Gills Club launches to inspire girls to pursue a career in marine biology

UncategorizedFebruary 17, 2014

a4d2a0_42219fc8cc5448adaf6844e8b685fa3a.png_srz_p_399_216_75_22_0.50_1.20_0A new organization called the Gills Club is connecting girls with female marine biologist role models.

Cynthia Wigren, President of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, told me that,

“Through Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), I’ve met a lot of young girls who love sharks. The goal in founding the Gills Club was to connect girls interest in sharks to science. According to the National Science Foundation, women make up 46% of the total workforce, but hold only 24% of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.”

The Gills Club currently has more than 30 female marine biologists from all over the world who have volunteered their time. Every month, the newsletter highlights two of these scientists by letting them share their research, and online discussions allow girls to ask questions of these researchers. There are also in-person events at museums and science labs that give students the chance to meet scientists in person and learn in a more hands-on way.

Scenes from a recent Gills Club event. Photo courtesy Cynthia Wigren

Scenes from a recent Gills Club event. Photo courtesy Cynthia Wigren

“By introducing girls to female role models in shark research, I hope to jump start their interest in science. I hope the Gills Club will inspire girls to get involved, ask questions, soak up knowledge, and follow their passion wherever it leads,” Cynthia Wigren said.

If you are (or are the parent of) a girl 14 years old or younger, you can join the Gills Club for free from this link. You can also donate to AWSC here to help support the costs of the Gills Club.

Fun Science Friday – My Heart Will Go On

Fun Science FridayFebruary 14, 2014

Valentine’s Day is generally filled with love, flowers, and lots and lots of anatomically incorrect hearts.  See —> <3  This week on FSF we revel in the spirit of VDay and bring you hearts, but the appropriately shaped kind.

For years, in order to transplant a heart or a lung, there is a narrow window between the death of the donor and the surgical input of the recipient. How narrow, about 5 to 10 hours! Yes, basically doctors have 5 -10 hours to surgically remove the heart from a donor, transport it to the recipient, and surgically implant it. Crazy! The Doctors are battling the period of time it takes for a heart or lung to stop beating once senescence of a person’s body is achieved.


Want to participate in a day of shark field research? Donate to my SciFund project!

Blogging, ScienceFebruary 12, 2014

scifundAfter one week, my SciFund project is more than 70% funded! Thanks to the 50 people who have donated so far! I’m making lots of progress, but I still need your help to make sure the project gets completely funded. Any donation helps, but larger donations have rewards, including getting to join me for a day of shark research in the field as a citizen scientist!

Our lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, has taken thousands of people out into the field with us to participate in our shark research, and with a $400 donation to my SciFund project, you can join us too! Our participants don’t just sit back and watch; you’ll get to help with every aspect of the research, including fishing, measuring, tagging, and taking samples!

A participants helps us to tag a small blacktip shark as the team secures it.

A participants helps us to tag a small blacktip shark as the team secures it.

We also have professional photographers on every trip, so you will get amazing photos of your experience. In addition to making a nice souvenir, this is an important tool in helping us to educate the public about sharks. What can be more effective at convincing people that sharks aren’t a threat to humans than seeing you, their friend or family member, safely interacting with one?


A high school student gets to interact with a large blacktip shark

A high school student gets to interact with a large blacktip shark

We’ve caught more than a dozen species of sharks, including nurse sharks, blacktips, bulls, tigers, great and scalloped hammerheads, lemons, and one great white. You never know what you’ll, but I’ve never had anyone say that they didn’t love their trip.

A participant helps us pull in a drumline, the fishing gear we use to catch sharks

A participant helps us pull in a drumline, the fishing gear we use to catch sharks

Two donors so far have contributed at this level so far, but there’s room for more! The trip can also be given as a gift if there’s a shark lover in your life. You can learn about the projects we’re collecting data for here, and you  can learn about the steps we take to make our non-lethal research methods as stress free as possible to the sharks here. Please let me know if you have any questions. We’d love to have you join us as a reward for a $400 donation to my project, but any support you can offer to the project is appreciated!

#DrownYourTown Coastal States Road Trip is coming to your (virtual) town

#DrownYourTown, climate change, Natural Science, ScienceFebruary 11, 2014

Last week, I kicked off the #DrownYourTown Coastal States Road Trip with a cruise through California. Over the next few weeks, we’ll visit every coastal US state (and territory) and see what they look like after 5 meters of sea level rise. The first week of images is available at the #DrownYourTown tumblr and you can follow along in real time on twitter @DrownYourTown.

Panama City, FL after 5 meters of sea level rise.

Panama City, FL after 5 meters of sea level rise.


The 45 most influential female ecologists alive today according to twitter

Blogging, ScienceFebruary 10, 2014

melissaMelissa Giresi is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University interested in using genetic methods to assess population structure, connectivity and biodiversity of exploited marine fishes and invertebrates. For her dissertation, she is testing the null hypothesis that the dusky smoothhound shark, Mustelus canis, is a single genetically-panmictic population in U.S. waters and utilizing molecular and morphological markers to assess how many smoothhound species are present in the Gulf of Mexico.   She is also involved with projects to investigate population connectivity in fine tooth sharks, black nose sharks, cobia, and amberjack. 

Monica Turner, image courtesy University of Wisconsin

Monica Turner, image courtesy University of Wisconsin

On Thursday, I tweeted “Name the most influential female ecologist (alive today) that you can think of.”  After it was re-tweeted by several of my much more twitter-savvy colleagues and friends, I received an overwhelming number of responses. In retrospect, I should have created a hashtag to keep track of the responses.  Forty-five influential female ecologists were named in this search, some of whom responded to the question themselves, naming their colleagues (but never naming themselves).  The most influential female ecologists (alive today) according to the twitter-verse are listed in the table below in alphabetical order by last name.


Changes Proposed for U.S. Fisheries Management: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Conservation, fisheries, Focus on Nuance, policy, SustainabilityFebruary 9, 2014

This past Tuesday, the draft bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act was released by the U.S. House.  The Magnuson-Stevens Act is a big deal because this is the law that lays out how fisheries management works in the United States.  This time, a number of changes have been proposed by Representative Doc Hastings, some of which could fundamentally change fisheries management and fisheries science in U.S. waters.  The proposed changes immediately became controversial, garnering overwhelming support from witnesses to the House Natural Resources Committee hearing of the bill (witnesses included representatives from the recreational and commercial fishing industries as well as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council) while the Pew Charitable Trust strongly opposed the bill, calling it the “Empty Oceans Act” (translated into GIFs by Upwell for your viewing pleasure).

How might the Hastings bill affect your favorite marine species (both in the water and on your dinner plate)?  Read on to see the good, bad, and ugly aspects of these proposed changes, at least according to this particular fisheries scientist.


No bones about it

biology, sharksFebruary 7, 2014

Hello, dear internets! Thank you for the warm welcome. I am extremely excited to be joining Southern Fried Science—talk about being in good company! For those of you who don’t know me, I am a student at the University of Oregon, where I study marine biology and journalism. I love all things science, but I have a small (ok, not so small) love for shark biology. I look forward to promoting ocean outreach through kick-ass science communication with the rest of the team, here at SFS.

Enough about me, on to some animal insides.

In honor of #unshark week’s end, I return to the awesome that is shark science. Like skates and rays, sharks are chondrichthyans, cartilaginous fishes whose skeletons are made primarily of cartilage rather than bone. Ever wonder what a mostly-boneless skeleton looks like? Sure you have (and if not, you are now thinking about it and the suspense is killing you, I say).

Shark skeletons are complex, beautiful, and thanks to Dr. Gavin Naylor, and his team at College of Charleston Naylor Lab, they are here for you to see.


Southern Fried Science needs your help!


For more than 5 years, Southern Fried Science has shared incisive, clever, humorous, informative, and educational ocean science and conservation stories. Our content has always been free, and, with the exception of one brief experiment, ad-free. Our writers are volunteers. Our tech support donates his time and expertise to keep the site running smoothly  (for transparency’s sake, Andrew does the site maintenance and conducted the recent complete redesign of the site) . Our most senior members pay our server hosting fees out of pocket. Southern Fried Science occupies an important niche in the marine science and conservation community.

We’ve grown. Last year we brought in over 1,000,000 unique visitors. Growth comes with additional costs, in both hosting fees and maintenance time. Our budget isn’t huge, but it is tight.

If you enjoy this site, please consider contributing a few dollars to help cover our costs. We’ve set up a few different option on the Support Southern Fried Science Page. You can subscribe to make a recurring monthly payment (expires after 12 months) or a one-time donation. Donations will go towards server hosting costs, compensating our tech support for his time, and funding exciting new projects.

Social media as a scientific research tool: Background info for my #scio14 session

Blogging, ScienceFebruary 6, 2014

ScionlineAt the 2014 ScienceOnlineTogether conference, I will be moderating a session focusing on how to use social media as a scientific research tool (2:30 P.M. on Friday, February 28th in room 3).  The hashtag is #ScioResearch , so be sure to follow along, and I’ll make a Storify afterwards. This post is primarily intended to be a source of background information for participants in my session, though feel free to read, share and ask questions in the comments if you are not planning on participating in my session.

ScienceOnline community members understand the value of social media for collaborating with colleagues and communicating science to the public, but few think of the incredible resource that these tools are for scientific research. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are constantly sharing their experiences and opinions in a format that is public, archived, searchable, and accessible, giving researchers access to this enormous dataset without the expense or logisitical difficulties involved in organizing a large-scale survey or series of focus groups. To use a technical term, for many types of scientific research, social media and “big data” is what is called “a freakin’ gold mine.”


Below are a few examples of how social media can be used for scientific research.


SciFund Challenge: Help support my shark feeding ecology research

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksFebruary 3, 2014

scifundI am participating in the 4th SciFund Challenge, a crowdfunding event for scientific research! My project, part of my Ph.D. dissertation research, is looking at the feeding ecology of local species of sharks with the goal of generating data that can help managers to conserve and protect these species. I’d appreciate any assistance you can provide in terms of either donating funds to the project or helping to spread the word.

A donation of any size is helpful, but larger donations have rewards associated with them, including the opportunity to join us for a day of shark research, or the opportunity to name one of our satellite tagged sharks and track it on Google Earth.

I’ll post frequent updates here, on twitter, and on my Facebook page. Please let me know if you have any questions about the project!

My project can be found here.

Staff: Andrew David Thaler (919), David Shiffman (440), Amy Freitag (219), Guest Writer (35), Kersey Sturdivant (13), Chuck Bangley (12), Administrator (1), Sarah Keartes (1), Iris (1), Michael Bok (0), Lyndell M. Bade (0)
Connect with SFS
  • Categorical Archives
    Chronological Archives

    Join 140 other subscribers