“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats . . . “
Ratty to Mole, from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
I was fortunate in early March to see one of our masters of communication, Dr. Bruce Mate, share his passion and intellect with a diverse audience. Bruce is the Director of the Marine Mammal Institute in the College of Agricultural Sciences. For over 20 years, he has led a week-long expedition to Baja California, where participants have an extraordinary opportunity to get up close and personal with gray whales. While that alone is worth the trip, it’s also exciting to hear Bruce translate the seemingly esoteric issues of habitat preservation and trophic interactions into meaningful and personal revelations for the non-scientific cruise participants.
Over seven days, I saw people go from mildly interested in environmental issues to seriously concerned about becoming personally involved in research. Bruce sees this same transformation year after year.
This proves how valuable it can be for us, in research, to engage the public, and raise awareness among those who are not normally among us.
But, by the same token, those seven days were ones in which Bruce was not conducting research per se. That’s a big sacrifice. How much time at the bench should we give up for time with the public? Is this a model we should replicate in other areas?