"Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think" – Niels Bohr
My scholarship activities unfold in two complementary directions. On the one hand, I try to assess the impacts that environmental perturbations have on biogeochemical cycling at ecosystem interfaces (coastal margins, lakes and flooded terrestrial zones, wetlands, urban atmospheres). On the other, I seek to address issues of scientific literacy in both a general social context as well as a specific one in the development of environmental curricula.
I have been constantly fortunate in my career to have mentors that showed me there was beauty and fascinating information in the "small stuff". My wife laughs that I spend most of my life measuring things I can’t see, but I find it particularly amazing that from a few millionth of a gram of a substance you detected in a deep sediment, you could reconstruct the history of contaminant transport in an aquatic system, or the type of vegetation in a drainage basin and the fluxes of terrigenous matter to receiving sedimentary basins. Looking at sediments and soils is like unveiling the mysteries of an untold story, one that is fragmented and distorted by the own passage of time. Finding the right tool, and looking through the right magnifying glass, is what really drives a lot of what I do. I think that there are still so many conundrums in trying to explain the natural world around us that we don't run a risk of getting bored any time soon.
Being able to communicate the mysteries of nature to future scientists, educators, and policy makers gives this activity even more relevance. Science should not remain locked behind the high walls of Academia, unperturbed and untouched by the context of our social structures. On the contrary, science should be out, contributing to education and learning itself from social demands for information. In a time of continuous information flow, science is under pressure to become more relevant while suffering from an apparent loss of "purity" and thus credibility, because of its distributed accountability. I contend that there is no contradiction here. Yes, science has evolved from the post-WWII period in which it built its knowledge within the confines of an isolationist structure. However, although the body of knowledge of science has grown tremendously in the half century since the end of WWII, such isolation from social accountabilities and interactions with diverse stakeholders has prevented science to truly fulfill the social contract it was required to contribute to. We are now living through interesting times in which communication technologies and virtual as well as real mobility are drilling holes through all forms of information monopolies. Science is not immune to such porosity and scientists now have to battle with a redefinition of what may be called "sound" science vs. "pseudoscience". The walls of the Ivory Tower are not thick enough anymore. But then again, should they have ever been erected as a protection device?
Matt Norwood (Ph.D. Student - Oceanography)
Allison Myers-Pigg (Ph.D. Student - Oceanography)
Kaycee Peirce (B.Sc. Student, Honor Senior Undergraduate Scholar)
Marcela Nunez (B.Sc., Senior Undergraduate Scholar)
Kendra Kopp (B.Sc., Senior Undergraduate Scholar)