Expedition 4: Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Throughout our journey, we will be getting more familiar with the things that scientists and engineers do. Not only are these practices central to the life of a scientist but also to your own experiences in the science classroom and beyond. We’ll start by asking questions and defining problems.

Despite the various work settings of science, one thing is certain: no matter where science is happening, questions are trying to be answered. Tyler describes his team’s mission to study the connection between the European green crab (Carcinus maenas) and the “spiny-headed worm” parasite (Profilicollis botulus), but why did they choose to go to the coast of Maine and how do they know what to study?

Building on the Work of Others

Tyler didn’t know what questions he was trying to answer before he started. He did not wake up one day and say, “Hey! I’m going to move from Connecticut to Maine to study parasites!” Instead, his work is in response to the research of other scientists. Likewise, Tyler’s research will inform future studies. Scientists often get ideas from one another, which speaks to the importance of sharing information with other researchers so that someone else might pick up where the previous study left off.

In order to begin research, you need to figure out what interests you! Next, you’ll probably make observations and learn from the knowledge of others. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information is another practice that scientist engage in during their work. These were the steps that Tyler took by talking to others and reading science articles and research papers to develop the questions that still needed to be answered.

Investigating Crabs and Worms

As Tyler discussed in the video, the green crab is invasive to Maine, and many other areas. Additionally, the crab has been found to be infected with the spiny-headed worm parasite. This knowledge led Tyler to the following testable research questions he will be trying to answer:

  1. How many of these crabs are carrying the spiny-headed worm? How does this number change across bioregions or a five-year timescale?;
  2. Does the spiny-headed worm show up in different numbers across different subgroups of green crabs (size, age, sex, color, location, etc.)?;
  3. How can we make sure the information that we are gathering is accurate?

Tyler and his team are using these questions to help them decide what data they will need to collect and how to collect it.

What Do You Think?

Which part of this week’s episode did you find the most interesting?

  • What else would you want to know?
  • What questions would you need to ask to determine the future of green crabs?

Have More Questions?

Join Tyler and other classrooms in the next live Twitter chat on Thursday, May 10 at 1:00 PM (ET) using the hashtag: #umainefar.