting below or - better yet - by sharing them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #wildscience. We'd love to hear from you! 

 

                                                  

 

Wild Science

This year for National Science Week, the team at Wild Melbourne want to know how YOU feel about science and nature - why is science important to you when you explore the natural world and how has it changed your perspective? Whether it's chasing birds, growing plants, understanding ecology, or painting a landscape, science affects the way we perceive nature in so many ways. Today, some of the Wild Melbourne team share their thoughts on science and its relevance to their relationship with nature. 

Paul Jones – Educator // Wild Melbourne Writer

For me – and I’m sure I’m not alone – science isn’t a cabinet of facts to bring out and look at; it’s a toolbox, to reach out to the world and understand it in marvellous, complex clarity. The facts, discoveries, and inventions we make are the reward for our curiosity. My work has recently taken me into the biomedical sciences; the scientists I speak with are seeking to solve problems in cancer, disease, reproduction, and immunity, to improve the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable members of society. National Science Week is a wonderful way to remind people what their curiosity may lead to, both for humans and all the different living things we share our world with. It’s a passion and enthusiasm that we are born knowing, always asking one more question. And always the same ones – what? How? Why?

Alex Mullarky - Wild Melbourne Publications Sub-editor

My background is in arts, but what inspires me to write is the world around me. Science allows me to process what I see and experience and understand how it all fits together. The wonderful thing about working with an organisation like Wild Melbourne is the dedication to exploring and communicating scientific ideas in a way that anyone – even arts graduates! – can understand. One of my favourite things is meeting people who have dedicated themselves to studying some facet of how our world works, and using the skills I have to help them tell their stories. At home on the farm, it’s also important to me to turn to science to figure out the best ways to manage my domesticated animals in harmony with the native environment. 

On a recent expedition through the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria, writer Alex Mullarky used her talent for writing and knowledge of the natural world to educate others about local wildlife.  Image: Alex Mullarky

On a recent expedition through the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria, writer Alex Mullarky used her talent for writing and knowledge of the natural world to educate others about local wildlife. Image: Alex Mullarky

Sam Lemaitre - Wild Melbourne Community Outreach & Events Assistant

My passion for nature and the sciences of nature started young. I grew up watching David Attenborough’s documentaries and developed a strong curiosity for how animals function and interact with each other. Knowing wildlife is the first step to protecting it and science provides us with amazing tools to do so. I am now pursuing that passion by studying a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and I really enjoy learning about Australian wildlife and its amazing diversity!

Anne Aulsebrook - PhD Candidate // Wild Melbourne Admin & HR Manager

As a kid, I don’t think I understood what science was. I remember complaining as a twelve-year-old that science class had no relevance to my life. Hilariously, my friend replied, ‘Yeah, science is useless for me; I want to be a marine biologist!’ – so I clearly wasn’t alone. But within a few years, my perspective changed. I had always cared about the natural environment, and I liked learning how living things worked. When I was fifteen, I completed work experience at the Melbourne Aquarium, and also in a marine biology lab. I learnt that around 30% of sharks lay eggs, and that it is more sustainable to eat calamari than flake. I learnt that scientists can be young women who make up dance moves during their labwork. I ended up studying a Bachelor of Science at university, majoring in zoology and ecology. Now, I’m researching how streetlights affect birds, and hoping to help reduce the impacts of urbanisation on wildlife. 

Rowan Mott - Ecologist at Monash University // Wild Melbourne Writer

I catch birds for science. When I release them a few minutes later, there is a high likelihood that each bird will be wearing a uniquely numbered metal leg band, be carrying a GPS tracking device, and may be missing a couple of small feathers or a drop or two of blood. Although this is highly stressful for the unlucky birds that I catch, this one short moment of stress can tell us a vast amount of information about the movements of the bird, its diet, and its general state of health – all of which is important for discovering how the species interacts with its environment and the threats it may be facing.

Ecologist Rowan Mott catches birds for science, learning how we can better protect species in the process.  Image: Rowan Mott

Ecologist Rowan Mott catches birds for science, learning how we can better protect species in the process. Image: Rowan Mott

 

Ellie Michaelides - Head Mediator at Science Gallery Melbourne // Wild Melbourne Communications & PR Manager

I studied zoology for five years at university, but at the end of my degrees I decided that I liked talking to people about science more than doing research in the lab or out in the field. Communicating science in a way that is clear and concise, but also relevant and interesting, is crucial to helping people see why it is so incredibly important in almost every aspect of our lives. I love science because it provides an explanation or an answer for almost anything you can think of, from curing disease outbreaks and saving endangered species, to making cars safer and crops more efficient.

Leonardo Guida - Wild Melbourne Community Operations Director

The ocean is my place for reflection. Looking across the vast blue and breathing in the salt air energises my body, mind, and soul. Through my PhD research, I was privileged to have the opportunity to develop a more intimate relationship with the ocean. I learnt about our relationships with sharks and rays and how our actions through fishing affect their populations. Whether dreaming from the shoreline or from under the waves, the ocean brings me peace.

Leonardo Guida believes that science has brought him closer to the marine life with which we share the oceans.  Image: Leonardo Guida

Leonardo Guida believes that science has brought him closer to the marine life with which we share the oceans. Image: Leonardo Guida

Sarah Bond - Wild Melbourne Education Manager

Whenever I look around at the plants where I work, I am always struck by the diversity of the different species. All plants have the same constraints, the same needs, the same goals, and yet they have developed so many different ways of doing the same thing. Science has helped me to understand this, as well as taught me the skills of interpreting and identifying plants. I think of this every time I’m learning about a new (to me) plant species or comparing the different features of plants from the same family that are vastly different. Nature is incredible and continues to inspire me every day. 


Let us know YOUR thoughts on science and nature by commenting below or - better yet - by sharing them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #wildscience. We'd love to hear from you!