River Life Takes a Sip of Science
Last Wednesday, I was the featured speaker at the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamic‘s “Sip of Science” program, held at the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis. Sip of Science brings scientific insights and understandings out of the laboratory and the field test plot, into more engaging places where discussions with nonscientists can be enhanced.
Well, as a nonscientist myself, I told the crowd (about 40 people) that if they were going to get science from me, it would be mighty small sips!
So what did I talk about? After watching a musical slide tour up the Mississippi from the Gulf to the Headwaters, I noted that there didn’t seem to be much science in that show. So I asked the audience for scientific facts. Here’s what they gave me:
- the Mississippi has the largest drainage basin in the US
- The Mississippi is a major migratory bird flyway
- the Mississippi is the longest river in the United States
- we drink the Mississippi (in Minneapolis, at least)
- we dredge the Mississippi
- the Mississippi is a major recreational feature of the region
This is all well and good, but I was still looking for more. So I asked the group questions like
- How would you explain the fact that the Mississippi is dredged to a 5 year old child? (The great answer involved Tonka trucks, a sandbox, and, eventually, a pretty dirty 5 year old!)
- How would you devise a policy about the Mississippi as a recreational feature?
- How would you tell a story about the size of the drainage basin?