A wise professor once said, “fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I asked the students in my raptor program if they recognized the quote. After a moment of thought, one brave person called it out: Dumbledore! I’m not sure if I impressed those middle school students, but I was sure proud to incorporate a Harry Potter reference in a discussion about endangered raptors. That quote is the reason I put the chemical name dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane on the board. We broke down the intimidating word into parts that describe the chemical structure.
Once everyone had tried to pronounce the name and fear of it was gone, I admitted that most people just call it DDT. This mini chemistry lesson may seem like a tangent in a raptor program, but understanding raptors (or anything in nature) is not just about biology. When Peregrine Falcon populations plummeted in the 1960s, it took collaboration between biologists, chemists, authors, politicians, and falconers to understand the problem and to fix it. When we see problems like these as multidisciplinary puzzles, we begin to see the bigger picture with effective solutions and a greater appreciation of the world’s interconnectedness.