Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is the Mycelial Network?

Welcome to the Mycelial Network. What is the Mycelial Network you ask? Well, it's a blog I just started as an experiment. I want to get into discussions with all kinds of people and I thought "maybe a blog can help me do that." Specifically I want to get into discussions about natural history and how natural history is taught. Let me back up.

One of my core beliefs is that science is beautiful. I also think that beauty is somewhat under-appreciated. Maybe we can talk about why this is later but for now let's just say it's under-appreciated. I also believe that encouraging people of all ages to learn about science and natural history will lead to a better future. Nature is, for better or for worse, our home and I believe that a deeper understanding and appreciation for what our home is like, how it works and how beautiful it is from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy (and more importantly all the stuff in between) will make us all better stewards and make us happier in the long run. So for all of us to get better at helping people learn I think it's important to talk about what we do, how we do it, what works and what doesn't.

So in my ideal, theoretical and probably completely fantastical world this will be a place where environmentalists, educators, museum/zoo/aquarium professionals, photographers, and maybe a few actual scientists might come and weigh in on things. Anyone with a vested interest in helping others learn about nature and science is more than welcome to share and I really hope that my ideas and comfort about how I already do things are challenged and I become a better educator. So yes, that is the first selfish piece of rationale. I am a science educator and I want to know more people in the community and I want to get better at what I do.

The second selfish reason is that I like to take photos of things in nature and I also like to know what the species are but I have had a nearly impossible time identifying most of the stuff I shoot. So I'd love it if there were more eyes and brains helping me.

So there you have it. We've covered my idealistic, selfless reasons and my completely personal and selfish reasons for starting out here. And if this works I'm sure these reasons will change and morph into new reasons over time. Basically I want this to work like the super cheesy analogy for which I named this blog. The myclial network is comprised of the vegetative parts of fungi that live in nearly all healthy forests. These fibers can run for acres just under the surface of the soil and are some of the biggest and oldest organisms known to science. But they also (here's the cheesy analogy part) share their nutrients with the trees of the forest. The roots of the trees tap into these fibers and the trees thrive due to the help of their fungal symbiont. It seemed to fit to me and it had the added bonus of being one of my favorite natural history facts. There's a lot going on in the network and its relationship to the forest but it all leads to a healthy ecosystem.

To finish off my first post I'll leave one of my photos and an invitation to post any and all comments that come to mind. What topics would you like to see show up on the Mycelial Network?


  1. One possible discussion might be about people's educational experiences with biology and high school and elementary school. What was successful in making students actually interested in biology and what didn't work? I have always been interested in biology, but my high school experience had nothing to do with that. It may have actually made me less interested sadly.

    also, if you are demystifying spiders, how about some info on house-centipedes? They are a piece of nature that can be found in many people's houses. I think they are much scarier than spiders.

  2. I actually immediately thought about houseipedes as I was writing that. I know there's a lot of wildlife people find indoors that perhaps they'd rather not. I remember running out of the room, completely unable to deal with a big wasp or hornet at least once.

  3. I'm actually most freaked out by silverfish in my house, and while most insects and arachnids I leave be or carefully remove from my home, I either run away or "bravely" kill silverfish every time. What are they? Why do they have to be so creepy? (And yes, I know it doesn't sound like it, but I am ready for specific scientific answers about who they are and why they always want to live in my bathtub!)

  4. Hey Paul, best of luck on this venture.

    To Austin's comment, I've always been frustrated that schools tend to teach inductively (specific to general) rather than deductively (general to specific) [if I've gotten my PHIL101 right with those terms]. The example I usually throw out (aside from having to memorize the succession of English Kings in the 17th century before learning who took part in WWI) is biology. My high school freshman science class was Molecular Biology. We started at the very bottom -- vacuules, chromosomes, other things I was forced to make out of play-doh even though I was in high school in an AP course -- not at the top, the vast and beautiful machinations of life. Who cares about osmosis when you have no context of appreciation? It's like having to compare and contrast the stats of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux without ever having seen a hockey game. Surely, molecular biology has its merits, but I think it's best left for those who wish to drill down in this field. We'd all be better off with an appreciation and understanding on the grander scale, I believe. I've always felt appreciation should come first -- and that sounds like what you're up to here. Best of luck.

  5. this is great paul, I'm really looking forward to your future posts. What interests me the most, and what i am trying to propose for my academic studies, is human interaction within their internal and external environments, and how both effect one another. i think what you are presenting is just that and this is exciting to see!

    and i also would like to know more about spiders, cuz i will be honest, i have a Beaker freak out "meep meep!" when i see them and call pat to get them out of the house. (I know, i'm a weenie tot when it comes to spiders.)