“Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger”
– Abbie Hoffman
I had a professor in my undergraduate, I think it was first year sedimentology, who used to start every lecture with a quote. He was a tall, portly man with a huge greyish beard who used to wear moccasins and tie-dye shirts to class. Despite that recollection I think the only other thing I can remember from that whole class is that one quote.
In truth though, I think that quote, at least up until that point in my studies, taught me more than anything I had learned so far (and certainly till at least the end of that particular course). I think it truly made me want to be a scientist, to discover something new and to tear down the old ideas or the “sacred cows”.
When I was told that I would have to present at a kids science fair to make up for the field component in Florida that I was going to miss, I was a little… surprised. It’s not that I don’t like people, I just didn’t really expect to be attempting to pique their interest with wetlands on a early Saturday morning.
However, with that quote in mind, and remembering how much it impacted me, I was willing to try and inspire some kids to get into the sciences. Whether I managed to convince them into the glamorous life of a wetland scientist is still up for debate.
It all began a few days earlier with my group and I getting some cores from a salt marsh, a fen, and a bog for comparison. We encased them in clear plastic tubing and showed them alongside posters we had created detailing each wetland they represented.
With the depth cores we hoped to show the different peat compositions and structures for the three types of wetlands. Honestly, despite even cutting my hand to extract one of them, I don’t think I was asked a single question about them the entire science day. I’m just going to congratulate myself on how clearly presented and self-explanatory they were.
Despite the core being passed over, we got a lot of visitors asking us questions. We had constructed a artificial wetland that we used to demonstrate the cleaning prowess of the vegetation. By pouring muddy water in one side, the kids could see the change as it came out clearer on the other.
I managed to have a brief glance at some of the other exhibitions in our immediate vicinity. One, which was also wetland themed, was on the benefits of salt marshes in flood control. They had a brilliant demonstration utilizing Lego that showed how the gradual slope of a salt marsh reduces the kinetic energy of waves, rendering them almost harmless by the time they reach shore.
Had fancy ribbons been given out I think it would have warranted a second place. Not to be immodest or anything but I think that the incredible habitat box that my group and I designed and built from salvaged wood would have gotten first. It had carnivorous plants in it.
Almost as immediately as it had started, the science day came to an end and the 8 hours I had spent on my feet felt like a flash. I can only hope that some day some kid will take up the mantle of a wetland scientist and slaughter any “sacred cows” in our field.