Some scientists go out in to the field, collect data and conduct experiments to test their hypotheses. Other scientists conduct their experiments inside a computer. Alva Curtsdotter is a theoretical ecologist at the University of New England that studies the behaviour of animal populations across natural landscapes, but instead of spending her time surveying and measuring real world populations she runs computer simulations to see how these populations may respond in the future to things like climate change and environmental disturbance.
In this interview we discuss how empirical and theoretical approaches to science are both necessary to gain a thorough understanding of the world around us, but to make that work we need scientists who are able to understand both so that empirical and theoretical scientists can communicate effectively. As always we discover that everything in science can be likened to some kind of pop culture reference and, when pressed for relevance, sports references can always do the trick.
Music: ‘Strange Stuff’ by Sonic Wallpaper – www.sonicwallpaper.bandcamp.com