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Ask Alexandrea Your Questions

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Q: Jackenson Durand

Do you think that Earth magnetic field has been contributing to our biodiversities creation and evolution?

A: Alexandrea Bowman

Hi Jackenson,
From what I have read the Earth’s magnetic field does protect life from harmful rays. I do not know enough about it to say whether or not it has contributed to biodiversity on a large scale. However, given that the Earth’s magnetism has created a protective shield and really helped prevent water and oxygen from leaving the Earth’s surface, I would have to say that life in general would not be possible on Earth without a magnetic field. I do not know how that has affected DNA / RNA, or if it had any impact on evolution.



Q: Ken

Subject: Geology and American Indian books
Hello. I have three questions for you:
I recently finished “Reading the Rocks” by Marcia Bjornerud. I also enjoy watching “How the Earth was Made” on the History Channel. I have also read “Rising From the Plains” by John McPhee.

I am currently reading “One Vast Winter Count” by Colin G. Calloway. Last year I finished “1491” by Charles C. Mann who mentioned the “Winter Count” book. I also enjoyed the Ken Burns series “The West”.

  1. What would be a good geology book to read next?

  2. What would be a good American Indian book to read next? You can include fictional stories, too. But, I would like a history book recommendation.
  3. I have heard and read that “American Indian” is commonly used by the people who are descended from the people who were here in North America before Europeans to describe themselves – which is why I used it. Maybe you can also comment on your feelings about this. I like the term “First Nations” the best. It is used in Canada. What do you think?

Ken Andrews

Thanks for sharing your story here. I found it posted on Facebook because I am a fan of NOVA.

A: Alexandrea Bowman

Hi Ken,

A good geology book to read – As I have read mostly geology texts – I am not sure about. If you are looking for just a regular book, I can do some research and look for one. As far as regular books go I really enjoyed “The Desert Smells Like Rain” by Gary Paul Nabhan, and of course there is Charles Darwin, “The Voyage of the HMS Beagle” – They both have some mention of geology in them. The first also describes Native American Culture along the Texas-Mexico border. The second book is Charles Darwin’s diary from the HMS Beagle. If you are interested in environmental books, “Collapse” and “Silent Spring” would be my top 2 suggestions.

For Native American books there is a long list of my favorites: “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee”, “Black Elk Speaks”, and “Lakota Woman” are all considered history / biography books. For fiction: “American Indian Myths and Legends” is my all time favorite. And then there is “Spider Womans Granddaughter’s”, which is a collection of contemporary short stories.

What each Native American chooses to be called is an extremely personal choice. I prefer Native American, but a friend of mine prefers “Red Skin” for himself, other friends of mine use First American or “Skin” or “Indian”.

You are quite welcome, I had a great time being on NOVA.


Q: Joseph Connolly

Subject: Native People in Science

It was fantastic getting to listen to your story. I am Native, Onondaga, and working the the field of Aerospace Engineering. I just wanted to say thanks for getting the younger kids involved, you are a true inspiration for them. I do some work with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and it would be wonderful if you had the time to come and inspire these kids as well. I just got back from the National American Indian Science and Engineer Fair that they host. It is a wonderful event. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Nyawenh ha’

A: Alexandrea Bowman

Hi Joseph,

I would love to get involved. It is so great to hear from another Native American who is in a “scientific” field. I am a member of AISES, I have not had the time to make it to a conference though. I can find out if there is anyway for us to get in touch outside of this website.

Thank you. For so long I have been saying how important it is for the younger generations to be interested in topics like this and our culture too. And role models are hard to find.


Q: Sue Sylvester

ALI!!! Congratulations!!! WOW! This is awesome!

We didn’t know that we were N.A. when we were growing up, either. But my French grandfather used to get drunk and talk about our family having the connection. Years later – in fact, seven years ago, my uncle told my sister and I that he’d done the research and we were N.A.! We are of the Algonquin Nation, through our French ancestors who came through Canada. But he threw it all out! (He was kinda eccentric…)

I’m still looking into it, when I have time away from job hunting. How were you DNA tested? I heard it’s expensive.

Best wishes,

A: Alexandrea Bowman

Hi Sue,

DNA testing has gone down in price. I think my test was $110. And the only reason why I did take it was because they promised they could link family members through the DNA test. My cousin had taken it and I figured let’s see how good they are. And in fact they did link us as relatives and even sent us eachothers e-mail address (which of course we had). All I had to do was order the test, swab the inside of my mouth and send it in. I also had the choice to add the result to the research project that National Geographic did. It was definately worth it. You can e-mail me and we can certainly talk more about this.


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