The Scientist’s 2020 Gift Guide


Comfort for conservation

Socks for Animals was started by wildlife biologist Wes Larson as a way to educate the public about threatened species such as the pangolin, red panda, and narwhal. A portion of each sale is donated to a charity or scientist working with the species featured on your sock. Recipient Debahutee Roy Kar, for example, is a biologist at the Indian nonprofit Nature’s Foster who studies how habitat fragmentation affects the endangered golden langur monkey. Socks start at $10.

A gift for the mind

Why not pick out a new book for your loved one to enjoy with their new socks? All We Can Save features poetry and essays by women working towards uplifting solutions to climate change. If someone on your list got really into birding in 2020, try The Bird Way by science writer Jennifer Ackerman. For a compelling story about one naturalist’s journey to organize the world, there’s Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller, the cofounder of the NPR podcast Invisibilia. The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by astrophysicist Katie Mack will certainly inspire some dinner table conversation, as will Explaining People, written by neurodivergent biochemist Camilla Pang. Lastly, if the science enthusiast you’re buying for wasn’t able to join The Scientist’s social club for our reading of Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, we certainly enjoyed it.

Origami microscope

The Foldscope emerged from a brainstorming session between two Stanford University scientists asking the question, “What is the best microscope you can build for under $1?” The answer, they discovered, was there in the paper they used to sketch their prototype. Foldscopes are a great way to engage with nature, and the company continues to send them throughout the world as a way of making science more accessible. You can purchase one for the microscopist on your list for $29.99 or donate directly in their honor to help send Foldscopes to classrooms worldwide.

COVID-19 plushy

Whether you want to cuddle it, burn it, or gift it, Giant Microbes has you covered with this COVID-19 plushy. Five percent of your purchase will go to one of three charities: Combating COVID-19 Fund, No Kid Hungry, or the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Small plushies start at $14.95, but you can also buy a giant version for $39.95 or a “Class of 2020” plushy to celebrate those who graduated in such turbulent times for $18.95.

Genetic jewelry

Boutique Academia specializes in science-themed jewelry, including this set of friendship necklaces ($29.99), perfect for that pal you haven’t seen since the pandemic began. The virus and the antibody even bind! They also have accessories for those who love physics, microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy, among others. We’re fans of this tardigrade necklace, the neuron earrings, and the Avogadro’s number tie bar, each $24.99.

Support STEM

It feels especially important this year to support science. While we always suggest doing your own research on the activities and finances of charities before donating, we’ve included a few ideas here. 

For COVID-19 charities, consider donating to Get Us PPE, which provides personal protective equipment to frontline workers and under-resourced communities, the CDC Foundation, the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, or to EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that works to protect wildlife and the public from the emergence of disease.

The Scientist has featured several researchers this year involved in charitable initiatives. The Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation, founded by Scientist to Watch Hadiyah-Nicole Green, seeks to make cancer treatments affordable, accessible, and more effective. After the pandemic erased many summer research opportunities for Black, indigenous, and other undergraduates of color, Michael Johnson, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, started the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project as a way to facilitate remote mentorship. For a teaser of what you can look forward to in the January issue of the magazine, consider donating to conservation biologist Celine Frere’s group Detection Dogs for Conservation. Her specially trained dogs track and rescue rare animals, detect pests, and locate threatened native plants.

Lastly, consider donating to local science and natural history museums or science centers in your city that may be struggling due to the pandemic. 

CREDIT FOR OPENING IMAGE: © ISTOCK.COM, ALEXRATHS



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