Algae blooms, chicken wire, and thinking differently

Wherein I explain my brain using lake ecology analogies. Because science.

I was learning about nutrient cycling in class a few weeks ago, and how the limiting nutrient in lakes was known to be either carbon, nitrogen, or phosphorus, but scientists didn’t know which. So this really cool dude named David Schindler did this huge experiment where he divided a lake in half using a plastic curtain, and added different amounts of phosphorus to each side. When he added just a little, the lake stayed mostly clear. When he added a whole bunch, though, huge algal blooms occurred and the lake became really murky (a process called eutrophication). The plastic curtain limited the flow of nutrients between the two halves of the lake.

My thoughts are analogous to that lake. What is in my head is clear and understandable and the little bit of knowledge that I access at any given time keeps it healthy. When I have to provide a whole bunch of information while holding all of it in my head at once, like with a school paper, it becomes like the lake that has lots and lots of phosphorus – tons of ideas blossom from all the information I’m holding in the forefront of my brain, but there’s so much that it becomes murky and I have trouble explaining it. Then I need a filter to figure out what’s important and what’s not, but I don’t have one, which means I’m really bad at prioritizing information. That doesn’t just make writing papers difficult – it means that I go off on tangents, share private information, and just plain talk too much in an effort to fit all the potentially relevant information into what I’m saying. I’m gradually constructing a filter, but to use another analogy, it’s more like chicken wire than a sand screen: that is to say, it only catches the really inappropriate/irrelevant things, and lets most stuff through. I keep adding wires, but it will take a lot of time and effort. This whole paragraph is a good example…

To summarize: Just like a little phosphorus fertilizes new growth without clouding the lake, a small amount of information feeds new thoughts and ideas without overwhelming my brain. When I have a lot of information that I’m consciously thinking about, I make all sorts of connections and form new ideas and it all becomes murky, just like the excess growth with too much phosphorus.


I would love to hear other perspectives on what diverse neurology feels like to you. Please feel free to share!

About ecosciencegirl

Professionally, I am a graduate student at The Evergreen State College in their Master's of Environmental Studies program, with a Bachelor's of Science from Southern Oregon University in Environmental Studies and Biology. I am a science instructor for GHF Online (Gifted Homeschoolers Forum) and I volunteer at the WET Center, a science museum in Olympia, WA. Personally, I am a young adult who is fascinated with the environment, loves to read and write, and adores all animals (especially cats). In general, I do a lot of climate change activism, and I'm passionate about social and environmental justice. Someday I would like to be a teacher, field researcher, and/or policy maker. If possible, I would also like to save the world from humanity.
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2 Responses to Algae blooms, chicken wire, and thinking differently

  1. Dominic says:

    Other than building your set of filters sleep is the advice I have. I learned early in HS tgat sleep is very important to let the brain work the new daily stuff to in ways we do not consciously.


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