Understanding the moods of a vast and fertile planet requires patience, excellent equipment, and excellent scientists. Everywhere is a unique ecosystem with unique flora and fauna, and challenges from agriculture, pollution to invasive species. We thank our brilliant curator this week, Dr Dave Watson, for enlightening us on the delights and challenges of studying and maintaining ecosystems, as well as the best ever crash course in mistletoe and parasite management ever. For instance, Dave’s specialty, mistletoe is a plant parasite without roots that manages to spread from tree to tree across vast distances. Did you ever think mistletoe was so fascinating outside of attempted kisses at Christmas? No you did not.
Out in the field in Western NSW, the scientists – Dr Dave and his co-workers and students and his family! – set up for a week’s field work. We were treated to photos from the site as well as from Dave’s work in Panama and elsewhere. There was a crash course in mistletoe biology, host mimicry and adaptations, and beautiful photos of sunrises and sunsets. There was also discussion on creativity in science and research, the pressures on family and partner’s careers, and one of the best summaries of the nature of research we’ve seen:
“I’ll discuss why becoming a research scientist is only one path emanating from a PhD and why it suits only a particular kind of person..I’ll focus on three concepts: productivity, creativity and inspiration, and suggest researchers need a good measure of all three..Essentially, what researchers do is think about one particular thing in depth, considering it from all sorts of angles & perspectives..An important aspect of this is immersing ourselves in what has been done before, critically reading everything that has been written..Reading critically is just as important as actually conducting novel research or writing up the results of what you found–provides context. Reading within your discipline to remain current is only part of the job–must read widely as well–look for connections and parallels..Reading outside your discipline is also a great way of discovering new ways of doing things, apply them to your study system..Science should be artistic..science need not be formulaic and repetitious–the best stuff is as creative as any of the arts.”
Science is a creative endeavour – it requires something more than just data analysis.
So thank you, Dr Dave, for such a spectacular and engaging week at Real Scientists. You can catch up on the tweets in the Storifys, and you can follow Dave’s adventures at @D0ct0r_Dave.