Handling the tricky stuff

Handling the tricky stuff

Monday, August 13, 2012

Citizen Science – Not.

There are hazards to having 250 caterpillars crawling around your house…

...#1 would be withstanding the silent disapproval of your family.
Epizootic's family were less than thrilled with the caterpillars in the house.

Well, maybe not so silent. One evening, we were sitting as a family, watching the Olympics. I asked one of my daughters to get a book from my study. She came back, looking… concerned.
“Dad, where did all those big potted plants on your floor come from? What are you doing?? asked Epizootic’s youngest child, a little louder than was necessary.
“You know – I’m using them to feed the caterpillars…”
Caterpillars?! In the HOUSE???”  Epizootic’s daughter has a mysterious fear of all things arthropodic.
“Sure, you know, the hickory horned devil and luna caterpillars I’m rais…”
Hickory horned devils IN THE HOUSE???”  Ms. Epizootic interrupted, getting into the swing of things. Girl things. Screechy things.
“Yeah, you knew I was doing this – I have a couple hundred little caterpillars. it’s only until they get big…”
“A COUPLE OF HUNDRED BIG CATERPILLARS!!!” (Then she used my proper name in a way she only does when she’s a leeetle bit miffed.)
Some of the plants no one noticed me carrying into the house.
Then they started to get upset. Frankly, I was a little bit confused that they were surprised about all this, since I had mentioned that I was planning on hatching and raising hickory horned devils… true they had all been watching TV at the time., and I didn’t go into real details. I also told them I was blogging about it… and I thought everyone  was reading this blog…
Frankly though, I think it was a bit of a dead giveaway when I carried four large pots with saplings in them right past where they were sitting a few nights before. My family is not very observant. They apparently also never look in the open door of my study.
I like to think that I would have noticed (though I have been known to take a few days to register new haircuts).  That’s kind of the point of what I’m doing here – noticing things that are around us all the time, unnoticed.  And thinking about them a bit.
Though I’m interested in science and I like talking about it, what I’m doing here is not science. Nor is it “citizen science,” whatever that is. I actually think the term “citizen science,” is demeaning, as if you have to have a badge or a uniform to do official “science.”  Science is a method, not something you have to have a license to operate.
What I’m doing here is really closest to something us old-fashioned people used to call “nature study.” It’s not that the information that I’m discussing here is not scientific, or that some of this couldn’t lead to science… but what is really happening in my posts is just observation and musing. It’s the first step o being ready to science though, to understand that the world is full of interesting things we don’t know much about. This is where all sceintists start. With nature.
You just have to be curious. And observant. And not mind having a few little bugs in the house.
Note to family -- the caterpillars are big enough now to go outside. Can I come back in to get them?Pleeeeze?

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