Biologists: What are we really up to?

So, the ant day we had a couple of days ago was fantastic, I’ve been watching those little guys crawl around since arriving to Panama so it was great to finally learn about how they go through life here in the tropics. However, there was one thing that I just couldn’t get out of my mind, the whole “leave the forest as you found it” comment. Now I suspect that we would all be in agreement with this, if you turn up a log, turn it back over, if you pick something up, put it back where you found it. No biologist (hopefully) wants to make life for these guys living in the tropics harder than it already is. So after all nodding in mutual agreement about trying to make as little disturbance as possible, we then proceeded to cut down and chop a tree into smaller pieces in order to expose the ant colony sheltered within. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how they partition within the tree, it was definitely a cool experience, but I could certainly appreciate the irony of the situation.

The paths we took to get here were all unique, and I love listening to people describe the circumstances that resulted in their current position in life. Ultimately, we all have a deep love and appreciation for life, as well as a need to learn more about the world we live in. However, is it possible for us to study the habitats we’re so fascinated with, without some level of destruction? Even when studying parasites, which may arguably be one of the more important considering how little is known, the only way to isolate and study them, is through crushing their hosts, the snails. There are probably very few people who would argue that parasites don’t need to be studied, many of their ecological contributions are not well-known. However, will we ever be able to fully study and understand our system without a certain level of destruction? And if not where do we draw the line? When does the information we gain from looking at our system outweigh the cost of removing it in the first place and does it truly matter?

Thanks for reading yall and feel free to share any opinions,

-Lynette

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