[T]he biology and ecology of invasive plants in rangeland, parkland, prairie, pasture, preserve, urban, wildland, forestry, riparian, wetland, aquatic, recreational, rights-of-way, and other non-crop settings; genetics of invasive plants; social, ecological, and economic impacts of invasive plants; design, efficacy, and integration of control tools; land restoration and rehabilitation; effects of management on soil, air, water, and wildlife; scholarship in education, extension, and outreach methods and resources; technology and product reports; mapping and remote sensing, inventory and monitoring; technology transfer tools; and regulatory issues.
Apparently the benefits of science blogging are substantially greater than I had ever imagined: it serves a foil against speeding tickets, accusations of being bad in bed, priests and thesis advisers! (I wish I had known that when I was a grad student.)
I missed this, but last week Taner Edis posted a brilliant summary of academic disciplines last week. About biology, he said:
Biology: The science that explores the wonders and beauty of life itself, seeking understanding of plants and animals in their intricate complexity. Biologists mostly investigate life by looking at dead things under microscopes, and performing excruciatingly dull biochemical experiments with bits and pieces that are too small to see under microscopes.
When I read that, I thought “exactly why I became a field biologist”. Then I remembered all the time I spent looking at dead things under microscopes while trying to ID plant specimens.
What brings people to shoot others at random? And why, of all places, on a university campus?
Apparently the shooter was a former graduate student. And given what grad school does to some people, somehow it doesn’t entirely surprise me. I loved grad school, but it was also an incredible grind on the spirit. As for a former graduate student… I have heard that only about 50% of the people who attempt a PhD actually complete one. To me, university campuses are special – sacred space, of a sort. But universities are also all-encompassing entities, they displace the real world.
What drives a person to the place where they can kill others, where they can kill random people? I suppose since campus can displace reality, the where of it all might make some sense – you want to make your grand gesture where the faceless institution will notice you. But why a lecture hall filled with random strangers? I know there’s nothing unique about this person. I know there’s no way to make sense of it even if you try to make all sorts of allowances for minor insanity. But that doesn’t change the fact that when things like this happen, your mind tries to understand them, tries to find what motivated the person. I’d rant about guns, I’d rant about the lack of mental health care. But what’s the point? It’s been said so often. The people agree with me will think that way already. And the people who deny that guns or health care are the problem – they’ll continue to feel the way they do. So just let the tragedy stand as the tragedy it is.
My thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with the wider community.