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İs it possible to stop climate changing? And what should i do as a student for stop this change? Im a activist but it doesn't satisfy to just say things that we going to face in the future cause a lot of person doesn't mind me that means they're not mind my future. For this reason I want to make concrete and visible change for animals, humans, plants and for our future. 

Mert 

Hi Mert,

The short answer is probably not, in the sense that some amount of climate change is most likely inevitable at this point. Human-related climate change includes not only fossil fuel combustion over the past centuries but also changes in land use (such as deforestation) that have occurred over even longer periods of time. 

The good news is that the future is still open, and we can steer our planet and civilization toward a more desirable climate trajectory through policy and collective action. Even the worst climate change scenarios are unlikely to cause human extinction; however, a warming climate will make food more expensive, fresh water scarcer, immigration to temperate/wealthy nations greater, and generally contribute to political unrest from the combination of these and other factors. Taking action on climate change today is important to help reduce the impact of these issues and many more.

Activism is important for climate change, because part of the solution needs to involve cooperation among the world's nations. This is because climate change is a shared problem, analogous to the "Tragedy of the Commons," where it is everyone's problem and nobody's responsibility. We don't need to stick to any particular political party's agenda, but it is important that policymakers understand the science of climate change and then work within the constraints of their offices to develop realistic solution. So I definitely encourage you to continue your activism at federal, state, and local levels (this also applies outside the US).

Personal action is also important. We may not be able to solve climate change ourselves, but we can reduce our ecological footprint by creating less waste and examining our lifestyle choices. Part of the underlying cause of climate change is our continual demand for energy, so a general reduction in our energy consumption is probably a good place to start. Supporting renewable energy technology is also a way to make a difference at a personal level, as adopting such technologies shows companies that there is consumer demand for them and also helps to make such technologies more mainstream in the public's eye.

Ecologist James Lovelock has commented that instead of "sustainable development" we should be striving for a "sustainable retreat." Our world faces constant demands for continued growth, but addressing climate change requires grassroots and top-down strategies for reducing our consumption.

Jacob

Hello all,

I graduated with a degree in Cell Biology and Neuroscience in 2018. I have always thought that I would go on to medical school and become a physician, but since graduation, I have taken time off to reconsider my options. I love life, and I want to help figure out where it came from. I am fascinated by the oceans, the cosmos, the mind/brain, and humanity itself. While in school, I never participated in research or summer internships relating to astrobiology like so many other prospective astrobiologists have. How hard would it be for me to enter the field so far behind the curve?

Despite my interest in science, I have always been insecure while conducting research because I feel as though there was always someone better at experiments/smarter than I. I am worried that would limit my career and prevent me from getting grant money to do field research. I want to be out in the field collecting and analyzing data (preferably the oceans). I'm also uncomfortable with the amount of grant writing that goes into science as a whole. I don't want to go through extensive schooling just to be stuck behind a desk writing all day. 

To summarize, my questions are: How could I possibly get into the field? Could I find a niche doing oceanographic astrobiology? Could I do field research or will I have a desk job? Who could I contact to discuss my situation further? I'm at a crossroads and need all the help I can get. Thank you!!!

Hi Drew, 

I'm a postdoc with a PhD in oceanography and I do quite a bit of astrobiology-related research. When I was an undergrad I was studying biology thinking I was going to go into molecular bio or biotech. I decided to do my PhD in oceanography because, like you, I wanted to do field research and I was fascinated by life and particularly marine life. I didn't have any real exposure at all to astrobiology until after I got my PhD. But it turns out there is a lot of overlap between oceanography and astrobiology, because of the likelihood of finding life on ocean worlds, and because some marine habitats (like hydrothermal vents) are great analogs for places we might find alien life. 

So long story short, you are not behind any sort of curve. Astrobiology is a really broad and interdisciplinary field, and people who do research in astrobiology come from a lot of different backgrounds- not all of them studied "astrobiology" as a discipline, but came to it through other topics of interest. A lot of them are cell biologists and biochemists!

In terms of grant writing, it's something that sort of comes with the territory. Most scientists have to write grants, even ones in industry occasionally. But grant writing doesn't have to keep you chained to a desk all day, or keep you out of the field. In general, the more senior people in a lab tend to do a lot of the writing, so if running a lab and having to write the grants to keep that lab funded doesn't sound appealing to you, there are field technician jobs for example in oceanography where you spend a lot of time at sea and doing laboratory work. 

As far as feeling insecure, all scientists feel that way from time to time, at all stages of their careers. I certainly do. And I have definitely had more grants rejected than funded. The best advice I can give is to remember that you are only seeing the "blooper reel," so to speak, of your own life but nobody else's. When you see other people celebrate their successes, you aren't seeing all the failures that happened in between. The people who seem to be really smart and successful also receive rejections, have experiments fail, and make mistakes. It's good to keep an open dialogue with other people at different stages in their careers for advice, help, or sympathy. Fortunately, astrobiology is probably one of the most welcoming fields I can think of. 

I recommend at your stage to start looking around at master's programs and seeking out astrobiology-related research that interests you. If you find someone that's working on a project that sounds appealing, reach out to them and ask them about it, and see if they are accepting students to mentor in their lab. (SAGANet is a great place to start looking for people doing cool research.) And if someone doesn't get back to you, don't take it personally. A lot of times people are busy and emails get lost in the shuffle. Be persistent and stay optimistic! 

Good luck!

-Lauren

Lauren,

Thank you so much for your reply! It is informative and addressed my questions very well. I feel a lot better hearing that from someone enrolled in a postdoc. I'll take your advice and start looking around. 

Drew

Hello and thank you for the add! This might be a little long winded so I appreciate your time in advance.

I was raised and schooled up through high school in a creationist home/church/school system. My high school science experiences were... subpar at best.

I had a general avoidance/resistance to math and science going into college because of this. I eventually majored in a really broad arts degree to avoid these subjects as much as possible.

A long story short, I, now at 32 years old have absolutely fallen in love with astrobiology. I think it’s partially because it touches so many subjects that were so “taboo” for me as a youth, but also like... you guys! There’s so much to learn!

I have spent the better part of the past two years learning absolutely everything I could about astrophysics, evolution, cosmology... you name it.

I’m considering going back to school to get a bachelor of science degree in biology to, at the very least, seriously make up for years of missing knowledge.

Anyone else here take a more non-traditional route in life and eventually landed on astrobiology as a career? My story is a little out of the box and I would love to hear any encouragement!

Hi Sara,

There are indeed a number of us who were drawn to astrobiology because of the big picture questions, often because of a religious upbringing that started us out thinking about similar issues. I was raised evangelical Christian myself, with evolution one of the "taboo" topics in science, among others. Explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs was another problematic issue for our theology. intelligent design was a popular solution, although as I dug into the intelligent design books, I found no real coherent alternative to evolution. Eventually, I had read enough intelligent design books that I had inadvertently learned the fundamentals of evolutionary biology! After further thinking and reading, I decided that evolution was a much more satisfying idea. However, only a handful of others in my church community agreed.

If you're interested, you can watch this short talk I gave at a conference last year that describes a little bit of my spiritual journey.

One feature of the astrobiology community that I really enjoy is that most astrobiologists have a bigger-picture view of their science and may be more willing to engage in thinking about the philosophical or social consequences of our field. 

There are certainly many paths to becoming an astrobiologist, and you don't necessarily need an undergraduate degree in biology. My own undergraduate training was in astrophysics and computer science, but I have astrobiology colleagues who are social scientists, economists, educators, and more. The idea behind astrobiology is that everybody brings their expertise from a different perspective to work together in the search for life.

Good luck in the next step of your journey!

Jacob

JACOB!!! That talk... your comments... amazing. Thank you for your thoughts and sharing! Wow you are eloquent and moving!

Which of the great filters is the most likely to stop intelligent life from being everywhere? Is it the power of an individual, as technology improves, with bad intent to end life and civilization?

Hi Gene!

This is an intriguing question. Our guest on today's episode of Ask an Astrobiologist is Dr. Bruce Damer. I'm going to add this question to the queue and see if we can get to it during the episode.

Hello there, 

I am a 14 year old girl from India. I wish to pursue Astrobiology as a career. Since India doesn't have a well developed course in this field, I look forward to studying abroad. I am looking for some advise. I have some questions. 

1. What should I read at this stage in order to improve my knowledge regarding Astrobiology?

2. What should I apply for after I complete my 12th grade?

I hope that I get guidance. 

Thanking you!

Regards,

Paraj

Paraj,

You are very young so there is no need to stress about this now, though. Just spend your time enjoying learning! You will be fine!

In fact, in India at Amity University, there is an Astrobiology Center of Excellence that started up. The director of the center is Dr. Siddharth Pandey. His email is sidd@bmsis.org . Perhaps after finishing high school you may want to contact him to see if there are internships or part time jobs available. Astrobiology is growing in India!

You can major in just about any science that interests you and still be able to find your way into astrobiology. Many people in our comment thread have offered advice about how to become an astrobiologist by way of biology, chemistry, oceanography, astronomy, physics, and more. So you really do have many options, especially since you are so young. If you wish to study abroad for college, the most important thing is to major in a subject that will teach you some research or technical skills. But like I said, you have lots of time to figure this out!

I am impressed that you are exploring your future so early. But don't forget to relax and take a curious approach. Stay in touch with us as we look forward to see where you end up! Reach out again when you are ready to apply to college, or speak with Dr. Pandey as he may understand the Indian school system better than I do.

Gina

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