How to support Southern Fried Science

BloggingJune 5, 2015

One of these magnificent chompers could be yours!

One of these magnificent chompers could be yours!

Southern Fried Science is entering its 8th year of continuous posting. During that time we’ve grown from a single author to eleven writers and have published over 2,000 articles. While we did briefly flirt with ad-support, we ultimately decided that, in order to best serve the ocean community, Southern Fried Science would be ad free and never charge for content.

Hosting this site isn’t cheap, and every year our audience and our bandwidth demands grow. Last year we switched to a Patreon funding model. If you’ve enjoyed Southern Fried Science’s content and found value in our analyses, debunkings, humor, and guidance, please consider subscribing to my Patreon page so that we can keep the servers humming along.

But, wait, there’s more. I’ve revamped the rewards system to include some awesome 3D printed ocean objects. If you missed out on the Megalodon teeth from David’s sunglass campaign, this is your chance to get one. Head on over to Patreon and check it out. 

Three facts about The Ocean Cleanup

Conservation, Environmentalism, marine science, Natural Science, oceanography, policy, Science, Social ScienceJune 4, 2015

The Ocean Cleanup is back in the news, with their first test deployment happening imminently off the coast of Japan. From reviews of their current material, it seems clear that they have not taken the critical assessment of their feasibility study, graciously provided pro-bono by Drs. Martini and Goldstein, to heart. This is unfortunate. As the project has progressed, many in the ocean science and conservation community have not only grown more skeptical of its effectiveness, but are increasingly wary of the potential this project has to cause significant environmental harm. As of yet, The Ocean Cleanup has presented no formal Environmental Impact Assessment, a critical document which would provide the data necessary to properly gauge the potential for environmental harm from large-scale engineering projects.

Image produced by The Ocean Cleanup.

Image produced by The Ocean Cleanup.

Goldstein and Martini’s technical review is essential reading for anyone tracking the progress of The Ocean Cleanup, but there are many additional issues that the Ocean Cleanup has not yet addressed. Here, I present three issues related to the construction and operation of The Ocean Cleanup and the necessary information that, were I in charge of regulating the high seas, would need to know before such a project could be approved.

1. The Ocean Cleanup will be the largest offshore structure ever assembled. 

When completed, The Ocean Cleanup will span 100 km of open sea with a massive array of booms and moored platforms. If successfully constructed in the proposed region, the mooring used will be the deepest ever constructed. The booms will stretch across a major oceanic current, interacting with plankton transport and pelagic migrations.

What I want to know: How will The Ocean Cleanup monitor changes in ocean-wide population structure? What community baselines have been established from which ecosystem impact can be assessed? What contingency are in place should catastrophic failure occur? Ultimately, what chronic threshold will be used to trigger a shutdown of the Ocean Cleanup, should major environmental impacts be detected as a result of standard operation, who will access to the data necessary to monitor those impacts, and who will have authority to trigger a shutdown? (more…)

What do 16,000 dead iguanas smell like? Southern Fried Science Book Club Week 1

BloggingJune 3, 2015

The first thing you notice after reading a couple of chapters of Eating Aliens is that this book is much more about hunting invasive species than about why they’re invasive in the first place. For me, I like that. I’ve spent a large chunk of my career exploring the issues surrounding species invasions, and it’s great to get what is essentially a field report from those working on the front lines. I love meeting the people who run these eradication campaigns, and the politics involved in effective invasive species management. This is my kind of invasive species book.

This first thing that captured my attention in the first two chapters was how radically different the approaches to black spiny-tailed iguanas and green iguanas were. Both are invasive. Both came in through the exotic pet trade. Black spiny-tailed iguanas are omnivores, they get into peoples trash, go after rodents, tear up gardens, and are generally a pest. They’re also only invasive in a relatively small area. People view them as pests and the initial response was a grassroots effort, only later supplanted by the USDA. In contrast, green iguanas are vegetarian, more widely distributed across Florida, and more personable. People don’t view them with the same level of ire and many appreciate their presence, as destructive to the habitat as it really is. It’s harder to hunt out invasive when people don’t view them as pests, and one of the big problems is that, as eradication campaigns become more effective, the invasive populations go down and people begin valuing the invasives due to their rarity. It’s a brutal feedback loop.


Eating Aliens with the Southern Fried Science Book Club

BloggingMay 29, 2015

Summer is coming, and it’s time to curl up with a good, light, vaguely optimistic book about the world’s ecosystems long slide into total decimation. For the next few weeks, join along with the Southern Fried Science book club, while we tackle Eating Aliens, by Jackson Landers. Eating Aliens takes a practical look at the emerging invasivore food ethic–the eating of only invasive and non-native species. We’ll join Landers as he travels the United States hunting and cooking invasive species.

By all accounts, this book is more of an adventure story than a deep look at the causes and consequences of species invasions, which suits me just fine for a good summer read. It also provides a great launch point for us to dig more deeply into the material.

On Wednesday, I’ll post my review of the last weeks readings. Depending on how many people want to participate, we’ll then meet via comment forum, Facebook group, or Google Hangout to talk about Eating Aliens and place it in a broader environmental context.

So grab yourself a copy of Eating Aliens* and read along. Next week we’ll cover the introduction and then talk about black spiny-tailed iguanas and green iguanas.

These links are Amazon affiliate links. By buying the books through them, you help offset some of the costs of running Southern Fried Science.

If you could only follow five people on Twitter, who would they be?

BloggingMay 27, 2015

Every few years, I published a Field Guide to Ocean Science and Conservation on Twitter. Rather than a comprehensive list of the best ocean twitter accounts (a list that would stretch out over more than 500 accounts as of last count), these guides are designed to point readers towards central nodes in the online conversation, from which they could then build upon by following and engaging in conversation. Instead of being a “best of”, the field guides are all about connectivity and how to build it.

I was just beginning to prepare this year’s guide a few weeks ago, when David Lang at OpenROV caught me with an even more challenging question: If you could only follow 5 people on twitter, who would they be? Again, not the “best”, or the funniest, or whatever metric you use to decide who to follow but the five that, if I were absolutely forced to cut my following list down to, would capture the widest breadth depth of the twitter conversations I care about: the most effective community builders, the central-est nodes, the people whose insight is most valuable and who curate and disseminate the most important content. After talking for a while about who the list would include, I was surprised to discover that the majority were people who I followed, but only ever interacted with rarely, if at all. (more…)

Ready, set, speak!  Tips for effectively communicating your science with public audiences

#SciCommMay 18, 2015

About the author – Dr. Allison Coffin is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Washington State University Vancouver studying acoustic communication and hearing loss. Over the past 10 years she’s taught communication workshops to a variety of scientific and professional audiences and was the Audience Choice winner at the 2014 U.S. FameLab Finals, a science communication competition hosted by NASA and National Geographic.  She runs the science communication website and am a long-time member (junkie?) of Toastmasters International.

Why communicate your science?

You’re a scientist doing important and interesting work in conservation biology, right? You probably publish your research in reputable journals and give departmental seminars, but these reach a limited (and self-selected!) audience. Do you want your research to have a broader impact?  Head the call of recent editorials by Chris Parsons and Andrew Wright, and learn to advocate for your science – get out and communicate!

Between online forums, public scientific discussions such as Science Cafés, and interactions with the 24-hr media cycle, there are more venues than ever for us to communicate our science to lay audiences. However, being willing to communicate isn’t enough. To quote a recent JCom article by van der Wurff and colleagues, “Scientists…supposedly aim for a serious and scientific style in which complex matters are unraveled and accurately explained, remaining uncertainties acknowledged, and ideas not too quickly taken for granted.” Does this sound familiar?  For many scientists, our natural inclination (or perhaps, our training) makes it difficult to step out of this “information transfer” mode to connect with our audience.  At its heart, communication is about connection.  How can scientists connect with lay audiences, so that our message is both heard and received? This article is for all scientists who want to speak to the public, advocate for their science, and build their skills so that they can connect effectively.

Know your audience (more…)

Dusky Sharks: Whale Killers

ecology, Natural Science, sharksMay 17, 2015

It’s generally thought that baleen whales are too large to be successfully attacked by most marine predators.  Orcas are typically considered the only real predatory threat to large whales, and even they have to use teamwork to take down a young whale.  Large sharks, which also sit near the top of the marine food web, are known to scavenge on whale carcasses as a nutritious and blubbery supplement to their usual diet of fishes and smaller marine mammals.  However, evidence has been found that white sharks actually take a proactive approach to increasing the whale carcass supply by attacking live northern right whale calves.  Now researchers in South Africa directly observed dusky sharks actively teaming up to bring down a humpback whale calf.


Fun Science FRIEDay – “A cold-water fish with a warm heart!”

biology, evolution, fisheries, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, UncategorizedMay 15, 2015


Recently scientists at NOAA’s South West Fisheries Science Center made a stunning discovery, the worlds first known warm-blooded fish, the moonfish, opah  (Lampris guttatus). Until this recent discovery all fish were considered cold-blooded ectotherms – allowing their body temperature to fluctuate with the change in ambient ocean temperature. However, opah’s are different, in that these largely solitary fish regulate their internal body temperature above the ambient temperature of their environment like mammals and birds (other warm-blooded animals).

Opah off the coast of southern California. (Photo credit: Ralph Pace Photography)

Opah off the coast of southern California. (Photo credit: Ralph Pace Photography)


We built a beer-delivering underwater robot and sent it out to sea. You can probably guess what happened next.

Science LifeMay 13, 2015

Did Wyoming really just outlaw citizen science?

Citizen Science, policyMay 11, 2015

I first heard about the new Wyoming law #SF0012 through the Slate article summarizing it as a criminalization of citizen science. There’s a real danger that it could be interpreted and implemented that way, but let’s try and give Wyoming the benefit of the doubt for a minute. The text of the law only requires that scientists (citizen or otherwise) acquire written or verbal permission from landowners for collecting data on their land. It goes on to define what “data” means, including photographs in a fairly wide definition, and “collecting” as taking data with the intention of turning it over to a state or federal agency. It also defines trespassing and outlines the consequences for those who fail to receive permission. In short: the data collector could go to jail and their data will not be admissible in legal or policy proceedings.

At the core, the law re-hashes a fairly common definition of trespassing. The key part of the law that’s new is that the data won’t be admissible in court and the act of turning them over to federal or state agencies will make you an outlaw. Part of me thinks that data collectors, including citizen science groups, should be asking permission to go on someone’s land. This is both to keep ethics at the forefront of our scientific endeavors and for the personal safety of scientists (ranchers are known to carry shotguns, after all). (more…)

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