Hard science— with a dash of derring-do

Posted on Sep 19, 2013 in Campus News and News

Biology is not only about cataloging specimens and sifting data for papers and grant proposals. Someone has to collect the specimens and gather the data, after all, and that’s where field research–long trips into some of the planet’s most remote, exotic locales–comes in.

Realizing that field trips offer a fascinating window into the more adventurous side of science, National Geographic started Explorers Journal, a feature on nationalgeographic.com that posts photos and firsthand accounts of research outings. Among the contributors is Andrew Short, KU assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, KU Biodiversity Institute researcher and National Geographic Grantee. Short is now posting updates on his trip to Tafelberg, a mountain in Suriname, South America. The purpose of the journey is to search for aquatic insects, Short’s specialty, while documenting the biodiversity of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, one of the most unspoiled tropical forests in the world.

Short’s most recent post, “Tiptoeing Across a Raging River (On the Edge of a 600-foot Drop)” documents the risks field researchers must be willing to take in their quest for data, and hints at the “really cool discoveries” (which Short promises to detail in future posts) that result.

A separate grant project by Short to build an online database for the field notes, photographs and other data gathered by field researchers in the pre-Internet age is featured in the September Kansas Alumni magazine [“Calls of the wild,” Hilltopics, issue No. 5]. But thanks to Explorers Journal, readers can track Short’s adventures in biology practically as they happen.

–Steven Hill

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