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Uploaded:2015-04-23
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Jessi and Emily Graslie from the Brain Scoop explore enthusiasm, education, biology, science and more!

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Jessi: Hi guys, welcome back to Animal Wonders, I'm Jessi, and this is Emily!  

Emily: I'm from The Brain Scoop.  

Jessi: She came to visit us at Animal Wonders because we both kind of deal with animals and I wanted to share the animals with her because they're alive.

Emily: Yeah.  Yeah, you know, you know a lot about alive animals, and I kinda know what they look like on the inside, so it's like marriage of two great worlds.

Jessi: Yeah.

(Intro)

Jessi: So yeah, we do kind of similar things but they're kind of on the opposite spectrums, like we come at it a different way, like different angle, I guess, I work really hard to establish an emotional connection with the animal, which I think is pretty easy with a live animal that's like being super cute or interesting in front of someone, so they can make that emotional connection, how do you get like your audience, how do you get education to them?

Emily: I guess my approach is kind of like, so you, you have that like, the animal is alive and they can see how it moves and they have like this whole new appreciation for different aspects like behavior and you know, how you have it, and so like that gives them a new appreciation, but I think looking at it kind of from my perspective, we have hundreds of thousands of animals and specimens in our collection, and they are all just as unique and individual as the one that you show them, and so I try to challenge the way people think about death and individuality when it comes to animals in order to get them to have more like, real world application or connection with wildlife, because if they just see the dead raccoon on the side of the road, that could be just the same dead raccoon but that's representative of thousands of raccoons that are still living out in the wild and to think about like, what kind of impact we're having on their environment, so I guess  that's in a nutshell how I think about it.

Jessi: Yeah, no, I like that, that individuality, but then also I think it's really important for them to know that we know so much about our living specimens because of the dead specimens that we have.

Emily: Yeah, I mean imagine trying to study parrots in the wild.  Parrots fly, you know, so it's hard to track them, it's hard to really--you can have observations made of them in nature, but then you also have to bring up the captivity and in order to know more about that, you have to kind of know about their chemistry, what they eat and their diet, so you have to know about the habitat in which they live and it's like you can't feed bread to ducks because ducks don't get bread as part of their natural--and I just saw that, like that you posted today--

Jessi: Yes, yes.

Emily: --and I was like, good point!  Ducks can't bake bread. 

Jessi: Yep.

Emily: Feed them stuff that comes fr--you know--

Jessi: Like seeds!  Whole foods.

Emily: Yeah.  And I think, so that's super important when you have all of the specimens that we do at the museum, to look at them from a research perspective that we have the dead in order to learn more about the living, in order to preserve the living, so again, I think it complements each other really well.

Jessi: Yeah.  Yeah.  

Emily: Plus, I get to look at their insides.

Jessi: Ooooh!

So we obviously both love animals, and the natural world and studying it and sharing with other people, but we wouldn't know any of this if we didn't have science.

Emily: Right.

Jessi: So, I guess my big question is how do we translate like, excitement and passion and like say 'that is science'. How do we get others excited about science?

Emily: I think just being excited about science helps a lot. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what a scientist looks like and what is socially acceptable for a scientist to act. You know, like if you're too over excited you come off kind of as the crazy kind of frizzy haired old guy version. That's not accurate. And so I think scientists, they deserve to be taken seriously. So then they approach it very seriously, and that can have the negative result of not being very engaging. Cause it's like 'this is the super serious, like, all fun stops when you're doing serious science'. And so I don't really agree with that. I think science no matter how complicated, like, it deserves a moment for you to be like 'oh my god', like 'wow!', you know. And so I really go for those wow moments, ways that you can take a really complicated concept and distill it and make it a really digestible narrative, if that makes sense.

Jessi: Yeah.

Emily: Turning scientific research into stories that people can incorporate into their everyday.

Jessi: Yeah, exactly.

Emily: So, yeah we just need more of that.

Jessi: I think we need a lot more of that, we need more people showing how exciting science is. And I mean, you're great at that, and I get super excited about science too.

Emily: You're great at this too.

Jessi: Aw, thanks. I get super excited and then I think we're getting there, I think we're getting there but I mean, young kids they love animals, and they like doing experiments, and they're really fun, and then as you get a little bit older when you're going into high school then science gets dry.

Emily: Yeah.

Jessi: And I think we need more exciting people to be like 'no, it's not just kids that get excited about science, adults get excited about science too.'

Emily: Yeah.

Jessi: And it's super fun. Science is fun.

Emily: Science is super fun. And there's a lot of potential to make science more hands on and engaging and to incorporate the artistic side of science.

Jessi: Yeah.

Emily: People seem to think that science is very logical, very analytical and very rigid, and it's not at all! Science is one of the most creative ways to look at the world, because you're taking something that comes to you as an abstract and you're thinking about it in a creative kind of imaginative way and then science is just the real world answering to it with data and research, and I think that's super exciting, I mean everything that we do is visual and colorful and has movement and art and poetry of life and uh, I'm getting a little crazy...

Jessi: I'm getting excited just listening to you! Oooh!

Emily: Oh gosh, Emily's on crazy train! Yeah, and so I think, you know, that if we show how art is interwoven with science and science really complements art then I think it'll be a lot more engaging for young people to stay in the field longer.

Jessi: Yeah, yeah. And it's not just for guys, right?

Emily: No, science is not just for guys. That's something that we struggle with. I think honestly what it comes down to is offering not a lot of, as the United States we don't offer a lot of parental leave. So when women are in the midst of pursuing their high level academic careers they also want to have families, and we don't really offer them any way to have both right now. And so I think that's something that needs to change.

Jessi: Yeah, I agree. So, you were talking about making things into a story and then having hard data behind it, and I mean the hard data, you could call that a little bit dry? But if we didn't have the hard data then we wouldn't be able to do the story making stuff.

Emily: Absolutely.

Jessi: Like, I wouldn't be able to know the nutritional values of all the different kinds of foods that I did. We wouldn't be able to make like, all these diets that are behind you. Those are like hard science, hard data, making those so that we can then get creative as well. So it's a combination of the data and the exciting creative part.

Emily: Yeah, you know, I've sort of been reading this book by E. O. Wilson, and it's called Letters to a Young Scientist, and everybody should read it. Everybody should read it, I don't care if you're going to be a scientist or not. This book is amazing in that, I mean E. O Wilson is one of the world's greatest scientists of our age, and he talks about how he is as much a poet as he is a scientist and a researcher because when he has a question about the world it's because he's imagining things in a bigger picture sort of way. And he studies ants, and so he will do basic experiments that start off as a narrative. You know, he'll look at two ant colonies and he'll be like, these are different species of ants, I wonder what will happen if I take the queen out of this one and put it in this one. And so he does it, and watches what happens. And then he's like, ok, I got my science! And from there it's like taking that information and putting it in graphs and like, doing the timing and letting the experiment run its course and recording it. And like, that doesn't have to be seen as dry, that's you confirming, like something, some new discovery. I think that can be a super exciting part of it. And you don't have to be a math genius, you don't have to be like, naturally gifted at statistics. I don't think there's anybody who's naturally gifted, it's not like you're-

Jessi: I've met a couple people. But I'm not, and I still do it.

Emily: It's just still something you have to be taught and trained, it's just like coloring.

Jessi: Yes, exactly.

Emily: You know like, so I graduated with an art degree, I studied painting. I essentially have a professional degree in colors. But like, everybody colors when they're a kid and if you just do it and practise it enough you can be good at it. And it's the same thing with math, it's the same thing with physics. And the great thing is when you get out of like, you know, you get to a certain level of your academic career you can collaborate with people who can compensate where you aren't as talented.

Jessi: Exactly.

Emily: So it's not that scary. Just make friends with some math people.

Jessi: So you're talking about how everyone starts coloring as a kid, but that you worked really hard and you honed those skills to become you know, almost an expert, right? A professional at that. So that's what everyone has to do, you can't know everything, I mean, there- you just can't know everything, you can always- there's more to learn. But what people do is you become a specialist in something. So I'm really good at animal behavior, but I don't know physics that well and I don't know math that well so then you get experts that have gone into those fields and you all collaborate and you help each other out. And that's what's exciting about it, you don't have to be intimidated by science because you just find the one thing that you're really interested in and become good at that, and then other people take care of, you know, the other portions of it.

Emily: You have to find your own niche, and your own creativity and say like, what is the unique perspective that I have to offer to this field as a whole. And there are so many things about science to pursue, like just the word- I mean it's just like a- it's, a loaded word.

Jessi: So, it's pretty easy for us to talk about what we do and get super excited about science, because that's what our lives are all about and that's what we've dedicated our lives to. We get really specific and we focus on just our little portion of the science and I think showing that to others is a really good way to be like, look, we're excited about what we do and you can find what you're passionate about and be excited about what you do too.

Emily: Yeah, I mean being a good communicator is half the battle, if not most of the battle. I think it's just finding people who are excited about what it is that they study and who are good at talking about it. And we need more people like that, because literally any subject can be interesting if you have somebody like that talking about it.

Jessi: That's true.

Emily: Like, I have sat riveted through a lecture about land snails.

Jessi: This has been exciting.

Emily: Yeah, super exciting! I'm super happy you invited me to come on. Thanks.

Jessi: Yeah, thanks for coming.

So, I couldn't do an episode without an animal, so I brought Cheeks out because he is adorable and I thought Emily would like to feed him a banana.

Emily: I do. There you go Cheeks. Om nom nom nom nom nom! Om nom nom! You gonna eat the whole thing? I just love his little face, his little cheeks. Well, thank you for having me on the show.

Jessi: Thanks for coming, this was really fun. Thanks for feeding the rabbit, talking to me about awesome things.

Emily: How could you not love this guy? This is great, awesome.

Jessi: Thank you guys for watching. If you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week you can subscribe to our YouTube channel Animal Wonders Montana, or you can follow me on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. If you have any questions or comments, or would like to say hi to Emily, leave them in the comments section below. Thanks guys.

(Outro note)

Jessi: Hi guys, welcome to Animal Wonders. I'm Jessi, and we have some announcements to make.

Emily: Woah!

(Jessi laughs)

(Kemosabe makes noises)

Emily: I can't! Oh my god!