Hillary Mason

Trying To See Science

Trying To See Science without sunglasses is dangerous

As a graduate student and teacher of environmental science, I continue to navigate the path of academia in constant search of connections between the cognitive and intuitive dimensions of self, science, and the natural environment. I am reminded of a question a thoughtful colleague once asked: “How do we come to know science?”

While this question is meritorious in its own right, I would suggest an additional analysis: “How do we come to see science?”

Using an example from my own relationship with science, I spent what I consider to be my formative years of childhood growing up in southern Louisiana and rural Nebraska. My outdoor adventures and explorations in these ecologically rich, diverging landscapes inspired a sense of wonder and nurtured an insatiable curiosity in me. The deep connections I made with these places of my youth have forged my identity.

Therefore, ‘place’ is how I have come to know science. In a similar sense, the natural environment is the context where I am able to synthesize different aspects of identity while understanding my role in a much larger system. Therefore, ‘Nature’ is the lens through which I have come to see science.

I believe the process of building the intricate relationship between self and science is quite personal and each of us has our own story to tell. While I continue to reflect and build my own story, I cannot help but to probe into the stories of others. How do my own experiences relate to their experiences? Are there significant events contributing to how each of us relate to science? If these antecedent experiences do exist and are common among us, how does this motivate or not motivate us professionally and personally? The convergence of these and other questions related to science education, identity, and the environment will serve as a springboard for my contributions to this site. Although I am quite positive I will have more questions than answers, I look forward to contributing as a reflective practitioner and student. I hope that you enjoy my somewhat snarky musings, and I welcome your comments and discussion.

“After the war, when my parents became farm workers in southern Ontario, I fell in love with insects, particularly beetles, and spent countless hours wading through my magical swamp. When I became a geneticist, it was to study heredity in an insect, the fruit fly. Astronomer Carl Sagan told me that as a child he was drawn to the mysteries of the heavens. Paul Ehrlich was attracted to biology by his enchantment with butterflies, and Ed Wilson came to ecology because of his early fascination with reptiles. So it seems strange that while mystery, wonder, and awe imbued our view of the world and drew so many of us into science, as we write up our reports, we expunge all trace of passion and emotion in the name of objectivity. Yet it is more important than ever to maintain that sense of wonder, to seek ways to repair the disruptions within the biosphere that we have caused and that make the world a more difficult place for our own survival.” (p. 56-7)

Suzuki, D. (2010). The legacy: An elder’s vision for our sustainable future. Vancouver, Canada: Greystone Books.

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