Scientific exploration is the search for truth to understand how the world works. It is usually the final reason for exploration, after new territories are found and commercial trade routes established. Scientific exploration involves all three components of this year’s theme: exploration, encounter, and exchange. First, scientists have gone all over the world and beyond to find answers. Second, they have encountered new discoveries and ideas through their explorations. Third, they have exchanged information with other scientists and shared ideas, and proof for the advancement of scientific knowledge.
Therefore, I searched for an inspiring scientific explorer in history. With an insatiable curiosity, keen observation, and intrepid spirit, Alfred Russel Wallace was one of the greatest scientific explorers of the modern era. His extensive exploration of the Malay Archipelago brought him to encounters with new cultures, species, and ideas. His eagerness to share his observations and humble demeanor led him to have fruitful exchanges with local people and eminent scientists of his time. This led to his significant and foundational contributions to the fields of evolution and biogeography. Based on this, I chose his eight years of exploration in the Malay Archipelago as the topic for my project.
After choosing the topic, I commenced my research with a primary source, “The Malay Archipelago,” written by Wallace and published six years after his travels in the Malay Archipelago. I investigated the specifics of cultures, events, and places that Wallace described in his book as he went about amassing his collections. I then found secondary sources such as journal articles about Wallace’s life and scientific contributions. I also found resources such as photographs, museum collections, and even documentaries and radio programs about Wallace. In addition, I learned about some of the species Wallace was so awed by when he collected them in the 1800s, many of which are still studied by scientist today. These sources gave me the insight I needed to decipher Wallace’s character and understand how his travels in The Malay Archipelago led to his scientific discoveries and contributions.
Through eight extraordinary years in the Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s extensive travels, keen observation, and systemic and prodigious collecting of specimens provided evidence that led to his co-discovery of the primary mechanisms of evolution: natural selection acting on variation in inherited traits. He also described how time and space shaped the distribution of diversity, pioneering the field of biogeography. Scientists today apply concepts from evolution and biogeography in a wide variety of fields, such as conservation, evolutionary medicine and crop improvement.
Finally, I chose to present my findings using a website, because I have enjoyed designing a website for my NHD project last year. The website format allows me to present information to the viewer in an orderly and engaging way. In order to make it easier for the viewer to drill down into details at their own pace, I found out ways to present an interactive map and timeline. I also added multimedia content, making the experience for the viewer more interesting.