Gallery | The Mycelial Network

This week's featured blog/blogger is my friend Paul.  Paul and I originally met as work colleagues, and have each moved on to new positions at new institutions.  He works as a science educator at an aquarium, and he extends his passion for science beyond the work day by writing about his thoughts and interests in a blog called The Mycelial Network.  

Though it's not a subject that I would usually engage in, Paul's thoughtful, creative, and unique approach along with his beautiful photographs of nature are a joy to follow.   I can really connect with his passion for his topic, and how he's always thinking things out about education and the natural world.  

Photo by Paul

Hey, Paul! What is the idea/purpose behind your blog?
When I started writing the Mycelial Network I had two goals in mind.  One was to engage readers, especially people who live in the New England area, with photos and natural history content of local animals and plants.  I've been really interested in the idea of place based education recently and I wanted to begin an archive, almost, of species that lived where I live.  There's a lot of fascinating natural history out there but sticking mainly with New England gave me a focus.  I have written about other things not found in New England but the majority of it will stick with local natural history.  

The second goal was to start a pretty broad conversation about the role of learning natural history.  I was really hoping for the Mycelial Network to be very interactive, that I would have readers talking and commenting.  Unfortunately that hasn't happened to the level I was hoping but I keep posting questions and hopefully readers are at least thinking about them on their own.  I still care a lot about these ideas: why do we learn natural history?  Does this make us better citizens?  Does it change who we are?  And I'll keep writing about them.  Hopefully someone will post a comment.  

What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your blog?
I hope they will be awed by the natural world.  That's my MO in everything I do and that always comes first.  Especially, as I said, about the natural world in New England, where I'm assuming any regular readers live.  Awe is, as far as I can tell, the best thing ever.  At least from a human perspective.  

I also hope they will go out and teach.  I don't just mean this for people who are professional educators or who consider themselves teachers.  I mean it for anyone.  If you learn something amazing about the natural world and you feel awed by it or you feel small or you feel excited I really hope you go out and teach people about it.  Teach your friends and family.  Teach strangers if you're brave enough (I'm lucky that I have a job where I get to teach strangers all the time).  I encourage my students to do this all the time: if you're at the beach and you see a horseshoe crab, tell your family how it has ten legs and nine eyes!  It might amaze them!

Where do you get your ideas for posts from?
The Mycelial Network has two major "genres" for its posts.  For the first one I photograph some plant or animal or fungus, then I research it and then I write about it.  I was doing the first part of this already and usually the second part as well so it wasn't difficult for me to translate that into writing.  

The second "genre" are the posts about natural history/environmental education.  Again, since I am an educator in the field of informal science/environmental education it wasn't hard for me to start writing about this.  Most of these posts come from something that happens to me in a program or a class I'm teaching or something a colleague says in a conversation or something I read that has to do with education.  So just like the first kind of post I was already doing most of this work already, having conversations with people, thinking about the role my work plays in the overall educational/life experience of my students.  All I had to do was start writing.

So both of the major post types you find on my blog came out of things I was doing already.  I would encourage anyone interested in starting a blog to consider what she/he already thinks about all the time or does all the time that one could write about.  I don't think it should really feel like work.  Of course the issues and ideas I put forth are things I care deeply about but writing the blog is something I want to do.  You'll see that if I don't have time or don't feel like posting or don't have ideas, I just won't post for a while and that seems fine.  

Thanks for sharing your thought process and some helpful advice, Paul!  Check out Paul's blog - The Mycelial Network.  And post a comment if you feel so inclined!

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