Space: the Spooky Frontier

 

By Knicole Colon, PhD

Have you ever thought about how spooky space is? Sure, the stars in the night sky are beautiful to look at, and it’s amazing to see the Moon and know that mankind has (literally) left footprints there. But, when you really think about it, you will realize that space is incredibly spooky.

First of all, the Sun is an unfathomably hot ball of gas that randomly emits bursts of radiation (known as flares). Luckily, the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from this radiation. Satellites orbiting above the Earth aren’t so lucky. The radiation from the Sun can affect their operation and effectively cause radio blackouts. Such blackouts can interrupt GPS and other satellites that help us communicate. Considering that we are all addicted to constant communication through our cell phones and the internet, this is pretty scary. On the plus side, such intense flares are really not that common (so try not to get too creeped out by this).

Besides the Sun, there are quite a few asteroids out there that could swing by and impact Earth. This really is a rare occurrence, but it’s still creepy to think of some impact event that is explosive enough to send us back to the stone age. In this day and age, anything that deprives us of technology is pretty scary. And then there are things like black holes or stars that explode and go supernova that could easily destroy the entire Earth. We wouldn’t even stand a chance against them. Luckily astronomers don’t think these will affect us anytime soon (at least not in our lifetime).

There are also some pretty creepy aspects of space travel. In particular, the movie Gravity comes to mind. From the previews of the movie alone, you could see how an astronaut may end up in a really bad situation – floating in space, unconnected from everything, destined to die alone. I definitely like my alone time now and again, but floating into nothingness, waiting to die? Not so fun.

Thinking of the bigger picture and just how vast the universe is, it is quite spooky to think of how small and insignificant each human is in the grand scheme of things. Space is big. Absolutely enormously and insanely big. It takes decades just to travel to the outer edges of the Solar System from Earth, so imagine how long it would take to travel to the nearest star (hint: it would take tens of thousands of years with current technology). Not only that, but what else is out there (besides scary rogue asteroids and black holes)? Are there other intelligent beings, devising a way to attack us? Starting in the late 1800s, people truly believed that Martians existed. People saw “canals” and an infamous “face” on Mars that they thought had been constructed by some intelligent life form. These were actually optical illusions (and people seeing what they wanted to see), but still these observations led to stories like “War of the Worlds” where the main goal of Martians was apparently to destroy humans. We now know that no intelligent life exists on Mars (which is probably good since it means there are no interplanetary wars we have to watch out for). But, what if there is no other intelligent life at all? How scary is it to think we might be alone in the universe?

To end things on a positive note, at least from this post you know you are not alone in thinking that space is a really spooky frontier.

Science Communication within the Scientific Community

 

By Padideh Kamali-Zare, PhD

Science communication is generally known as presenting science-related topics and scientific discoveries to non-experts (public). This is based on the assumption that people outside the scientific world, in order to grasp the major scientific advances and get informed about groundbreaking discoveries in science, require a different way of transferring knowledge to them than regular scientific publications. This is very true of course and there have been a number of successful efforts in this regard including popular science magazines and TV shows, science outreach activities and science exhibitions.

But a more pertinent question maybe how science communication works not from inside to outside the scientific community, but within the scientific community itself? How do scientists, especially in the fields of experimental sciences, communicate with each other these days? Given that a variety of different and sophisticated techniques have to be used in order to generate the data required for a top scientific  journal publication, and that each author is specialized in some of the techniques but not all? How do people with different scientific backgrounds who have come together to solve an in interdisciplinary problem, communicate along the way and reach a meaningful conclusion in the end? Even by not going that far, how do people with an exact scientific background but with a different way of analyzing the data and drawing conclusions, communicate with each other? Do all authors on a publication agree on the results and final conclusions? If not, does that mean that even the authors of a certain paper may not agree on the right conclusion? Really?! What is happening to science and its universality then? And who is in a position of authority to decide what is right or wrong? These are some important questions to think about and figure out what is missing in human-human interactions in science.

The results of the following simple experiment, which is based on a random interview with about 40 scientists within the New York scientific community, may surprise you! The question I asked was: if I give you a random paper published in a top-tier scientific journal e.g. Nature, Cell or Science, can you understand what it is talking about? By understand I mean, after reading it, can you explain in simple words what the major hypothesis of the paper is, why it is important, what experiments the authors did to test the hypothesis and what the final result and conclusion was? The majority (~80%) answered “no” (!), unless it is in their particular field and only if they “study” the paper in detail and not only “read” it. The common concern was first about the complexity of figures and that they capture the results of so many years of experiments, and in the end the figures stress on too many points at the same time. A second concern was on the complexity of the methods.

The next question I asked was can you keep up with your own field and evaluate the major findings that come out from different labs? About half of the scientists answered “no”(!). And the major concern was that too little time is left for an experimental scientist to go through the literature in everyday life, and the literature has become too complex, so it makes it difficult to learn about advances by only screening and not going through the details.

The last question I asked was, how much do you believe in the results and conclusions of your own papers and do you think they are reproducible everywhere and that they contribute to a better understanding of the subject of your interest? Is it any wonder everyone says “well, …”???

Science Through the Airwaves:

 

By Robert Thorn

 

Have you ever been curious about the way different organisms seen light, the history behind zoos or how the placebo effect works? Then Radiolab might be the radio show for you! Radiolab is produced by WNYC, which is one of New York’s public radio stations, and can be found in podcast form at radiolab.org. To date Radiolab has released over 70 full length podcasts (about an hour in length), countless “shorts” and a handful of live shows. Radiolab is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Neither Jad nor Robert are scientists per se, but what they do during each segment can only be described as science. Each episode starts with Jad and Robert discussing a topic, they give their thoughts about how a topic may work (a hypothesis if you will) and throughout the hour they discuss the topic and unravel some of the mysteries, leaving each episode with a better understanding of the topic.

 

Throughout each hour Jad and Robert get in contact with experts in the field, many times by phone, to help them build the story. Not only are these people expert scientists, but they will sometimes contact people who were personally involved in events pertaining to the topic and can give eyewitness accounts of revolutionary events in the field, giving the show a wonderful sense of relevance that would be otherwise hard to obtain. Oftentimes Jad will take one point of view and Robert will take another, allowing a full, genuine discussion of topics that may sometimes be controversial. Jad and Robert are supported by a team of producers and writers who will often be heard on the show helping to synthesize the ideas for shows or tracking down story leads around the country and sometimes even further!

 

The team at Radiolab thrives in its ability to discuss subjects in such a way that it is accessible to people of all scientific persuasions. I find as much enjoyment listening to the show, as my non-science friends do. It not only expands my perspectives on familiar topics, but it also allows me to discuss science topics with friends who are new to the topic. The Radiolab podcast is not only about the science though. They interweave sounds and music into the podcast in such a way as to breathe life into the story. Before listening to Radiolab I thought that public radio was solely comprised of boring newscasters speaking in monotone reporting on political events, but Radiolab shattered that perception in a wonderful way. Sound is not only used as a way to liven up the narrative, but it is also used as a tool to help explain scientific concepts.

 

The best example of the use of sound to illustrate a point is in the Radiolab episode titled “Colors” (Season 10 Episode 13). Jad and Robert were discussing how different animals would see a rainbow. As they explored this topic, they enlisted the help of a choir to illustrate what they learned about color vision in animals. Different voice parts of the choir sang different color names. Lower voice groups were the reds of the rainbow and the voice groups became progressively higher until they reached the violet and ultraviolet ranges of the rainbow. As they moved on to different animals with better vision than humans they would play a recap of the voices harmonizing as an analogy to the rainbow that the animal would see. This use of sound is typical of Radiolab’s ingenious ability to illustrate points that are otherwise sight dependent.

 

Overall, the best description of Radiolab comes straight from the about section at radiolab.org, stating, “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Whether you are casually interested in science, or work in a scientific field, Radiolab is a podcast that will captivate your interests and have you thinking about science in a new way.

Squeezed Science – Should We Switch to a Business Mindset?

 

By Jesica Levingston Mac leod, PhD

It is a common conversation topic among researchers, but it was not until the NPR article saw the light, and the dark side, that the public realized the problems that young scientists are facing when pursuing a successful career in Academia. As we raise awareness about these tribulations, my colleagues mentioned how a “postdoc”’s quality life depends on the quality of the lab, the institution, the project, the relationships with colleagues and the Principal investigator or PI (the boss), not forgetting that this is a very self driven career. So, if your hypothesis is very difficult to prove, or you have been hitting your head against the wall with all the negative results that took you years to get, you may eventually come to hating this path and leaving Academia. The same if you have been working in a non “hot field” where the funding sources do not consider interesting enough to support or your PI is not supportive, or you have a very wicked competence inside or outside the lab. All these negative situations can aggravate the perspective of the very little options one may have by pursuing a career in Academia. On the other hand, if you are obtaining excellent results, publishing in top tier journals, made hundreds of good connections and collaborators, have a “great boss” and literally love you job… well, probably you are also doomed…

One solution could be implementing the business approach to the scientific mindset: Why only having one PI per lab? At the end, two minds think more than 1. Perhaps collaborative research centers have a solution were 2 or more PIs can have access to more equipment, grants and professionals, and therefore use the best skills needed for the job, like a company where you have an executive committee and you distribute the stock between the employees, in order to make them be part of the enterprise.

Having a business mindset would mean to have a planed strategy about your career development. Having a backup career plan is one example of this: starting to apply for jobs before needed, or before it is too late. Begin with your preparation to be a leader, and make your PI know, and discuss a good starting point. Look for leadership opportunities in any situations, such as coordinating workshops or conferences.

Sign up to run workshops and career developing series!. Many postdocs can discover a great professional gain if these opportunities would be offer to them. Get training in other expertise to be competitive in, for example, the investing or consulting field. Taking classes about how to give a class is a great example of a course that could be offered to postdocs and graduate students, in order to train them to explain and transfer their empirical knowledge to the next generation.

A month ago, at the Mount Sinai Postdoc symposium, Dr. Bruce Alberts (yes, THE Alberts,  from “The Molecular Biology of the Cell” book) who spoke about “The Future of Biology: Keeping Science Healthy” and illustrated the dramatic changes in the age of the scientist successfully obtaining project grants from NIH. In contrast to 30 years ago, the average age of new investigators with PhD at initial RO1 was 36.8 year old, a large number of grants were awarded to scientist in their early 30s, but this tendency has been decreasing drastically, to the point where now, the mean age for receiving these prestigious grants is 42 years of age. Dr. Alberts, himself, made fun on the fact that he obtained his postdoc position, before been awarded with his PhD. (which actually his thesis was rejected the first time, delaying the whole process) and learned from his failures. He also pointed out that he got his professor position at a very young age, something that is almost impossible nowadays. He advocated for a change in this unfair situation, which cripples the young innovators from getting a start. Also, he encouraged researchers to get out of the lab and talk to the public about science and its importance. First, to attract/engage curious minds to the scientific field, and second to communicate “in simple language” what we do for 9 hours plus per day in the lab.

We must offer to all this new scientific minds the reality about the current situation of science, but we also need to fix it, so it is not going to turn into a snow ball and make disappear all the interest in pursuing a scientific career for the new generations. In a business mind-set we must recognize that the money is not only in the governmental funding, but also in private foundations and other organizations like angels or venture capitals. So go out there and try to pitch your science to investors.

6 Tips for a Successful Start to Graduate School

 

By Michael Burel

In many ways, graduate school is a lot like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Belle, an intelligent girl with her “nose stuck in a book,” seeks to escape her small, provincial life and adventure to “the great wide somewhere” (wherever that may be). Along her journey, she becomes imprisoned in a castle governed by the fearsome Beast, exudes patience and compassion in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, and catalyzes the transformation of her once nemesis into a benevolent, more universally accepted form. The parallels should be obvious: You are Belle. Graduate school is the castle. Beast is your thesis. (And that patience/compassion part is just Disney magic.)

 

Pursuing a PhD is jarringly different than undergraduate education, industry jobs, or the like. First of all, you won’t know anything. Literally. That’s kind of the whole point. You will wade into a project in which the unknown is your only foundation, much like flailing for the bathroom light switch in the middle of the night (you know it’s there, but you just can’t find it); you will become a connoisseur of seminar cuisine (cookies, stale crackers, room-temperature cubes of cheese, more cookies, and pizza); and vacations will become confused for the term “conference.” One could argue a conference is just an evolved species of a vacation, but alas, I’m not an evolutionary ecologist.

 

So how does one embrace this flood of change with all the patience and compassion of a Disney protagonist? Here are some tips to get you started:

 

Embrace ignorance

As many will attest, graduate school levels the playing field. You may have been at the top of your class as an undergraduate, but so too are your next-door neighbors. But really, who cares? There is no longer a fight to be the best; there is only the fight to do your best. Science demands humility as you stumble for ways to find the answers to exceedingly difficult, nearly impossible questions. Being ignorant is innate to the job description: If you already knew something, then why study it? The excitement lies in what we do not know. Learn to say “I don’t know” with care and confidence. Admit it, embrace it.

 

Be confident

The first year of graduate school is incredibly demanding. You must balance challenging rotations, difficult classes, and unfamiliar environments. When things get difficult, remember this: You are here for a reason. People had enough confidence in you to pay you to study what you love. While you may not find confidence in yourself, know that others have already found it for you. You can do this.

 

Never compare

You will be tempted to compare your achievements to those of your classmates. This can snowball throughout your graduate education. “He got an A on the test, but I got a D…I must be stupid.” “She completed her qualifying exam before I did! I’m so behind!” “She got a grant, why didn’t I?” “He already has four publications…I’ll be lucky if I get on a review!” This can become an all-consuming process, but here’s a tip: Just stop. Never, ever compare yourself to that of a colleague. Sure, comparison is healthy from time to time, but as soon as you start trying to correlate your achievements (or lack thereof) with those of a peer, things quickly go south. Every person comes from a different life, educational, research, and mentorship background. Making a comparison in this scenario is pointless because the comparisons will never be equitable. Don’t worry about how Sally or Sean got what you wanted a step faster. Do your own thing. Do you.

 

Manage your time

This may be self-evident, but as you start juggling all of your responsibilities, you may find yourself saying, “Oh, wow, it’s 4 AM, and I forgot to eat today!” Don’t be this person. Budget time to complete your classwork, execute in rotations, an—of course—eat! If you aren’t sure you are performing well, seek advice from a fellow student, tutor, or advisor. No one wants to see you fail. Everyone wants to see you succeed.

 

Read

…A lot. Reading scientific articles is one of the most important yet underdeveloped skills a graduate student possesses. To help get you started, try this: For every figure, write out the question being asked, the experiments that answer the question, the results of those experiments, and how those results feed into the overarching message of the work. You’ll ace discussions, and reading will become faster and second nature. And of course, if you haven’t already, sign up for  Scizzle to keep up with your scientific interests and field.

 

Be happy, be healthy

(Not to quote Cheerios, but it is sound advice). Being healthy is a mental process as much as it is a physical one. Exercise, eat well, and play. Develop a close circle of friends you can lean on in times of need. Go see a movie. Take a weekend trip outside your campus. Relax and build time for yourself. You cannot perform your duties as a graduate student (or anything, really) if you are miserable and ailing. Take care of yourself first so you can be your best version every day. If on some days you can’t remember what that version is, then please, channel your inner-Belle. Be curious, courageous, and open to change. Steer clear of Gastons. Tame the Beast.

Squeezed Science – What Does it Mean for the Next Generation?

 

By Celine Cammarata

Recent mainstream media coverage of the severe funding shortages in scientific research and the ramifications thereof have re-kindled discussion of these topics, already on the minds of many researchers. As a post-bacc trying to determine whether and how best to pursue a career in science, such discussion always make me question the implications for those of us at the threshold of the field. What new challenges should our scientific “generation” prepare for, what can we learn and what can we do differently to improve our likelihood of flourishing in science?

 

To young prospective scientists, a preliminary challenge is determining how much worry the current funding issues deserve to begin with. Not only do we, as newcomers to the field, lack the experience to compare this to the normal ebb and flow of research funding, but when we look to our mentors we get mixed advice, and of course we tend to only be in labs that do have funding. Consequently, it is extremely difficult to get a clear idea of just how serious the problem is, and what it means for us and our career choices. While concern about funding is a frequent topic of conversation among science students, it is rarely cited as a factor in their choices of whether to pursue research careers.

 

If we do decide to follow the scientific path, how can we update our expectations to match today’s reality – must we set aside the goal of one day running labs of our own? In one NPR piece, NYU post-doc program director Keith Micoli commented that even aside from budget cutbacks, a system in which one PI trains multiple post-docs who all expect to “replace” the PI is not sustainable. Changing expectations may help alleviate parts of the problem, both psychologically by reducing stress and disappointment and empirically by guiding modern scientists down more fruitful career paths. But how can that change be realized?

 

Currently “alternative” careers for science PhDs are often treated as a backup plan rather than a potential source of genuine excitement; the default remains to strive for a tenure-track position. This artificially limits the scope of careers options science students consider and in turn prepare for, both psychologically and in their training. No doubt this bias in part due to the fact that students are generally trained by professors, and so academic science is the primary career they are exposed to. Engaging other professionals in training students and presenting an array of career possibilities from the earliest point in scientific training are among structural changes in science education that could improve the plight of future generations of scientists.

 

What does the shifting reality of science research imply for outreach? Despite the current funding challenges, much outreach work is still geared toward attracting young people to careers in science, often specifically research. Undergraduate students are encouraged to consider research and often even stand to gain funding through scholarships and fellowships. Does this amount to recruiting for jobs that do not exist? At a minimum, extending the above line of thought, should outreach efforts of this sort try to represent the diversity of scientific careers available and not emphasize academic research? I myself am no longer sure what to tell the undergraduates I work with; can I encourage their interest in research, without contributing to the potential insecurity of their future careers?

 

I believe that most of my generation of students wants to see academic research as a viable career, but we also see the writing on the wall – times have changed and the career trajectories of our mentors may not be applicable to ourselves. The question remains: armed with this knowledge, how can we build on the old and create the new so that the next years of scientific minds may continue to flourish?

Should Postdocs Jump The Academic Ship?

By Elizabeth Ohneck, PhD

 

A recent series of articles on NPR called “Science Squeeze” painted a rather abysmal picture of the current state of scientific research, from lack of funding, to job shortages for young scientists, to stories of scientists “giving up,” leaving academia for other, though not always better, ventures. The article “Too Few University Jobs for America’s Young Scientists” features interviews with a few postdocs at NYU about their current situations and their prospects for an academic future. Their responses are not altogether negative, but are far from resoundingly positive. The article also hints that PhDs may be better off pursuing careers outside of academia, a path that more and more graduate students and postdocs are beginning to take. To get a broader perspective on how the current scientific research climate is affecting the career trajectories of postdocs, I talked with several postdoctoral scientists at varying stages of their careers about their reactions to the NPR series and how the issues presented affect their outlook for the future.

 

Not all postdocs are ready to jump the proverbial ship when it comes to pursuing an academic career, despite awareness of the hurdles ahead. Dr. Randy Morgenstein, a senior postdoc an Ivy League university, pointed out the limited scope of the NPR series, which focused on only a couple specific universities and individuals whose situations were particularly dire, and felt the articles portrayed the academic environment in an overly gloomy manner without actually addressing the overarching flaws in the system. “The articles make a pity party out of 1 or 2 places or people without making me feel the system isn’t working. So overall, I think they might have presented the state of scientific research in this country in too much of doomsday state… A better approach would have been to make me feel bad for society because good scientists are unable to get grants and do research.” He acknowledges, however, the truth of difficulties in obtaining grants and the competition for an extremely limited number of faculty positions. Despite these factors, he is persistent in pursuing a career in academia. “Academic research gives you the most freedom to pursue the research you are interested in. I like that aspect of it and think it is worth the risk to pursue.” When asked how one might overcome the obstacles in funding and faculty position availability, he responded, “I think anyone becoming a PI has to be self-confident almost to the point of arrogance, and therefore think that it’s the other people who won’t be able to get grants.  I do not think I am doing anything special to overcome these difficulties. Same as everyone else, I am trying to publish the best papers that I can, hopefully on a topic that people think is worth funding in the future.”

 

What about those who have successfully made the transition from postdoc to assistant professor, who might provide hope for those postdocs still set on an academic track? Dr. Francis Alonzo III is one such scientist, having recently obtained an assistant professor position at Loyola University Chicago. He chose to pursue an academic career because of his love of science and education, and credits his success to persistence, passion, drive, and curiosity. In addition, he added, “I really just could not see myself doing anything else. Because of that, I knew what my goals were from the start and worked as hard as I needed to get there.” But he feels that the NPR series accurately portrayed the state of scientific research, and this reality of uncertain funding means securing an assistant professorship doesn’t necessarily relieve his apprehension. “I do still love engaging in the scientific process and being involved in training and educating students,” says Dr. Alonzo. “And I still get a lot of joy coming into the lab everyday. However, I am considerably more apprehensive about what the future holds. In particular because I am just gearing up to submit my first larger grants and I have no idea how my ideas will be perceived.”

 

There are, however, many postdocs struggling to find jobs, and many who are turning away from academia in hopes of finding more opportunities. Dr. Bree Szostek Barker, a junior postdoc at the University of North Carolina, originally planned to pursue an academic career, but has recently been looking into possibilities outside of academia. She feels the NPR series actually understated the severity of the problems with funding and the job outlook in academic research. “The articles’ focus on a few universities, namely Baylor and Virginia, makes it appear that this is an issue isolated to a portion of schools/institutions/researchers that overextended during good times,” she said. “Every university and the vast majority of PI’s are feeling this, with the exception of the select few who are immeasurably successful.” The lack of job security created by limited academic positions and uncertain funding resulting from the current system of the academic research sector has pushed her to explore alternative careers. But securing a job in the private sector or a job that is not research-based has turned up its own set of problems; specifically, PhDs and postdocs seem to be missing relevant experience in the eyes of recruiters for these positions. For this reason, Dr. Szostek Barker disagrees with the assertion made in “Too Few University Jobs for America’s Young Scientists” that there are abundant jobs for PhDs outside of academia. “The fact is the number of jobs seeking a PhD with no experience in their industry is low and to pretend otherwise is offensive. And the jobs that do arise are so heavily competed for that the chances of getting the position is extremely slim,” she said, adding, “Unfortunately academia doesn’t count as ‘experience’ for anything except academia.”

 

It seems that the NPR series may have portrayed academic research in too much of a doom-and-gloom state, but also didn’t delve deep enough into the overarching problems in the structure of the scientific research sector. Funding is difficult to obtain, and faculty positions are few. Yet there are success stories to be found, and there are postdocs maintaining a hopeful outlook in spite of the enormous obstacles they face. But the system in which each PI trains multiple successors is unsustainable, and so to overcome job shortages, many postdocs are looking outside of academia for careers. What is not acknowledged in this series is that these non-academic jobs may be equally as hard to come by. Altogether, the consensus is that the system is flawed. But how do we fix the system? More money alone is likely not the answer. What contributes to one’s success on the academic track? Plenty of bright, passionate, confident, motivated scientists end up leaving academia, unable to secure funding, or worn down by the fierce competition, so what factors, both personal and academic, allow some to flourish while forcing others out? And finally, how can we better prepare PhDs for jobs outside of academia? The NPR series has brought these issues to the public eye. Hopefully this exposure will drive further discussion and a search for solutions to ensure a future full of happy, fulfilled scientists and prolific, productive scientific research.

 

Lessons in Sustainability…On a Barge!

 

By Lori Bystrom, PhD

Its not everyday you see an environmental education center and urban farm floating on a river. Docked in the Hudson River, about 15 miles north of New York City, you can find the Science Barge. This 138-foot barge has been attracting visitors to the Yonkers waterfront since 2008 when Groundwork Hudson Valley, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, acquired it and established its permanent home in the Hudson Valley.

 

The Science Barge
Credit: Lori Bystrom, PhD

The self-sustaining barge obtains all of its energy from renewable resources: solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels. Moreover, rainwater and purified river water provide irrigation for its greenhouse. Yes, that’s right, it has a greenhouse, in which you can find lettuce, melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers among various other plants. All of the produce is grown by hydroponic methods, which is to say they use liquid nutrient solutions instead of soil. In addition, this urban farm does not have pesticides or runoff, and has zero net carbon emissions.

 

During my tour of the barge, I discovered vine spinach (Basellla alba) for the first time, as two volunteers — one climbing a ladder and the other providing string — showed me the growing vine as they guided it upward against one of the glass walls. All the plants looked healthy and many were ready to harvest, including several appetizing melons, which hung from some of the plants above. I also discovered a tank of goldfish located below some of the smaller plants. According to Bob Walters, the director of the Science Barge, the waste generated by the fish was used to provide nutrients for plants.

 

Towards the end of my tour, I was able to speak with several of the volunteer students who clearly expressed how much they enjoyed their time there. I also discovered the Science Barge was a very popular field trip destination for students of all ages. Mr. Walters informed me that they have school kids come from as far as Japan. Based on my experience t

Credit: Lori Bystrom, PhD
Credit: Lori Bystrom, PhD

here, I can fully recommend this educational center as a stimulating location for children and adults who wish to learn more about sustainable agriculture in urban environments.

 

The 2014 growing season for the Science Barge goes from April 12th to November 8th. It is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 pm to 6 pm (free for children 10 and younger).