Author: Heather Speckman, a PhD candidate studying big data and tree physiology
"I shoot trees for science."
Hello, my name is Heather Speckman I will be your blog master for this week! Where to start talking about me…. Yes, I am a scientist, but I feel that term comes with such stereotypes and frankly…. Frankly it’s Friday and I’m not in the mood for stereotypes. So I hereby dub this "Stereotype Slaying Friday"!
Let’s talk about what a scientist actually is and is not.
Stereotype Number #1: Scientists wear lab coats.
Well, I’m a scientist and I do have a lab coat…. I wear it like twice a year when I need to bleach things. Here’s some other gear I use:
I shoot trees for science. Shooting is the best way to get the top branches down from trees. We use these branches to measure how much photosynthesis the tree is doing and how drought-stressed it is. Understanding forest health is especially important in the wake of the bark beetle epidemic. Bark beetles slaughtered trees throughout North America, decimating over 10 million acres. However, some trees did survive. And today those trees are thriving, soaking up all that readily available sun and water. In fact, even though there are fewer trees, today’s forest does the same amount of photosynthesis and uses same amount of water as it did before the bark beetle epidemic.
Stereotype #2: Scientists are old white guys with beards.
That’s actually my husband, and our little girl. Yes, I’m a girl and a mom on top of it. My husband is my best friend and a fantastic stay-at-home dad, supporting me in my career. Not all scientists are guys, in fact 50% of them should be women. Sadly, we as a society are still working on overcoming old stereotypes and prejudice that says women shouldn’t be scientists. My good friend, Ellen Corano has a great project addressing that very issue.
I'd highly recommend checking out her stuff here: http://thebeardedladyproject.com
Stereotype Number #3: Scientists make things go “boom!”
…. Ok, that one’s true…. Some times we even do it on purpose. For all those other times…yeah…
That was us trying to measure how much water can move through a tree’s stem. We do this all the time in branches-- it tells us know how quickly it can move water for growth and how resistant they are to drought. We decided to step up our game and try the whole tree trunk… yeah that didn’t work.
How do you fill a canister with foam? Well, what you do NOT fill it with “instant set” spray foam. I got foam every where except in the can--- the inside of that thing is totally hollow! This is part of our giant centrifuge we use to test how resistant a plant is to drought: spin the stem ‘round and ‘round at 20,000 rpm and see if it’ll still conduct water after all that pressure. If it does, then it’s pretty resistant to drought and we need to spin it even faster!
And that brings us the conclusion of this Stereotype Slaying Friday. Ya’ll have good weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.
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