Today is the 200th "Friday Mystery Object" on the Zygoma blog, written by Paolo Viscardi. Paolo works as a natural history curator at the Horniman museum in London,and he began blogging about the same time as I did (he began in April 2009 and I began in July 2009) and every week since then he has been mainly posting about objects from his museum (mostly bones and skulls) and asking people to identify them. He's been posting every week, but after this week he's going to slow down and post less often.
Paolo first helped me when I posted about finding an unusually shaped red deer antler in August 2009, and since then I've been following his blog every week. I think doing 200 Friday Mystery Objects is a big achievement, and because I can't do a surprise party, I'm going to do this post instead about what I've learned from his blog.
1. Science isn't about knowing all the answers
Paolo sometimes puts up Mystery Objects that he hasn't been able to solve yet, or sometimes he changes his mind about identification. A big worry for me when I started blogging about bones when I was seven was that then I knew very little about bones, and I thought everyone else who visited would know more. It took me a while to understand that science isn't just about what one person thinks or knows, and the best scientists explain why they have come to believe something. That made it easier to me to put up posts about puzzles I haven't yet got the answer to. It also made it easier for me to change my mind if I was wrong about something or admit I got something wrong.
2. Science is about sharing what you know
Because of Zygoma, I have learned a lot about skulls that I would never have seen except in museums, but with a lot of information about each individual skull. Paolo puts a lot of effort into every post, not just finding 200 different objects, but also doing pictures, sometimes video, researching each one, and answering questions on the blog. That's a lot to do when you have a full time job to do as well, but it means that he shares a lot of information with other people who are interested.
3. Science needs to be understandable
Paolo knows all the scientific terms but doesn't really use them much. If his blog had used a lot of complicated terms, I would have found it difficult to follow and I wouldn't have kept going back, and although I am just a kid I think there are a lot of adults who are interested in bones who can't understand complex scientific papers.
Here's how Paolo described capercaillie:
These large members of the Pheasant and Grouse family (Phasianidae) are particularly impressive animals – or at least the males are, with their striking plumage and bright red eyebrows. They compete for females using a behaviour called leking where they set themselves in an arena within which they perform a strutting song and dance, usually alongside other males. Unfortunately, these birds suffered a rapid decline during the 20th Century, largely due to changing land-use practices resulting in habitat loss and shortage of important winter foods. At present the RSPB estimate that fewer than 2,000 birds remain. Hopefully conservation efforts will be enough to keep these magnificent birds from going extinct.
But here's a scientific paper about capercaillie:
Ecological features and conservation requirements of populations at the latitudinal limits of a species’ geographical range frequently differ from those in other parts of the range. Identifying such differences is key to implementing effective conservation strategies for threatened range-edge populations especially, in the context of rapid global warming, at the lower-latitude range edge. We studied habitat selection and diet of the endangered Cantabrian Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus cantabricus in a recently discovered population at the southernmost edge of the sub-species’ range. This is the only Western Capercaillie population in the Mediterranean biogeographical region.
4. It's fun.
5. Every skull or bone tells two stories
6. The rules of skulls are universal.
7. He inspired me
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