by Gauri Gharpure – As the youngest of the NICE members (a few months old), here is my very first blog post. There are so many things to write about, but I think it will be great to start off with this.
So for the past few weeks, I have been in front of the computer, reading and surveying literature to figure out a good project for my PhD. I must admit, it was much more eventful than I had anticipated.
It’s not only because you need to spend a considerable amount of time and energy reading research and review papers, but also because the magnitude of data available out there is mind-boggling. From the soil profile of agricultural ecosystems to the incredible diversity of isopods (small critters found in the soil, related to insects), from the chemicals produced by lichens (algae-fungi symbionts) to the effect of artificial nocturnal light on non-human members of our ecosystems – there is tons of material available, just waiting to be explored. People have spent possibly years of their lives studying these topics and have worked painstakingly to collect all that information. I must admit, it is very tempting and makes one want to explore all the avenues. But alas, it’s neither practical nor feasible for a single PhD. It is really overwhelming and leads to a very difficult choice about which one “makes the cut” as a potential project.
The irony is how much there is still left to explore. Scientists estimate that around 86% of the Earth’s and 91% of the oceans’ biodiversity is still undescribed [Mora C, Tittensor DP, Adl S, Simpson AGB, Worm B (2011) How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean? TPLoS Biol 9(8): e1001127. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.100112%5D (citation needed?). New chemicals are being discovered and synthesized every day. There was a time when the atom was thought to be indivisible. Now we know there are not only subatomic, but also fundamental particles. We stumble upon new questions as we uncover answers to the old ones. No one can claim to know everything about anything because the deeper we go, the more we discover we do not know: this is very humbling indeed.
So, I think it’s perfectly alright to say “I don’t know” once in a while, but only as long as it is followed by “Let me find out/read about it.” All that matters is how curious you are and how you choose to pursue it. After all, one lifetime is not enough to know everything. So let’s all make the best of what limited time we have to explore as much as we can and keep the spark of curiosity alive.