Science Wednesday: Tweet! Tweet! Chirping from the Field.

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the Author: Melissa-Anley Mills is the news director for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She joined the Agency in 1998 as a National Urban Fellow.

Usually I sit in a Dilbert-style cube-farm, a warm, calm, enveloping sea of beige, beige, and more beige. So it was a rare and truly delicious treat to be invited to tag along on a field visit. The mission was simple: help Dr. Montira Pongsiri communicate her biodiversity research examining the link between biodiversity, the abundance and composition of animals, and Lyme Disease risk. To do this, my colleague, Aaron Ferster, (who previously blogged about our trip) and I had to see the researchers in action. We wanted to bring this experience to others via the web, so we loaded up on the technologies that would help us do that, a blackberry for “microblogging” (or “tweeting” on Twitter), and still and video cameras.

This turned into an experiment for the communication crew – the first time someone had microblogged live to the EPA’s Twitter account from the field. The first challenge we encountered was, of course, technical: spotty cell phone service. Recording the time and saving tweets in draft mode until reaching cell coverage solved that. But the real challenge was keeping the tweets short and sweet. Twitter has a limit of 140 characters (including spaces!) for posts. But there was so much to say about what we were seeing: white-footed mice, voles, baby opossums, catbirds, warblers, thrushes and ticks, oh my!

So there we were in the forest, watching and learning, tapping away on the blackberry, capturing video and photos, and lending a hand to the researchers. You can see the fruit of this labor on EPA’s biodiversity web page. Here you can read the tweets, and see the slideshows. Soon we’ll post video clips, so stay tuned.

Let us know what you think, suggestions are welcomed. What you would like to see in future “Field Notes” or visits with researchers?

Hopefully, through the images you’ll get a taste of this exciting research. Maybe it will encourage you to consider an environmental career as a field researcher, maybe a science teacher could use this as a teaching module, but I hope one thing is clear to see, the passion and devotion that these researchers have to gather the scientific data necessary to protect the environment and public health

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