A Playlist for Shark Week

Rachel193Rachel Pendergrass is a writer, performer and science communicator in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the assistant director of the Dragon Con Science Track, a program contributor for the Atlanta Science Festival, and producer/host of a monthly science variety show called Solve for X. When she’s not sciencing, you can find her performing as a storyteller, making nerdy sketch comedy videos with Dragon Con TV, enthusiastically ranting about sharks, or working on her sommelier skills by drinking fancy wine. Find her on Twitter at @sharkespearean

Shark Week started on Sunday. This week long celebration of all things elasmobranch (Okay, let’s be honest, mostly Great White sharks and very little else) has inspired artists, comedy shows, and even possibly Super Bowl halftime shows!

Shark Week has also inspired more than a few musicians to show their love for fintastic festivities through song. Even Billy Idol got in on the Shark Week song action!

Here are the top 12 picks for your Shark Week playlist.

 

Read More

Everything’s bigger in Texas, even shark research!

DavisJonathan Davis is a marine biologist, shark researcher, and Fish and Wildlife Tech for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department based out of Sabine Lake, Texas.  He has researched elasmobranchs for over 10 years all around the world from New Zealand to Australia and along the U.S. coast from Massachusetts to Texas.  Currently, he is continuing research as part of his PhD along the Texas coast focusing on bull shark ecology.  In addition to research, Jonathan does outreach to inform the general public about sharks and inspire interest rather than fear to promote conservation rather than destruction. 

This year marks the 27th Shark Week.  For the past 27 years, Discovery Channel has had the unrivaled and incomparable attention of the world for one week in regards to all things ‘shark’.  These 27 years have brought out the best in shark science in the beginning but have sadly declined by bringing out the worst in fear-mongering and sensationalist misinformation more recently.  As a shark scientist who grew up watching Shark Week for the science the last several years have been disheartening to say the least.  The science seemed to all but disappear and replaced by completely inaccurate information, scary attacks that never happened, and an epidemic of Megalodon sized proportions.  Not to mention the fact that my lifelong dream of being on Shark Week was fulfilled only to have my research superimposed into a show about a ridiculous mythical shark #VoodooShark.  In the midst of all these years of Shark Week, real shark science has been increasing and advancing.  Sharks are an integral part of our ecosystems but many are endangered and in need of conservation.  This is why shark scientists work in the background to learn as much as possible about these creatures that spark such awe and interest worldwide, not to feed fear-mongering and sensationalist desires of money hungry producers.  With that being said, it would behoove all of us to utilize the unparalleled platform that is Shark Week to spread correct information and promote shark conservation.

Read More

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

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 communicatalyst.com 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 Read More

Become a Citizen Scientist with SharkBase

KempDr. Ryan Kempster is a shark biologist in the Neuroecology Group at the University of Western Australia.  Ryan founded the shark conservation group Support Our Sharks to inform the world about the plight of the most vulnerable shark species. His research focuses on the sensory biology and conservation of sharks and rays.  Sharks have always been his passion, and protecting them his goal.  To do this, Ryan has embarked on a career in research to better understand sharks. He takes every opportunity to communicate his findings to the general public in the hope that he can inspire others to follow in his passion for protecting these amazing animals.

Effective management of sharks starts with an understanding of their population status, which ultimately instructs their future conservation. Unfortunately, many shark species are at significant risk of unrecoverable decline, with some species having declined to near extinction in recent years. We believe that Citizen Science could hold the key to improving our understanding and management of shark populations, whilst also advancing community education. This is why we have developed SharkBase, a global shark encounter database helping to map the distribution and population structure of sharks worldwide (you can also record ray and skate sightings).

Read More

Yoda, Yoga, and the Fish of Cannery Row

unnamedStacy Aguilera is an Abess Fellow at the University of Miami. Her dissertation research focuses on why certain small-scale fisheries in California are relatively successful, from a social and ecological perspective. Follow her on Twitter here!

As my favorite little green guy once said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yoda may have never shared some brewskies after work with a bunch of fishery managers, but boy would they cheers to this. Managing fisheries is a tough job, especially considering all the many factors that can quickly and drastically change a fishery. We’ve got markets bouncing here and there, climate varying in short blurps and over a long time, technology is getting better, and new regulations are proposed and passed all the time. You have to think about all the people involved while also thinking about the species and broader ecosystem as a whole. All these things happening at once means fishery managers, and especially fishermen, processors, and buyers, are dealing with an uncertain future and while some things are predictable, the future is indeed difficult to see.

So how do we manage and fish to keep our fishing industry alive, while also keeping our oceans healthy and full of life? One way is to manage for flexibility. As our recent paper published this March in PLoS ONE explains, managing fisheries adaptively is difficult, but allowing participants to fish multiple fisheries is a strategy that can help. When fishery participants can access many fisheries, they can then support themselves and the local fishery in difficult years, tapping in to multiple resources. This in turn also helps the environment, as shifting fishing effort from one species that isn’t doing so well relieves pressure when fishing then targets another species that may be doing much better at that time.

Read More

Fish at Night: Announcing a symposium focused on nocturnal fish

AGeoffrey Shideler is the Assistant Editor at Bulletin of Marine Science, an independent peer-reviewed journal at the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

AStudying the ocean at night can be difficult. Yet this is precisely the time when many fish are most active. Scientists have found that many important processes occur at night, such as spawning, larval settlement, migrations, feeding, and more. Many organisms rise toward the surface, creating massive pulses of biodiversity and biomass. In nearly every aquatic environment, from open waters to coral reefs, what one observes by day can be quite different from what is happening after the sun sets. At the same time, in polar seas and at great depths, “night” can span, months, years, and beyond. Fish and fishers in these dark systems have adopted tactics and strategies that take advantage of low-light conditions and their study may offer solutions to problems in warmer, shallower habitats.

Read More

17 actually worthwhile things to know about mosquitoes

ATanjim Hossain is an NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Miami. His research focuses on the intersection of microclimatology and mosquito vector ecology from an epidemiological perspective. Follow him on twitter here

BuzzFeed: the epitome of unnecessary hyperbole and an amalgam of often unoriginal content. I’ve long been convinced that this website is a waste of time and that it parrots bullshit in exchange for pageviews. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a recent article headlined, “17 Things Only Chronic Mosquito Victims Will Understand.”For a brief moment I was encouraged, hopeful even, that BuzzFeed might have turned a page and published something worth reading. You, wise reader, likely know this this turned out. Below I present 17 things which I think are actually worth knowing relevant to mosquitoes.

Read More

Set research free with IGoR!

Dr. Mickey von Dassow is a biologist who studies how biomechanics affects development-environment interactions. He received his PhD in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, studying how fluid flow affects colonial marine animals. As a postdoc (U. of Pittsburgh), he studied the mechanics of tissue movements that shape amphibian embryos. Currently he is a guest research scientist at the Duke Marine Lab, and works primarily on sea urchin embryos.


"IGoR! Fetch me a protocol!" Provided by Michelangelo Von Dassow.

“IGoR! Fetch me a protocol!” Provided by Michelangelo von Dassow.

Can everyone do scientific research? I hope to convince you the answer is “yes.” I’m trying to develop an online platform (http://IGoR.wikidot.com) to help amateur scientists and other science enthusiasts do their own scientific research, while at the same time helping experienced scientists tap into the skills and creativity of a broader community. I hope you’ll love the idea and want to help me spark IGoR to life*.

Currently, the vast majority of scientific research is done by professionals supported by big institutions, such as universities, government labs, or corporations. It’s difficult for even a trained and experienced scientist to find the resources and time to do research without this backing. There are pockets of science where amateurs frequently make substantial contributions (e.g. amateur astronomy and taxonomy). However, it wasn’t that long ago that the majority of science was done by people – such as Darwin and Wallace – who were outside academia. In fact, the great intellectual revolutions that created modern science were not started by trained scientists: there were no trained scientists at the time!

Read More

#SciSpends : Scientists are paying to do their jobs

edd_headshotDr. Edward Hind is a marine sociologist who specializesin the research of local ecological knowledge. He has spent the last five years investigating how the knowledge of fish harvesters may support marine management in both Ireland and the Turks and Caicos Islands. He was recently a lecturer at the School for Field Studies and is the current Communications Officer of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology. Having returned to his native UK, Edd is currently looking for new teaching and research opportunities. He has authored peer-reviewed papers in a number of fisheries management and marine policy journals. Follow him on twitter here

My name is Edd and I’m a postdoctoral academic. In the last 12 months I have spent (US)$307 on conference travel, $300 on conference fees, $76 on printing a conference poster, $150+ on non-alcoholic food and drink whilst at conferences, $60 on memberships of professional societies, $35 on academic software, and almost $100 on academic books. That’s over $1000 of my own money. I have a problem. If you’re a scientist, I bet it’s your problem too.

Read More

Beyond Ivory

Dr. Andrew Wright is a British marine biologist that has been working on the science-policy boundary around the world for over a decade. His experiences have led him to champion a better communication of science to policy makers and the lay public. His research has included a population viability analysis for the vaquita, sperm whales bioacoustics and the impacts of noise on various marine mammals. Andrew is currently working on several projects, most relating to investigating either sleeping behaviour or chronic stress in wild cetaceans. He is also spearheading efforts to bring more marketing techniques into conservation outreach.

Dr. Naomi Rose is the marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). She handles AWI campaigns to protect wild and captive marine mammals and is a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee. She has published popular and scientific articles, authored book chapters, and lectures annually at several universities. She participates in workshops and task forces at the international, national and state level.

credit needed

Photo by Andrew Wright.

What you are looking at is not a prop from a science fiction movie, but a very earthly (or more accurately marine) wildlife organ that is causing Mexico quite a bit of trouble. It’s the swim bladder of the totoaba fish. Unrelated to bladders with which people are more familiar, it is a collagen-rich organ that the fish fills with air in order to remain buoyant in the water column and save energy when swimming. It is, quite literally, a bag of hot air. This one is dried and ready for shipping – it is prized as a delicacy in China, where it is believed to rejuvenate skin and (of course) act as an aphrodisiac. Read More