UPDATE: As of July 5, 2011, this blog moved the bulk of its activity to Scientific American. Find it now here.
The Short, Short Version
This is a blog about biodiversity and natural history, although I dislike that first term. I think it turns people off to the subject. It’s too often used for platitudes about species richness that tell you nothing about what’s actually out there. I’m here to work on fixing that with a healthy dose of wit, humor, and obscure sci-fi references. Think of this as the MST3K version of biodiversity.
I anticipate updates to this blog 1-2 times a week. If I know it will be longer, I will let you know!
The Slightly Less Short Version
Several years ago I worked as a weeder and waterer in a small family-owned garden center. One day a man came in asking for an ostrich fern. I led him back to the shade plants where we kept our selection of about five ferns. As I sorted through the chaos, he remarked, “I had no idea there were so many kinds of ferns!”
According to my copy of “Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach”, there are about 10,000 fern species. And we are lucky if the public recognizes there are five.
The discovery of DNA was inarguably important for biology. The revolution it inspired in taxonomy was equally so. But we have lost something in the years since. The Victorians had their flaws, but one thing they did well was natural history. That’s something we don’t do so well. There’s an unspoken bias in biology against studying “taxonomy”. It’s all just semantics, some might say. I say: it’s not the fine print of the taxonomy that’s important to 99% of humans. It’s what taxonomy represents — learning about the diversity of life on Earth.
And we don’t have to go to Mars to find living wonders. Though I respect those that want to, I wish the 100% real living organisms on Earth could get half the attention the putative creatures on a planet millions of miles away do. The curiosity cabinet is long gone, but the curiosities are still here, just waiting for us. All 10,000 ferns. All 70,000 known fungi. All untold millions of species on Earth. I want to show you. I’m passionate about this stuff, and I like to make it fun. Please join me.
So Who Are You, Anyway?
My name is Jennifer Frazer, and I’m a science writer living in Boulder, Colorado, land of Subarus, microbrews, and overpriced outdoor gear. But Lord, how I love it. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in systematics and biotic diversity from Cornell University, a master’s degree in plant pathology with a concentration in mycology (also from Cornell), and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT. I set out to be a scientist, but like many science writers, realized in horror that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a windowless lab staring at racks of Eppendorf tubes filled with clear liquids. That’s not why I became a biologist.
So I took a different path, one that led me through grad school in science writing, three months as a reporter intern at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, three years in Wyoming as the health and environment reporter at the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, and finally here to Boulder, where I work
as a science writer for a large science nonprofit for myself!(updated 5/11) In 2007, I won the AAAS Science Journalism Award in the small newspaper category for work I did into the investigation of a swarm of mysterious elk deaths in Wyoming (thank you, Robert Lee Hotz!) You can see my four-minute acceptance speech here and you can get the links to the story on my Portfolio page. In my spare time, I do all manner of outdoor activities from caving to skiing to mushroom hunting to snowshoeing to climbing ridiculously high peaks where boiling water would not cook a wet noodle.
And I do this. This, truly, is what gets me out of bed in the morning: sharing my excitement about all the amazing creatures that share the planet with us. And I promise — you will be amazed.
Ardent naturalist, science writer, and finder of very exciting slime molds