Thanks to Headwaters Academy for putting on a great wolverine event at the Museum of the Rockies last Friday. It was a pleasure to be part of their panel, to share the stage with filmmaker Gianna Savoie and attorney Adrienne Maxwell, and to meet some of the talented Headwaters Academy students – such as the eighth grade student who has worked with scientists to raise awareness and a very large amount of money for the conservation of the chambered nautilus. Meeting kids like that makes me marginally more hopeful about the future of the planet, and talking to an entire sold-out audience of them, and their parents, teachers, and fellow community members, reminds me that there are a lot of great people out there who really do care about conservation. So many thanks to the excellent audience and their wonderful and thought-provoking questions.
I also recently gave a presentation at the USGS Ecolunch in Bozeman, and that was also a great experience. Thanks go out to Kristen and David for arranging my participation, and to the great audience there, too – in this case, for asking a much tougher set of questions that reminded me, in various ways, of how good it is to have a community of people who are willing to challenge your assertions and assumptions, and help you refine and expand your thinking.
I hadn’t realized that I was going to be doing a separate presentation from Cliff Montagne’s Mongolia presentation until about 24 hours before the Ecolunch, and I already had an all-consuming commitment for the afternoon and evening (the debut reading of portions of my YA novel to my writing group in Bozeman – but that’s another story, and another set of anxieties and hopes), so I threw together a bunch of slides from the ever-evolving wolverine presentation that I usually give to general audiences, including slides from the very beginning of my work in Mongolia, which is now five years in the past (!) These slides and the presentation that I’m accustomed to giving include a lot of references to comparing wolverine populations in Mongolia and the Rockies, and to specific questions that interested me at the start of the work. As people began to ask clarifying questions after the presentation, I realized that important parts of my thinking, my motivations, and my hypotheses have actually shifted or been winnowed down – or broadened – in ways that are not reflected on slides from two or three years ago. Some of this came via a painfully embarrassing resurrection of childhood deficiencies – I used to be so paralyzingly shy that when teachers asked me questions in class, the prospect of having to speak out loud in front of an entire classroom would make me freeze, as if my tongue was actually stuck to the roof of my mouth (I had a reputation for being extremely stupid throughout my school career – the curse of the hyper-introvert faced with an extrovert-norm culture. But that’s also another story.) I haven’t had that experience in years, but I did again, momentarily, during the Q&A. Instead of making me feel like something subhuman, as it always did when I was in school, it actually, once the cringe-factor subsided, reminded me that the first step to answering really good questions is being challenged to think hard and recognize that you don’t, in fact, have all the answers.
So again, many thanks to great audiences – the ones who ask the enthusiastic, wonder-filled questions, and the ones who ask the hard questions too. Both kinds of interest are so vital to feeling that what one is doing is important. Keep thinking of good questions, and I’ll keep trying to think of good answers.