Thursday, July 12, 2007

Messy Science

One of the things that Chrissy said in lecture has been sort of echoing in my mind - although we really try hard to create these charts and graphs and rules and organizing shemes (like Kingdom, Phylum, etc.), nature can not be placed neatly in a box. As Ritchie and I do our project, looking at the color of hermit crab shells and the color of their background where they move and rest to see if there is a correlation - if they are somehow camouflaging themselves such that crabs with light colored shells tend to spend more time in light colored areas and if crabs with dark colored shells spend more time in dark colored areas - the messiness of science is something with which I find myself grappling. For example, distinguishing the colors of the backgrounds of the crabs, asking questions like "Is that dark sand or light sand?" and "If the hermit crab was on light sand but was mostly hidden underneath a dark leaft, what color is the background?" Also, with the colors of the shells themselves - some are clearly light or dark, but many require some thinking and more tough questions: "Is that dark grey or light grey?" and "What about that shell there that's sort of half black and half white?" Also, are we not seeing as many resting crabs because they tend to move when we get near, or is it just that the moving crabs are easier to spot? Regardless of the messiness, I have to say that I'm enjoying the data collection process - we go out early in the morning and late at night, thus avoiding the sun at its hottest and freeing up our mornings after we finish in the field, and the hermit crabs are just plain cool. I'm enjoying watching them in action and it motivates me to ask more questions on my own about what exactly they eat, how and when they mate, who their predators are, what their relationships among each other are like, etc.

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