Watch the Geologists in the Wild video, watch the Speak Like a Geologist Lesson, and listen to the Act Like a Geologist Audio Podcast.

The decoding skill that was discussed in the Speak Like a Scientist is one that I had to use all of the time in graduate school.  My field was in disease evolution and a big part of the discipline is looking and thinking about differential equations.  My feelings at the time were if I wanted to do math I would have been a math major (I was a surly graduate student 🙂 ).  One of the things that got me through it was some advice from a friend who said just write them out in sentence form. Even though this might be commonsense to some of you, this advice was flooring for me.  So, this…  

ifferential equation for prey population

Given that:

· d = change in…

· x = number of rabbits

· t = time

· a = growth rate

· B = attack rate of hawks on rabbits

· y = number of hawks

Becomes this…the change in the number of rabbits over time is equal to the growth rate of the number of rabbits minus the attack rate of hawks on rabbits times the number of rabbits times the number of hawks.  Simplified it means that the population of rabbits will be determined by the increase of rabbits from the amount of babies they make (growth rate) minus the number that are killed by hawks (attack rate of hawks times the number of hawk/rabbit interactions you have).  And you might be like, “OK, so what?”  This equation is a hypothesis that can be used to make predictions…like how many hawks can be present before your rabbit population goes away.  If you take measures of real populations you can figure out if this hypothesis holds, or if there is another variable you need to incorporate into your model.

Decoding is an essential skill and it involves not being overwhelmed when you see something you do not immediately understand. For this exercise, find and provide us either a sentence with multiple words to decode or an equation (you can insert a picture of the equation if it is too difficult to input the symbols).  Decode the equation for us, and then describe how do you think this need for translation impacts science, the public, and/or policy.

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