I n t e r v i e w

PTK What are the things that when you take VIP’s on a tour of the rainforest you most want them to see by the time they leave?

Actually, you know what I want them most to do, other than see some things? I want them to hear biological diversity all night long! Trying to sleep in their hammocks and having to listen to everything from frogs to howler monkeys, it really gives them a sense of the variety of life that the daytime visit by itself will not.

PTK What do you think are some of the most important scientific concepts that secondary school teachers can bring to life through the kinds of issues that [arise from] looking at the rainforest and understanding the rainforest?

First of all, I think we are really talking about the greatest expression of life on earth. There is no better way to talk about the variety of life and the importance of the variety of life. But there are also the ways that the rainforest relates to local climatic conditions, such as half the rainfall in the Amazon is generated internally and largely because there is forest there.

And the tropical forests hold this enormous pool of carbon so, as we worry about greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in particular, what happens to that pool of carbon becomes really important. So as we think about trying to get that carbon cycle under control and global climate under control, what we do with forests is a central part of the solution.

And beyond that, it’s just the sheer variety of interactions and ways of making a living that go in the forest. This is evolution and ecology written at its most dramatic.

PTK Who are the kinds of people who do research out there in the rainforest?

Well, the people who go out there and do it go out there because they love it, because they’re fascinated by it, and because it’s fun. When you really come down to it, science is just really a way of being a kid for your entire life...

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