Visitors to most museums typically interact with content through exhibits and online media. Of course, the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is anything but typical! In Q?rius’ “Expert is In” series, we offer our visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with NMNH researchers and their specimens. In this series, after each “Expert is In” event, we provide an “Expert Wrap-Up” to give our online visitors the Expert’s answers to some amazing questions from visitors to Q?rius!
Rarely does the opportunity to sit next to marine biologists and sort through real specimens collected from hydrothermal vents (at temperatures over 300 degrees Celsius!) come up.
But recently in Q?rius, families and young scientists had precisely this opportunity during the Hydrothermal Vent Extravaganza of our Expert is In program! In addition, visitors had the chance to talk with a geochemist who specializes in volatile volcanic rocks and meet a volunteer scientific illustrator, who happens to be a high school student. In addition to interacting with experts, the visitor experience involved authentic specimens, microscopes, and monitors, some providing a view of what is beneath the microscopes and others showing images and videos.
Matthew Berning, Jessica Whepley, Marion LeVoyer, and Maya Chung, our expert team on hydrothermal vents, brought together an amazing assortment of specimens and expertise to give visitors an opportunity to explore hydrothermal vents from an integrative perspective.
Question: Why is public outreach so important?
Matthew Berning’s answer: Scientific outreach allows people to expand their understanding of the world we live in. I believe that this is a wonderful end in and of itself but it can also help people to value the things that, in their everyday life, might otherwise get overlooked. This is especially important to me because conservation of our biosphere, and the species and resources that compose it, is a goal that we as humans must focus on in order to ensure our continued existence on this planet. Every time a person is able to consider their actions in that larger context is a great help toward achieving that goal and scientific outreach is an excellent way to accomplish that!
Maya Chung’s answer: Many people have misconceptions that science is hard. I want to show people that in science, you explore, address questions, and all of this can be fun! I also want to help others realize that artistic skills have a place in science. I loved taking art classes in middle school, but when I got to high school, I did not have time because of all the science I was taking. I did not realize until I started volunteering in the Invertebrate Zoology department at the museum that my art skills had an important role in science.
Marion LeVoyer’s answer: Outreach is important for reaching people who might not be exposed to science in their daily life. It’s an opportunity to try to make them think critically about their surroundings and learn more about their environment and planet. I am really passionate about getting young girls interested into science and pursuing careers in science! I love getting people curious and interested about volcanoes so they learn more about Earth. Doing outreach also challenges me to translate my research into common language and to clarify my thoughts, which helps me be a better scientist.
Many of the visitors to our hydrothermal vent activity had some familiarity with deep sea vents, or at least had heard of them. But manipulating microscopes to zoom in on real specimens and touching actual rocks that came from underwater volcanoes added an entirely new dimension to their understanding of these other-worldly locations on the ocean floor.
This event was so large that it spilled over into the Sant Ocean Hall, where visitors were shown the effects of the extreme pressures experienced far below the surface of the ocean.
Your next opportunity to meet the expert
Who: Mariya Shcheglovitova
When: January 3, 2015, 11am to 1pm
Where: Q?rius Lab and Field
Launch a spore
Can you build a spore optimized for dispersal? Fungi play key roles in our environment as wood decomposers, but how do they get to the places where they grow? Spore specialist Mariya Shcheglovitova will help you discover the unique adaptations of spores!
by Jen Collins – NMNH Ocean Educator & Invertebrate Zoology Liason