This Blog is about My Life (#acutallivingscientist)

Last year, maybe October, I was listening to an episode of the She Explores Podcast.  The guest spoke about the role of social media in her work in a way that really struck me.  The analogy was basically this:  social media is a window into our lives, and we control the size of that window.  People want to peek in, but if you make the window too big, you might make folks uncomfortable.  If we make the window too small, it may fail to serve our purposes.  I’ve been walking around with this tidbit in my shoe for months.  How big is my window?  Have I made it too big for online platforms I strive to keep more professional (Twitter, Tumblr, this blog)?

Then, last week, two Twitter hashtags caught on pretty much simultaneously.  #DressLikeAWoman was born in response to an anonymous leak claiming Donald Trump likes female staff “to dress like women.”  (Whatever that even means.)  #ActualLivingScientist was started by Dr. David Steen, reportedly in response to a 2011 survey reporting 66% of Americans can’t name a single living scientist.  Obviously, I adore both these things.  First, I love it when the ladies of Twitter clap back, but when lady scientists join the fray, I get extra pumped.  Second, I love how folks in the #ActualLivingScientist feed distilled their work down to a single tweet.  It’s good practice for learning how to communicate our ideas outside of our own community.

rachel-tweet

Yesterday, it clicked.  The coupling of these ideas represent why this blog is so important to me.  If I ever made my window too big, or the only reason I even made a window, was so folks would know what it was like to be a scientist.  But more than that, Meridith and I wanted people to see what it was like to be young, to be in graduate school, to be a woman, to be from the south, to be frustrated, to be uncertain, to succeed.  I’ve always said that Sweet Tea, Science was a science lifestyle blog.  I stand by that now more than ever.  We are actual living scientists, and these are our lives.

Continue reading “This Blog is about My Life (#acutallivingscientist)”

An Earnest Desire to Save the World

“TEACHER seeks pupil.
Must have an earnest desire to save the world.
Apply in person.” –Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

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As I continue to creep (crawl? stumble blindly? drag myself?) toward the completion of my PhD I have begun seriously contemplating what exactly I want to do when I grow up.  Progress has been slow and circuitous, much like this essay.  But I feel calmer than I did when I first realized “Be an ecologist!” had stopped being enough of an answer.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

Regardless, I’ve been trying to take steps toward actually figuring this thing out for myself.  A bit of soul searching, a la Chelsea’s advice about a happiness brainstorm, really helped.  I’m happiest when I can travel but have a solid home base to return to, so I’m no longer prioritizing an academic career and the period of post-doctoral transience that usually comes along with it.  I’m happiest when I’m collaborating with lots of different folks who I can teach and learn from all the time.  I’m happiest when I can do public speaking and science communication, and I’d love to find a position where this is encouraged, valued, and incentivised.  I’m happiest when what I am working on makes a tangible difference.    Continue reading “An Earnest Desire to Save the World”

The Science Grind

Editor’s Note:  Today, we are thrilled to bring you a guest post by my very own sister, Sara Wigginton!  We look super similar, we also both study invasive plants, and her current lab studies an invasive wetland plant.  I know, it’s weird.  Regardless, she is a smart, funny ecologist, and Meridith and I are excited to share her words with you.

One of my favorite things about blogging is the ability to share the reality of my day to day life with you all.  Sara’s piece really gets to the heart of what the day-to-day as an ecologist can feel like.  Tell us your stories of the Science Grind in the comments section!

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation”- Robert H. Schuller (A televangelist who said an insightful thing at least once.)

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Collecting invasive Phragmites in China

 

Some days I might be knee deep in a marsh, breathing in deeply the weird smell I’ve come to love, thanking my favorite deity (Mother Nature) that I don’t have a desk job.

 

Other days, I might be extracting DNA to sequence and haplotype, thinking it is so cool that I know how to do something called “haplotyping.” Continue reading “The Science Grind”