Bards of the Brine

Recently, I have been romping around in Thesisland. This may sound similar to Candyland. I assure you, it is not, though there are some resemblances.  Instead of strolling through candy cane forests with Princess Lolly and King Kandy, I have been perusing gumdrop mountains of scientific literature, eventually transforming my brain into a molasses swamp. Needless to say, the last couple of weeks have been far from rainbows and peanut brittle.

Wish you were here! ....Yes.  Source: Wikimedia commons

Wish you were here! ….Yes.
Source: Wikimedia commons

It hasn’t all been bad though. Every once in a while I come across a paper so beautifully written that it makes me sit back and really ponder scientific writing as an art form. I know to the casual observer it might not appear this way, with graphs and charts and words that most have never even heard of. However, as scientists, I think even we forget sometimes, we are story-tellers. Weaving intricate plots and dramatic battles. Some do this quite exquisitely. Take for instance perhaps one of my most favorite excerpts of all time….

“The most important message of this paper is that, no matter how well one understands kelp populations, any current program will fail to discern the ghosts of missing animals. That is, any biologist studying the community now will see interesting biology of kelp and small animals, but the expectations of what is natural are much reduced and are likely to be an inappropriate basis for making fisheries and environmental decisions. It would be similar to studying the Serengeti after all the larger grazers and carnivores were eliminated; one could still appreciate termites and other small grazers, but one’s expectation of nature pale beside what it used to be. Here we may understand the kelps; however, they are but a beautiful gossamer veil, undulating peacefully in the ocean, offering no hints of the marvelous species that should live there but for human greed.” (Dayton et al. 1998)

Who knew such beautiful poetry was hiding in the pages of Ecological Applications! “(B)eautiful gossamer veil…” Seriously ?!?! Dayton is the equivalent to a scientific Shakespeare (not to mention a brilliant ecologist). Anyways, as a young scientist, I really do appreciate and strive to emulate such captivating writing. It makes me fall in love with the ocean all over again right from the comfort of my coffee shop.

Drop us a line on your favorite scientific musings. Back to Thesisland for me. (Please send candy.)

Alex Warneke (50 Posts)

Alex Warneke currently resides as a graduate student at San Diego State University. As a chemical ecologist, Alex’s research focuses on the effects of heavy metal pollutants on the chemical communication between organisms. In her “free time,” Alex enjoys convincing the public that Ecology is indeed sexy. With that goal, she is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of her research to the general public using the outlets of film and social media. When she is not busy busting a move in the cold room or filming her next rap video, she can normally be found frolicking through the California kelp forest.





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3 comments on “Bards of the Brine
  1. Pingback: Bards of the Brine | Rocketboom

  2. As soon as you mentioned scientific writing as an art form, my mind went to this paper. That last sentence gives me chills every time.

    • Seriously though…almost like spoken word status. It’s all pretty and then boom… Hits you with reality.

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