Taronga Zoo

A visual sociology of Taronga Zoo as a happy holidays, from me to you!

The most magical non-magical animal is not the horse at all. It is the mighty zebra. From all the zed animals in this world, happy holidays!

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Why Ecology and Environmental Science is Everyone’s Business

I’ve summarised one of our Science on Google+ Hangouts on Air. Our guests discussed three fascinating fields of ecological study: air quality; marine life; and extreme weather events.

Our most recent Science on Google+ Posterside Hangout on Ecology and Environmental Science was excellent and well worth watching in full. It highlighted the intersections between climate change the social consequences of environmental damage. The presentations covered the measurement of air quality; disease outbreak amongst fish; and the relationship between extreme thunderstorms and global warming. Below I give a detailed summary of the points I was most interested in as a social scientist (I will do the same for our previous hangouts).

I urge you to watch the presentations in full and comment on the talks from your perspectives. I am particularly interested in different social science reactions to these talks: how can we make a contribution to weather and marine sciences using the ecological frameworks and methods described by the presenters?

Environmental advocacy is truly an interdisciplinary endeavour that requires both critical public debate and empirical solutions. This includes improved data collection and innovative responses that connect scientific theory to social policy and practice. A collaborative and proactive approach to climate change is not assured. Australia recently changed Government and one of the first tasks our new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, put into effect was to dismantle the Climate Change Commission, which was led by eminent scientist Tim Flannery. (Thankfully the work continues thanks to crowd-source funding.) Abbott also removed the position of Science Minister (along with other adverse social policy shifts). Climate change policies in some other countries are in a better state, but many nations remain reactionary to environmental disasters. For these reasons, ecology and environmental science require our full participation.

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Black Women Mentors in Science

The overall motivation for my desire to see more Black women as mentors in science is not self-centered. I believe that science needs the perspectives, ideas, and creativity that can only result from diversification. As more underrepresented women and men of color are offered positions, more of them will take up roles as PIs, research advisors and administrators, and I am certain that more of my needs and those of others like me will be met. In order to navigate a career that I love, but that requires years of exhaustive training and that comes with no guarantee of financial reward, I have to be thoughtful of what will ensure my success. This applies to everyone.

American biology student Stephani Page is undertaking her PhD research. She argues that there is a dire need to introduce diversity within the upper ranks of scientific leadership. As Page notes in her guest post in Nature’s Soap Box Science blog, it is rare for Black research students to encounter other Black women scientists while they undertake science degree. As she recounts, Page has had wonderful mentors who are White – but where are the diverse role models for Other students to aspire towards? The lack of diversity in science vexing and important topic for all disciplines. Sociology is not immune. While sociology is attracting more diverse students, these students are less likely to get jobs within academia.

Social Networks of Hermit Crabs

Photographer Steve Simonsen has captured this astonishing video of hermit crabs at Nanny Point at St. John in the Virgin Islands. Read this interesting research from Tufts University which shows that hermit crabs exhibit social networking behaviour. Sometimes there aren’t enough shells for hermit crabs to climb into, or in some cases the only available shells are too big. In such cases, hermit crabs will wait until a larger crab approaches and they “piggyback” along, picking up other crabs, and forming “chains.”