Make observations, advances in science generally begin with the observation of some phenomenon that the scientist wishes to explain. Observations set the scientific method in motion and also play a role throughout the process. Ask questions Curiosity is in our human nature. Just observe young children exploring a new environment—they want to touch, taste, watch, and listen to everything, and as soon as they can speak, they begin asking questions.


Scientists, in this respect, are kids at heart. Questions, environmental scientists might ask include: Why is the ocean salty? Why are storms becoming more severe? What is causing algae to cover local ponds? When pesticides poison fish or frogs, are people also affected? How can we help restore populations of plants or animals? Develop a hypothesis, scientists address their questions by devising explanations that they can test. A hypothesis is a statement that attempts to explain a phenomenon or answer a scientific question.


For example, a scientist investigating why algae are growing excessively in local ponds might observe that chemical fertilizers are being applied on farm fields nearby. The scientist might then propose a hypothesis as follows: “Agricultural fertilizers running into ponds cause the amount of algae in the ponds to increase.”