[SETTING: Ted and Lily are in line at the cafeteria.]
Ted: [Leans over a little, like he’s sharing a secret.] I just heard from SAHRA that the National Science Foundation is funding another Critical Zone Observatory at the University of Arizona. That’ll make six CZOs.
Lily: [Shocked.] Sounds serious!
Ted: Well, yeah. I mean, the critical zone is basically the area along the Earth’s surface between the treetops aboveground and the groundwater table belowground. That’s where we do our day-to-day living and a lot of really important life-sustaining natural processes happen, like water and nutrient cycling.
Lily: I was talking about Sarah. Who’s she?
Ted: [The miscommunication dawns on him.] Not Sarah, SAHRA. The Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas. They’re a Science and Technology Center based at the University of Arizona.
Lily: [Relieved.] Oh. Gotcha. Back to the Important Area Thingamabob. It sounds like a really big area with a whole lot going on. How’s anyone going to observe it?
Ted: You’re right. The critical zone is a massive area and studying it is daunting, but the NSF’s got something going on with these CZOs.
Lily: [Slightly annoyed.] Please chew with your mouth closed. You’re getting alphabet soup all over my shirt.
Ted: [Indignant.] What? Just ‘cause you can’t swim in my alphabet soup…
[Lily glares at Ted.]
Ted: [Sheepish.] Anyway, I was saying about how the Observatories are intended to be a resource for international collaborations between science disciplines. You know, interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and such. This will allow scientists from geology, ecology, hydrology, etc to work together so we can understand how all the components interact in the Critical Zone.
Lily: Ah-ha! So the Observatories are like a potluck. Everyone brings their specialty to the table to make a whole meal.
Ted: Sure. And the best potlucks happen when lots of people bring something to share and there’s a variety of deliciousness.
Know what else? Each of the six Observatories is located in a different climate. More variety! By comparing the same processes in different climates, scientists will be better able to figure out how the critical zone will change under climate change.
Lily: Huh. I had no idea that science news could make me so hungry.
Ted: Did you even hear what I just said?
Lily: [Mumbles to herself.] Where do you suppose I can get a recipe for tater tot hot dish? [To Ted.] Wait… whatdidjasay?
Ted: [Sighs.] Nevermind. I’m going to get some chocolate pudding. Want some?