Our paper is out now! It is available here (open access until the end of this year).

I also have some e-prints to distribute if you aren’t affiliated with an institution with a subscription to Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies. Just send me an email requesting one.

Our paper provides high-resolution records of the carbon and sulphur isotope signatures from Aptian sediments recovered during Leg 123 of the Ocean Drilling Program, and discusses potential mechanisms that could cause the perturbations that are observed in those signatures.

Here’s the reference:

DeBond, N., Oakes, R.L., Paytan, A. and Wortmann, U.G. (2012). Early Aptian carbon and sulphur isotope signatures at ODP Site 765. Isotopes in Environmental & Health Studies 48(1) 180-194. DOI: 10.1080/10256016.2012.659732

It feels good to share the results of a project with a wider community!

Insights into the Scientific Process

Electron Café's Scientific Process Rage Comic My suprvisor posted Electron Café’s Scientific Process Rage Comic in our meeting room by the door just before Christmas, and I wanted to share it here. I think it is a very accurate depiction of what science is like – other than the deleted calibration curves (there have been no Melvins in the lab groups I’ve been in so far!), I can definitely say I’ve been at every point along the flow chart! It is always nice to see someone put your experience into words!

In addition to giving those that work in science a much needed chuckle, this image also brings up an important point: we do not teach the true scientific process to young students, and those that do not become scientists end up with a permanent misconception about ‘how science works’.

Science is usually presented to the public as the upper panel. Schools ask students to make a hypothesis about something obvious and test it using a procedure they are given to find the ‘right answer’. The next step is usually to ask them to discuss what ‘sources of error’ could affect such a ‘right answer’, and usually involve human reaction times and imprecise markings on whatever instrument you used to do your measurement. Even if they are asked to consider what they would do better next time to improve their observation (critical in the scientific process), the procedure is usually designed to be pretty decent in the first place which makes that question hard to answer, or worse, pointless.

Science should be presented as the lower panel to students much earlier than what happens now in many classrooms. Sharing and explaining this image (or a PG version) is a good start, already taken by many educators! At least some of the time students should be given the materials carry out an experiment, a goal, and the required time to develop their own procedure, test it, and then improve on it. It would be even better if at least once or twice early on, students are asked to work on a problem with no guaranteed outcome – in groups or individually. Science fair projects are a great opportunity for that. However, that requires a dedicated teacher who is willing to guide students through a real investigation. So how about it? If you’re a science educator, what do you think is the best way to teach the scientific process?

Winter on the Island

Well, winter has finally arrived here in St. John’s. We had a snow day two Fridays ago, and Mike and I took advantage of that by going snowshoeing with some friends around Pippy Park and in the Three Pond Barrens. It was a lot of fun – the new snowshoes are much easier to walk in than the big wood and catgut ones (although that might just be because I used to use my mom’s pair when I was little)!

It tends to rain quite a bit in the winter here, which means even big snowfalls might not last. However, this week I think it is safe to say winter is here to stay for a while. Tuesday we had whiteout conditions in the city, and MUN closed in the afternoon. Today, we had another fair-sized snowfall. The pile at the end of our driveway is starting to look pretty big! I’m excited to get back out on the trails this weekend. The only question is: snowshoes or skis?