Since the IGERT – 2015 started, the big boss keep saying “it is important to make big connections, god dammit!”. Of course, he has not said it this way but he has always made clear the importance of making big connections, from ecology and evolution to social and environmental issues. However, the lectures that gringos and Latin American students attended to show that such connections are a big challenge to young and dinosaurs researchers. But why?
Well, we only have two eyes. In fact, our understanding and explanatory capacity decrease with each variable that is added in whatever system we want to elucidate. How salinity, temperature, and rainfall influence the life of estuarine organisms, for example? Only three variables in a system and I doubt anyone can easily give a reasonable explanation, even though we all might know they do have an influence. However, the issue here is exactly to understand how they interact to play a role in the life of these organisms; more importantly, we struggle to understand whether to which extent the influence of one of these factors change with variations in the two others. What about the niche of species? So many axes that potentially explain how species distribute and interact with others that one can get crazy! And if we integrate the niches of all species in a community to get to know what’s up over there? Dude, that is crazy.
Another issue is that scientists who do not work in social or natural resource management are not interested in integrating their know-how in applied science. This is more an opinion than a fact. What I know is that many professors I had/have contact with in academia do not like applied science. The other way around is also true: “so, your research does not have any utility for people?” I have heard that a few times…Pure applied scientists also seem to not care or are really skeptical about basic, pure science. Anyways, things are connected not matter what.
Communication issues among scientists are another problem. They arise even between ecologists and evolutionary biologists so it is not a surprise it also occurs among basic and applied science researchers. One say “come around”, the other understands “camarón”. This one is to me the least of the problems, though:
it potentially can be fixed, while the others do not seem to be easily solved. If scientists are interested in answer the big questions that inevitably arise from THE big connections, they will be more likely to find an “oreo in the dark”, the big answers they are looking for if they are willing to fix such communication issues instead of giving up. It might be difficult though, with so many things to deal with…
I would like to end up this blog post with something cool or funny, but I do not have any. So I will just say that the more we try to make big connections the happier the big boss will be, the more beers we get, and the more we find the big answers we still do not have. In a world which is constantly changing, such answers are fundamental to change how we deal with our surroundings (environment and social interactions).