Asking questions about nature and testing out the answers form the basis of being a good naturalist.

Curiosity spurred mankind to explore un-chartered territories, to find answers to some of nature’s phenomena and to see how things work. But do we have to travel to distant lands or make use of expensive equipment to be curious?

Exciting trip

“To witness the wonderful creation of nature, one doesn’t have to travel to far off places. Instead if we look closely in our own backyard or up in the trees or skies, we can see exciting worlds being made there. Nature is the greatest show on Earth!” exclaimed Prof. Nick Davies, Professor of Behavioral Ecology, University of Cambridge as he took close to 600 school children present at the J. N. Tata Auditorium last week, on an exciting trip of nature’s wonders.

In his talk “How to be a Curious Naturalist”, Porf. Davies ignited sparks of curiosity in the young minds who had gathered there to observe their surroundings, question what they see, form ideas about them and finally test those ideas to see if they hold true.

“A good naturalist is always interested in understanding how and why nature behaves the way it does.” Such questions, he said, broaden our understanding about nature and help preserve it. The talk was supplemented with slides of pictures and video clips of some of the questions about nature we would have asked in our childhood but never bothered to find out more, like : Why do moths and butterflies have big dark spots on their wings? Why do cuckoos lay eggs in another bird’s nest? Are humans the only species to possess the ability to use tools?

The talk was organised by Wipro and National Centre for Biological Sciences(NCBS) as a part of Wipro Applying Thoughts in Schools (WATIS). Over 11 schools had brought their students from Stds. V-XII for participation.

The interactive session which followed the talk saw inquisitive kids firing questions with gusto at Prof. Davies. “As a child I just watched birds for reasons I didn’t know! Being a scientist is an excuse to carry on my observation.” said Prof. Davies with a twinkle in his eyes, while speaking to The Hindu. “Today’s cities are becoming concrete jungles and it will be a sad day indeed when kids will have to learn vicariously about nature through pictures and videos rather than experiencing them first-hand.” said Prof. Davies as he signed off.

WATIS has created a website, www.theanttrail.com, where young minds can contribute and build a community interested in nature.