It can be hell finding one’s way across an extensive boggy moor—the partially dry, rough ground and the absence of any landmarks let the eye rove helplessly into the monotype distance. Everything undulates, the rise and fall share the same muted palette, and the senses dull.
But a swamp is different: in it, in addition to water, there are trees and shrubs, just as reeds and rushes are the hallmarks of a marsh. Although water and squelch are everywhere in a swamp, there are landmarks—downed trees or jagged stumps, a tenanted heron nest, occasional islands of high-ground hardwood stands, called “hammocks” in the South.
Yet the swamp traveler goes not in a straight line but slouches from quaking island to thick tussock to slippery, half-submerged log. Even with G.P.S. technology, big swamps are places to get lost, and in the past many people with a reason to melt out of sight—Native Americans threatened out of their territory, runaway slaves, Civil War army deserters, moonshiners, and bloody-handed murderers—have hidden in them. For a few seconds, I once considered hiding in a swamp myself.
When Kathleen Morrill was 12, she decided she needed a puppy. Not just any puppy—a pint-size papillon with a black button nose and bushy, perky ears. When her parents resisted, “I turned on the waterworks,” laughs Morrill, now a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester.
And so, the family ended up with its first dog—a 2-month-old pup she named Tod.
Tod was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), whose website describes his breed as “curious” and “friendly” with a “hardy constitution.” But the puppy was shy and scared of strangers, and he developed separation anxiety as he aged.
When Morrill’s family got another papillon, Rosie, a year later, she was entirely different: bold, outgoing, and adoring of all people. “Breed can be important,” Morrill says, “but it’s not the full picture of a dog’s behavior.”
Now, she has the science to back that up.
In a new study, Morrill and her colleagues show that almost none of the behaviors we associate with dog breeds—from lovable Labradors to pugnacious pit bulls—are hard-wired.
With more people living in cities, working in high-rise office buildings, and becoming addicted to their innumerable electronic devices, many of us are indeed experiencing a nature deficit.
This is true for children and adults alike.
In his new book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li presents some sobering statistics: By 2050, according to the United Nations Population Division, three quarters of the world’s people will live in cities.
Even now, the average American spends 93 percent of the time indoors, and some ten hours a day on social media—more than they spend asleep.
In the next year, researchers should expect to face a sensitive set of questions whenever they send their papers to journals, and when they review or edit manuscripts. More than 50 publishers representing over 15,000 journals globally are preparing to ask scientists about their race or ethnicity — as well as their gender — in an initiative that’s part of a growing effort to analyse researcher diversity around the world. Publishers say that this information, gathered and stored securely, will help to analyse who is represented in journals, and to identify whether there are biases in editing or review that sway which findings get published. Pilot testing suggests that many scientists support the idea, although not all.
The effort comes amid a push for a wider acknowledgement of racism and structural racism in science and publishing — and the need to gather more information about it. In any one country, such as the United States, ample data show that minority groups are under-represented in science, particularly at senior levels. But data on how such imbalances are reflected — or intensified — in research journals are scarce. Publishers haven’t systematically looked, in part because journals are international and there has been no measurement framework for race and ethnicity that made sense to researchers of many cultures.
“If you don’t have the data, it is very difficult to understand where you are at, to make changes, set goals and measure progress,” says Holly Falk-Krzesinski, vice-president of research intelligence at the Dutch publisher Elsevier, who is working with the joint group and is based in Chicago, Illinois.
Andrew Robinson reviews five of the week’s best science picks.
Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond, Ashley Jean Yeager MIT Press (2021)
‘More matter than meets the eye’ is a chapter title of this insightful biography of the pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin by science journalist Ashley Yeager, who interviewed her in later life. Best known for her observations of galactic rotation rates, which provided evidence for the existence of dark matter, Rubin also campaigned for equality in science. Her many honours did not include a Nobel prize, but a new observatory in Chile bears her name and this is the second biography of her in a year (see A. Abbott Nature591, 523–524; 2021).
Fears of backfire effects are overblown, and advice to listen and interact still stands.
By Lee McIntyre, 5 August 2021
I was at the March for Science in Boston, Massachusetts, on 22 April 2017, as were many scientists.
About 70,000 of us descended on the Boston Common, a famous park in the city. We were there to stand up for facts and truth. Where are the crowds of scientists now?
Since then, harms from science denial have only increased: global suffering has grown owing to inaction on climate change, and COVID-19 infections have risen along with the scourge of vaccine scepticism.
I’ve been out there — I talked to flat-earthers at a convention in Denver, Colorado, and went to rural Pennsylvania to talk to coal miners about climate change — and I’ve asked my scientist friends to come with me.
No dice. “Those people just aren’t worth talking to,” they’ll say. “I wouldn’t make a difference anyway.”
That’s wrong, both factually and morally. Those people can and do change their minds, although it requires someone to put in the time to overcome distrust.