Reviviendo a Humboldt

Carlos Rivera-Rivera
Former PhD student in the Juan I. Montoya-Burgos lab, Department of Genetics and Evolution, Faculty of Science
Research focus: Methods and processes that lead to the emergence of biodiversity.

Screenshot from GOPR0182.MP4

A former president of the BioPhD student association and just a great guy talks about his ongoing project: An Instagram photoblog full of nature’s wonders, called Reviviendo a Humboldt

 

– Hi Carlos! It’s been half of year since you are away. Where are you now?

After my defense I had a break of several months in Puerto Rico, but currently I’m living in Panama City, where my wife is working for an NGO. In the meantime, I’m looking for teaching jobs (Uni level), whilst developing a research proposal for a PostDoc.

– Tell us about your photo blog. When did you start this project?

I started Reviviendo a Humboldt on October 2017, a couple of months before my defense. I had been thinking of doing it for a while, and well, autumn always gives beautiful opportunities to take nature pictures, so, that kind of started it.

– What sparked the idea of setting this up?

Well, there were several reasons to start this Instagram. First, I had already been ruminating for years on the idea of using some sort of audiovisual medium to try and foster curiosity and love for nature in as many people as I could.

– For what reason?

To share my admiration of nature. Thanks to my parents I’ve always felt curiosity and love for it. And, for example, I believe in nature conservation because… well, because I just love the way it is. Then once, well into my PhD we had a discussion in a lab meeting that made me conclude that it’s almost impossible to rationally convince people that nature conservation is a good idea. This realization led me to think that the best way to promote conservation is to share my love and passion about nature….

– Go on…

Then, I also wanted to develop some sort of platform that would promote education about nature in Spanish. As most of us know, there are plenty of resources of scientific/nature education in English. But in other languages, for instance in Spanish, it’s much less common and often of lower quality.

Finally, I received the same gift twice: The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf: a biographical account of Alexander von Humboldt’s life. Upon reading this book (which I totally recommend), I realized that people like Humboldt, a naturalist from the Enlightenment, were often exploring and documenting nature and our relationship with it out of sheer curiosity.

– Okay, that’s a lot of things. What happened then?

Then, one day, my wife, who had been hearing the list of ideas mentioned above for ages, made that connection. She said to me that I could make a platform called Reviviendo a Humboldt, inspired on the spirit of contemplation, admiration, curiosity and love for nature. So I decided to open an Instagram account and post pictures from small encounters with nature, in day-to-day life.

– Has that idea changed in any way since then?

Yes, a bit. As I started digging through my photo archives I found lots of fascinating organisms that were worth sharing. I remember how they amazed me when I saw them at that time. So now I also publish pictures from not-so-day-to-day-life, and I try to document them as nicely as possible (species name, location, etc.), in hopes that they instill the same amazement in other people as they did in me.

Did you gain any new perspectives?

It definitely made me see more clearly that a lot of people have some kind of innate curiosity for nature. For example, the other day I got contacted by someone I didn’t know, with a picture of some organism they had found washed up on the beach, asking me if I knew what it was.

– Oh wow!

I mean, to go to those lengths just to know what “that thing that we found on our last trip to the beach” was, you’ve got to have some true curiosity. It was a beautiful jellyfish-looking colony of polyps.

– Do you have any further plans?

Oh, the project is still young, and there’s a lot more for me to learn. For example, I want to start a podcast with interviews about the love for nature, ideally in Spanish. That would also bring many more things to the table, and develop my thoughts around this idea a bit better.

 

– Anatoly Kozlov

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