What is thing you wish folks better understood about your field of study?

This is a question for everyone out there, folks working in the field, in academia, and serious citizen scientists, folks who lead group activities in nature and everyone in between.

Do you know something about the natural world, that the general public, simply has no clue or understanding of?

or do you know the truth behind a largely-misunderstood phenomenon that occurs or is currently occurring in nature?

The GP being folks that do not spend much time outdoors (city dwellers, homebodies), people who do not see the value in spending time in nature (anyone), or simply folks with too busy to “smell the flowers” (many, many people come to mind, but specifically a friend, a US marine, owns an AV company in Austin, he’s the type of person who’s constantly on the clock and IDK if he’s taken a vacation in the last 10 years)

The more time I spend in the field, I feel like so much becomes so “simple” to me, stuff that is completely mystifying to the uninitiated.

It can be anything as simple as “get up and into the field early to see birds and catch fish” or something as serious and complex as a largely misunderstood conflict around a specific habitat or place, like poaching, or mineral extraction activities.

Please be respectful to each other and the guidelines of the forum if you do need discuss anything of somewhat political nature, please keep the topic focused on the flora, fauna and the question above.

If it is something you’d rather discuss outside of the forum, please feel free to send me a message.


For plants, especially in chaparral and desert climates, the astounding number of species.

Before I was interested in identifying plants, I assumed there were maybe 10 or so in the hills around me. I’ve seen a few hundred now and I’m certain this isn’t even close to half of what’s present locally.

Therefore, the lack of appreciation/visibility for biodiversity, which I think makes it easier to look at areas of land as wasted, unused, etc. where they would be “better” for retail, housing, or farming, but where doing so replaces hundreds of species with tens.


That everyone can contribute to citizen science and it doesn’t take much time, all the people visiting areas other users can’t visit, seeing something unique at unique times, even taking photos, that later die on social media or hard disks, they could make scinetific discoveries just walking through their garden, but that opportunity is lost with every day that passes.


A lot of flies are not that difficult to identify to genus or even species if you have decent photos!!! People just see some families that are really impossible to identify to species from photos and generalize

On the other hand, a lot of fly species that people think are distinctive because they are publicized are actually not easy to identify without good photos, and there are many similar species in their distribution.


Species favoritism is a big one for me. Sometimes it’s harmless, like if someone just loves Honey Bees and ignores everything else, but it means that they don’t put chemicals on their lawn and let their property get a little wild, ok fine, a lot of things will benefit from that. But when I’m leading a nature walk and people want me to go on and on about bee pollinators, but when I try to point out a wasp or fly, nobody cares, and heaven help the poor Ambush Bug that dares to eat a bee. Just because you read a facebook post that focused on one thing doesn’t mean that everything else is pointless.


We wish lead ammunition and lead tackle would be abandoned by hunters and anglers because they kill birds who ingest them. While we do not hunt or fish, we respect that people choose these activities when they eat what they kill. We have found that many hunting and angling groups are passionate conservationists because they want species to be available to hunt and fish in perpetuity. They respect bag limits and know we need wild spaces to be able to hunt and fish. And many appreciate seeing Bald Eagles and other wildlife other than what they are hunting. Habits can be hard to change and so switching to non-lead alternatives is slow in happening. And birds are poisoned and suffer while we wait…


Tungsten is a great alternative to lead, even outperforms lead for applications like slip weights, but even for simple weights, they’re significantly more expensive than their lead counterparts.

This is part of reason I don’t really fish recreationally anymore, despite it being why/how I became so interested and appreciative of wildlife.

I stopped seeing the fun when I realized I was just littering a bay with lost lead and half dead undersized catfish and speckled trout.

It really sucks when were out at some of the lagunas around some of the touristy spots out here sell or hand out little bamboo fishing rigs to people and kids to try to catch trout.

Last time I was out at laguna de Busa, I saw a few of them littering the area, and even found in my photos, a shot of a slate colored coot with it’s mouth wrapped in fishing line.

It’s cool folks are somewhat assisting with the removal of an introduced species, but the lack of foresight or responsibility is very disappointing to see.

Not to be a pain in the boat, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I think the worst everyone could possibly do as a nation of recreational anglers, is in comparison, a drop in the bucket compared to the destruction committed by industrial fishing fleets daily.

again, not trying to be contrarian, but I’m not sure how many recreational anglers have netted and landed south american sea lions, or hooked an entire colony of feeding albatross accidentally, this is stuff I expect to see and find evidence of, yearly, when I visit certain beaches along the pacific coast, directly adjacent to where many international and national industrial fleets fish.


From what we know we agree with this.

We hope people will address both. We also stopped fishing, partly based on research that fish feel pain and also because we no longer found it entertaining to give them stress. When we still angled, we used stainless steel sinkers. On the other front, we have cut back our animal foods taken from water consumption 99%.


We’re fortunate to live in a place with so much aquaculture production it’s almost impossible not to have shrimp, or when in the sierras farm raised trout, with some regularity. It’s not perfect, but in my eyes at least it’s not tuna caught from a longline, or purse sine, or beef from cattle cultivated on previously forested land.


Having lived in the Mojave Desert most of my life, I agree wholeheartedly to this statement. Many view the desert as a wasteland, void of anything useful or special. It’s so far from the truth that it hurts my soul.

As an aside, I worked with radiation in nuclear medicine for 38 years, and the lack of knowledge that the public has about radiation, other than what they’ve learned from movies, is really upsetting.


A lot of people who know no biology and nothing about nature don’t understand what mollusk shells such as seashells really are. They don’t understand that a shell is the exoskeleton of a soft-bodied animal, an exoskeleton that often remains more or less intact after the soft parts of the animal have rotted out or been eaten by a predator.

And even people who collect shells often don’t realize that the great majority of broken shells they see were the result of predation rather than being the result of a live animal with a shell having being knocked against rocks.


Before I watched My Octopus Teacher, I never realised that the tiny holes made in the seashells I see on the beach are actually the result of predation on the shelled animal by octopus, whelks or other similar predators.


Lawns as we have them in western culture are stupid for so many reasons, and it would be such an easy thing for each person to do - stop the lawn culture - to really help the environment. From stopping a lot of the pesticide and herbicide use helping water quality (there are caves under our city - literally building ordinances because the bedrock cannot support huge buildings - it is false that ‘its so no building is taller than the Saturn V rocket’ which is popular myth, it is because the ground cannot support skyscrapers!) but it affects aquifers and groundwater everwhere not just karst rich areas…and of course then the obvious increase of native habitat and biodiversity and all the benefits with that.

Why people don’t want to save themselves the hassle and work, while promoting basically every good thing for the environment, is beyond me.


It’s green right? you know it’s radiation because it glows green. :laughing:

(I did biochem, which by the time i got around was mostly immunoassays, but there were still radiation based assays, and I did graduate courses in radiation biochemistry)

Also from this…how many people are terrified of nuclear power. Yes ‘meltdowns’ are bad, but these people have no idea of how much coal mining releases not just in terms of environmental damage but of yes, radiation. Our energy demands are so high, we are getting there with solar and wind, but not there yet (and we still have to contend with the whole horrible mining practices and exploitation for rare elements for the solar…), and nuclear power is actually really friggin clean - even with the meltdowns included, it doesn’t compare at all with the accumulative daily from coal mining which is still a huge source a power in the US at least. I’m all for other even better energy sources, but we have to be practical too, and the hate generated for nuclear power from the fear and misunderstanding is harmful. for where are now.

Oh also, how many people think rocket launches are horrible for “all that exhaust omg!”. Guuuuuuys it’s just water vapor. What do you think a RS25 engine is?! It is LOX based - Literally just hydrogen and oxygen. Just because you see steam doesn’t mean it’s radioactive or poison gas, life is not hollywood. Yes. People are that stupid. Never read comments on NASA pages.


Outdoor cats. Not sure how controversial of an opinion this is on this forum but I really wish people would keep their cats indoors. In fact, I wish people were more educated about all pets – keep their cats safe indoors, and leave exotic pets like fennec foxes and lorises in the wild. Every time I search up an animal’s name and google autocompletes “pet” I die a little inside.


As someone who’s interest lies heavily in herps (reptiles and amphibians), I hear so many misconceptions that I wish everyone would stop believing. Here’s a list of some myths I commonly hear:

  1. All snakes can eat you. Out of the roughly 3,000 species of snake out there, only a handful have the ability to eat person, and only the reticulated python has been documented as having eaten a person. Even then, the chances of you being eaten by a snake are extremely small unless you own large constrictors and handle them without proper supervision.

  2. Snakes measure their prey before they eat them. This is obviously a myth. In the wild, snakes cannot slither up to their prey to measure them. If they did that, their prey would escape. Additionally, most snakes are ambush predators.

  3. All snakes are venomous. Out of all of the species of snakes in the world, only around 10-15% are venomous. In every continent inhabited by snakes (except Australia) non-venomous snakes are the most numerous.

  4. Snakes will chase you. Snakes are scared of people, there is a large height difference between us. If a snake does happen to follow you, it is likely a coincidence.

  5. Snakes don’t have bones. In fact, the opposite is true. Snakes can have anywhere from 300-400 bones.

  6. Snakes are evil. Snakes are just as morally good or bad as any other animal.

  7. Reptiles are slimy. Although their scales can be shiny, they aren’t slimy. They’re completely dry.

  8. Turtles can’t feel their shell. There are nerve endings at the end of the shell, which means that they can feel through their shell. This is why it is wrong to carve, engrave, paint, or otherwise alter a turtle’s shell.

  9. Snakes can dislocate their jaws. Instead of dislocating their jaws, snakes have connective tissue known as ligament which connect to the lower jaw bones, which allows their bottom jaw to open very wide.

  10. Venomous snakes have elliptical/vertical pupils. Although true vipers do have vertical pupils, elapids and some venomous colubrids, such as cobras, coral snakes, and mambas, have spherical pupils. In addition, some snakes, such as cat-eyed snakes have elliptical pupils but have very mild venom.

  11. All venomous snakes have flat, triangular heads. Although pit vipers posses triangular heads, there are many non-venomous snakes that also flatten their heads to intimidate predators. Examples include hognose snakes and water snakes.

  12. Toads/frogs cause warts. Anurans cannot pass warts to you, this myth likely originated due to their bumpy skin.

  13. Constricting snakes kill via asphyxiation. Although it was once thought that this was the case, new evidence shows that cardiac arrest caused by the increase of pressure is likely the main cause of death in prey.

  14. Turtles can climb out of their shells. Turtle shells are fused to their spine and ribs, it is impossible for a turtle to come out of its shell.

  15. All reptiles are cold-blooded While this holds true for almost all species of reptile, the tegu is an exception. During the breeding season, tegus are able to increase their body temperature, simultaneously increasing the amount of time they can stay active.


Where I live hunters and anglers tend to be in favor of conservation when it comes to the species they consume (trouts, pheasants) which are more often than not non-native, while being in favor of the extermination of species they see as competitors (wolves, foxes, cormorants, herons). They deem these “inconvenient” species pests and see their conservation as a leftist agenda of sorts.


Stop romanticizing lepidopterans and coccinellids, god damn it!

I’m literally unemployed because my expertise is all in taxa Normal Society doesn’t care for.


I’m reminded of the time some lady came upon me when I was crouched at the trailside examining some mosses, and asked what I was doing - when I told her I was trying to learn to identify them, and it was surprisingly difficult, she got very confused and said “But there’s only one kind of moss - it’s moss!”

I wish more people understood just how many living things exist around them. Your yard might not be big enough habitat save a species from extinction, but it could sure provide a valuable toe-hold for a few thousand species that really need it. As @sunguramy says, get rid of the damned lawns and plant something that provides habitat.

I have a tiny patio, mostly paved in flagstones, and some potted plants - but if I were to try to document everything that lived in it, it would probably take me years, and that’s without even breaking out the microscope. If I had the space to actually do habitat plantings, it’d be incredible.

I have a dream of one day buying a big piece of heavily degraded land and turning it into a wildlife habitat paradise - If anyone has 40 acres of land in California they don’t need, or a spare half-million dollars, just let me know.


Good bugs vs bad bugs. Ever since locals found out I am interested in insects I get requests for insect IDs. The conversation usually starts well enough but in the end what they really want to know is is this a ‘good bug’ or a ‘bad bug’? In short they want to know if they should kill it. I’ve even had someone ask how they could encourage more butterflies mere seconds after they told me they had to to spray Btk to control the caterpillars they had found in their garden.

Oh and sign me up for @sunguramy 's anti-lawn campaign. I live on a small forested island. It is a popular place for self-declared nature lovers to retire to. What is the first thing they do when they buy a forested lot? You guessed it. They cut down the trees so they can build a house and have a lawn. The more money they have the bigger the lawn.