What biologists actually do! A perspective from the field

This week I’m paraphrasing a post of two weeks ago posted here at the Fireside Science blog by Becky Bola. You can say I’m not very creative. As biology is science that study living organisms (and there are millions of them!), biologists do their studies in different ways: by developing models and theories, by doing experiments in labs or in the field. Like with Becky, a lot of people are intrigued with my work. When I say that I’m a field biologist working with ecology and botany, most people think that I’m too frail to go to the field. Seems Becky and I do not fit the stereotype of scientist working in the lab or on the field …


Presentation1Stereotype of scientists: 1. Scientists are males, 2. Scientists are crazy, 3. To work in a lab a scientist must be old; 4. To work in the field a scientist must be young and muscular.


Becky works with cancer research and most people can relate the need of this type of research with their daily lives. Who does not know someone with cancer? Thanks to scientists cancer is not a sure death sentence any more.

Now for me, I work with plants and plant animal interactions…when I was working with Brazil nut trees, it was easier for people to understand the need of this type of research because thousands of people in the Amazon forest make a living from collecting and selling Brazil nut seeds.

Now I live and work in the tiny island of Mauritius…so small that sometimes does not even appear in some world maps. But Mauritius champions the world when mapping shows the relation of territory size and recent extinct species.



Proportion of worldwide land mass size per country weight by species that became extinct after 1500DC. Mauritius is the large dark red island.


Part of my work is to document what species occur in the last areas of native vegetation on the island and how many are there. So why I would spend my time doing this, one would ask? Because  because of the dire state of many native plants on Mauritius, studies that can help to try to stop them from going extinct can contribute  substantially towards preserving this unique resource for future generations. Mauritius may also be seen as a laboratory of conservation where techniques may be developed that might be applied in other places of the world. More importantly, our own survival depends on the goods provided by biodiversity like clean air, clean water, food, etc. Each single species has the potential to have a chemical that could be useful for biofuel, or medicine or otherwise; or have a gene that can be used to improve drought or disease resistance in our crops. For example, a Madagascar plant provided a chemical that today is the most widely used medicine for treating some types of leukaemia. So, in the end, even if Becky and I are working far apart, one day our research could be given a helping hand for a better world, as the work of our fellow biologists.