The ecologist's soundtrack

One thing that has always chapped my hide, at least professionally, is how ecologists and environmental scientists listen to pretty homogenous music. For people with diverse academic and personal interests (at least a few ecologists know there is life beyond work), it's kind of weird. I mean, I know it's like 90% upper-middle class white kids from the suburbs who go into the ecology field, but still, we can, and arguably should, branch out musically. I mean this as an entire profession. We have to read widely to be experts in a given field. We work in some of the most biologically diverse places in the world, and often write our papers from offices in major metropolitan areas or places of high cultural diversity, like major college campuses. We have the internet. Yet, many practicing ecologists have failed to get the memo that there is music that requires electricity or lacks banjo. A conversation on music at ESA or your other favorite professional conference would probably go something like this:

A: So you're interested in conserving biodiversity in rare ecosystems?

B: Yes, namely aquatic macroinvertebrates in boreal rivers and forest pollinators in subalpine heathland matrices.

A: Cool. Where do you work?

B: Alaska and the Northwest Territories

A: Right on. What do you like to do aside from work?

B: There are things other than work?

A: Yeah, like music, art, sports, travel.

B: I do like music, mostly bluegrass and folk.

A: Rad. So, you only like music that lacks drums?

B: Well, now that you mention it, I guess those subgenres do lack drums. But I find rap to be hostile and rock to be too caustic and shocking. It's all so commercial and consumer-driven. I like real, home-grown music.

A: That's cool, where's home? I mean, where are you from?

B: Long Island, but I went to school in New Jersey and Connecticut.

A: Righteous, lots of, uh, good bluegrass out that way, I surmise...

The reality is, ecologists and academics don't have to fall into the bluegrass trap. There are musical genres with drums. Folk is not the only way forward. You can head bang. You can dance. Music can be made by people who don't own sandals or plaid shirts. And you can listen to it. Next time you crack open R, revise a manuscript, or key a plant, I suggest the following for your headphones: