February 10, 2018

Why I #ChooseScience

If there’s one thing to know about me, it is that I am very passionate about the environment.

Not in an extreme chain yourself to a tree kind of way. More in the practical sense that I strongly believe that everyone is responsible for doing their part to protect our natural world for future generations.

And that is exactly why I choose science.

Mother and daughter at Kincaid Park, Anchorage, Alaska

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a strong affinity to the outdoors. Particularly, the water. Like many, as a young girl I had big dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Movies like Free Willy and The Little Mermaid to thank for that one. Except, unlike many others, I was bound and determined to make it happen.

In university, I focused my studies on marine and freshwater biology, with a dabble into ecosystem restoration. As a naive 20-year-old, I saw myself living this glamorous life on the beach down south, diving with the sharks and protecting our coral reefs. 

But, it was during those years in university that my interests took a bit of a shift. After a research project I did down in the Bahamas made an impact on the local community, I was offered a Master’s position at an Ontario university. But truth is, I didn’t want it. Research just wasn’t for me. My summers were dedicated to educating others about taking care of what Mother Nature has given us. I had found my calling in environment education, and turns out, I was pretty good at it. Educating others about aquatic and terrestrial biology and ecology was more my thing.

It was because of this shift that I quickly abandoned the idea of becoming a marine biologist and instead began focusing my attention on becoming an environmental educator.

And so, that is where I stand today. Working in environmental education, teaching others about our aquatic ecosystems. While I may not have the title or “marine biologist”, I instead the best of both worlds – working in a somewhat aquatic environment and combining numerous streams of science  while doing so, from biology to ecology, chemistry and more. 

I choose science so that I can inspire my future generation to help protect our planet.

Toddler at Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Alaska

>> You might also be interested in: A Girl with Big Dreams 

Sure it is a passion of mine, but there is also another reason why I continue choosing science every single day. And that my friends, is my daughter.

I want her to grow up in a world similar to ours – where she can snorkel the coral reefs, see a polar bear in the wild and not have to worry about a lack of food or access to safe, clean drinking water.

I choose science so that I can help build that connection between my daughter and the plants and animals that the call this planet home. Because if she doesn’t have a connection with it, she sure as hell isn’t going to want to protect it.

Toddler with American Toad

Why introduce science at such a young age? Truth is, it’s never too early to start.

I’m often asked by parents what advice I can give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice: get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Toddlers are natural scientists - they ask (many, many) questions, pick up sticks and bugs outside, aren’t afraid to get dirty and are curious about the world around them. But as they get older, they may gradually lose this interest. Science may become just another thing they learn in school. Of course, this couldn't be further from the truth.

Science is so much more than just looking through a microscope or mixing things together. Teaching children about science from a young age encourages them to ask questions, think critically, experiment, solve problems, and so much more. 

Toddler in Ripley's Aquarium of Canada's Dangerous Lagoon Tunnel

Don’t know much about the science behind, well, science? No worries. Science isn’t so much about answers as it is the journey to find them. Share your curiosity with your child - wonder out loud why something is the way it is, and then take the time to learn about it. Remind your child that they use science every single day. Baking is a lesson in chemistry, building with blocks involves physics, watching a bird fly is biology and asking questions is exactly what leads to scientific breakthroughs. Science is responsible for the clothes we wear, the food we eat, how we get around and many other facets of our daily lives. 

Like myself, an interest in science at a young age can also lead to a career as an adult. However, while studies show that about as many girls as boys have a positive attitude toward science in elementary school, boys are twice as likely to be interested in technology, science, and math by eighth grade. And, the gender bias just doesn’t stop there. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability of female students graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field is 18%, compared to 37% for their male peers.

Girls continue to face stereotypes and social and cultural restrictions, limiting access to education and funding for research, preventing them from scientific careers and reaching their full potential. Women remain a minority in science research and decision-making. 

February 11 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science - an opportunity for all to take a stand for girls and women in science. Together, on this day and every day, we can work together to create a world where women and girls design, shape and benefit from the scientific innovations changing our world.

While the decision on what career path she chooses ultimately lies in her hands, I can’t help but try to peak her interest and curiosity in my passions along the way, including choosing science. 

What is your connection to science? I'd love to hear your story!

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