Now that we have passed the halfway point of BSURF, I realize more and more that science is an art of communication. While the experiments we conduct and the data we collect have their own intrinsic value, as Dr. Grunwald constantly stresses, it means nothing if we are unable to communicate it to others. After our week of chalk talks, I am truly amazed and inspired by my fellow BSURFers at their ability to communicate their research to the public – everyone really did a fantastic job at summarizing their projects!
With that said, one chalk talk that particularly stood out to me was Xitlali’s with her research into the impact of urban development on aquatic insects. What initially drew me into her project was how involved it was. In her talk she described her methods – how she goes off into Ellerbe or New Hope Creek and sets up sticky traps to collect insects. I’ve always wanted to do some sort of field research, so I must say I am a little jealous!
But the aspect of her project that truly sparked my interest was how related it was to the local community. Oftentimes in our research, we can become far removed from the fruits of our labor. Don’t get me wrong – researching the structure of specific enzymes and exploring the molecular pathway of important proteins is fascinating. However, it can be sometimes difficult to actually observe how that research is applied to larger society – to see how it contributes to concrete change in the community.
That is something I loved about Xitlali’s talk and project. It was evident how her analysis of insect populations in the area could be used to inform policy changes in Durham and the surrounding area. If I were in her shoes, I would find satisfaction – almost pride – in knowing that my research contributed to concrete and beneficial change in my own community. Finally, her project affirms that science is interdisciplinary – that it can involve the intersection and collaboration between fields such as ecology, public policy, government, and health.