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Let the Public Get Involved with Scientific Research MA Qian

As a postdoc from YSFRI, I started a six-month stay in Southwest Florida last August to work on a cooperative project on Florida pompano growth heritability. This collaboration had me working with Drs. Kenneth Leber and Kevan Main at Mote Marine Laboratory and Dr. Michael Tringali at Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. During working in both of the above-mentioned institutions, I was really impressed by their close relationship to the public.


Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent marine research institution, which offers a variety of volunteer positions to the public. Can you imagine a research institute with a 1,600-strong volunteer corps, who are getting involved with all aspects of research programs and education projects? For instance, when I needed to grade and sample thousands of fingerlings at the aquculture farm, we posted a note calling for volunteers. Eventually, a total of 12 volunteers including undergraduate students as well as some retired person came and helped us with all the work. Without their great contribution, I don’t know how we could possibly finish all those work in one day. Additionally, the institute also provided professional training for these volunteers so they can be in charge of some daily work as a part time job. They are now playing an indispensable role in almost every department of the institute.



Fish and Wildlife Research Institute also has the tradition of hosting the “MarineQuest open house” events. During these days, almost every lab of the whole institute will open its doors to the public. Visitors can explore the labs and learn about the researches through dozens of interactive exhibits staffed by some of the state’s top scientists. These experts will entertain audiences with presentations about their research. In Dr. Tringali’s Genetics Research lab, they set up the projector and many posters to display how they newly discovered a freshwater fish species-- the Choctaw bass. It took them about one week to get ready for the event, but everyone was enjoying it.


From what I have seen during the six-month visit, I realized that the scientists should open their door to the public and let them get involved with the scientific research. Firstly, it is our responsibility to demonstrate what we have achieved. Secondly, you will be surprised how much the public can contribute to our research programs. In a word, everyone can contribute to and benefit from the development of science.