LabXchange ambassador Pierre Noro shares how he got started in science - his eureka moment! Whether great pedagogy, inclusive teaching, or a scientific topic, we all have an educational memory that left a lasting impact on us. Whether it enabled you to understand something which previously seemed out of your grasp, sparked a new STEM-related interest, or deepened your passion for science, this series gives credit to great educators and great learning resources.
Growing up in the French countryside, I was an avid reader of books. A rural town is a small world, and access to museums and cultural institutions was scarce. Reading novels and history books was my favorite way to escape and travel, if not physically, at least mentally. Making my way through high school, literature and history soon became the classes I was the most passionate about. I also liked maths and chemistry, but found biology rather useless. To me, it was nothing more than a “macro” version of chemistry and physics that entirely relied on both of them to explain why living things behave the way they do.
These very ignorant—and quite pedantic—views were shattered just before I arrived in high school. I was 14 when I got the opportunity to intern at the local office of the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP). I came in thinking that books told me pretty much everything I needed to know about the work of an archaeologist. But as Ms. Boulanger, my tutor, explained to me the actual dating techniques used on the field, she blew my mind, explaining that dating using chemical reactions with Carbon-14 is only really reliable for any carbon-based remains between 50000 and 6000 BCE. For more recent sites, the radiometric dating’s range is just too large and archaeologists would sometimes have no carbon sample to exploit. They prefer to combine radiometric dating with other methods rooted in geology, such as stratigraphy, a technique that dates findings based on the geological layer they have been found in, or based on biology, like dendrochronology, the complex name for using tree rings for dating!
As I met other transdisciplinary archeologists, whether they were experts in palynology, studying pollens to better understand the past ecosystems surrounding the dig and their transformation throughout time, or carpologists, able to identify cereals, fruits, seeds, and nuts, I realized that biology was not just about explaining "how life happens." Biology is essential to understanding how living beings interact with each other in a complex and detailed manner. Seeing archaeologists at work also showed me that this knowledge is key not only to learn about our past, but also to apprehend how we impact our own environment today and what traces we will leave behind for future generations. I came back from my internship even more in love with archaeology, and with a newfound interest in biology.
Geological Time Scale of the Earth
This text from HarvardX describes the several Geological Eras of the Earth's history, including the continental structure, the composition of the atmosphere during these Periods and the interplay between these factors and the types of life that existed.
Ecology is the study of how living things interact with each other and their environment. This includes living things (biotic factors) and non-living things (abiotic factors). Learn more with this video from Khan Academy.
Wade Campbell - Archaeologist
Wade Campbell is an archaeologist, teacher, and researcher. One of his research areas of interest is the history of the American Southwest, where he studies records, land, and artefacts to better understand the interactions between the Navajo, Spanish, and other groups that lived in the area. Learn more about Wade in this pathway from I Am A Scientist.