Julia Wester is the Director of Program Development for Field School. She received her PhD from the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami in 2016. Her dissertation studied the psychology of decision making about the environment, specifically with regard to limited water resources. She also received a Msc with Distinction in Biodiversity Conservation and Management from Oxford University and worked as a Legislative Aide in South Florida, focusing on environmental policy. She has consulted with nonprofit programs to evaluate their educational programs and assisted with training staff to conduct effective public outreach.
The folks at Southern Fried Science, as part of their commitment to research and education, have generously given us this platform to talk about our educational start-up, Field School. (Thanks, SFS!). They’ve also been kind enough to get excited about working with us to develop and test new research techniques, study awesome animals and ecosystems, and improve marine science field education—so stay tuned for some of those upcoming collaborations!
What is field school?
Field School is a hybrid company on a mission to support field research in marine and environmental science, and create high-quality educational and training opportunities for students and the public. We offer hands-on, research focused courses on a variety of topics, from corals to sharks, on our 55’ custom live-aboard research vessel.
Field School offers researchers and students opportunities to engage with and study tropical marine ecosystems. Photo credit: Kristine Stump
Part of what makes Field School special is the team we’ve brought together. Our captain and crew all have doctoral and/or masters degrees in marine or environmental science, have authored numerous scientific publications, and have a combined 25 years of experience in field education and outreach. We have developed short- and long-term training and mentoring opportunities for students, teach highly reviewed and award-winning university courses, and work with partner non-profits to create outreach programs for the public. We collaborate closely with our scientific advisory board and partner universities to develop the conservation and research projects our students work on, ensuring their time in our courses is professionally relevant and meaningful.
Joey Maier is a biology professor at Polk State College where he uses every possible opportunity to encourage his students to spend time in the water, play with technology, and do #CitizenScience. As an undergraduate, he did a stint as an intern for Mark Xitco and John Gory during their dolphin language experiments. He then spent the years of his M.Sc. at the University of Oklahoma thawing out and playing with bits of decaying dolphin. After discovering that computers lack that rotten-blubber smell, Joey became a UNIX sysadmin and later a CISSP security analyst.
While his pirate game is weak, he is often seen with a miniature macaw on his shoulder. His spare time is spent SCUBA diving and trying to hang out with people who have submersibles. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
There’s a Klingon bird of prey hanging from the ceiling in my office.
I may teach biology, but at heart I’m a sci-fi nerd. Naturally, I’m interested in futurism, robots, lasers and all manner of techy paraphernalia. I’d been watching the OpenROV project for a while, but hadn’t gotten one yet. They were obviously awesome little machines that gave me a serious case of gadget envy, and I knew that some of our students would love to pilot an ROV. I needed a much better reason than that, however, to justify getting one. There’s no line item in our budget for, “Wow, that’s cool!” and I was fairly certain that the college administration would tend to favor lower cost and more familiar forms of student engagement
Photo courtesy Joey Maier.
This tweet changed everything. When I found out that Andrew had designed a mini-Niskin bottle, the wheels in my head started turning. Assembling an OpenROV would, naturally, be a very STEM-oriented project. The times our students piloted the ROV could become water sampling field trips, and the kids could analyze their samples back at school as a laboratory activity. If students recorded the process, they could make a short film. I mulled over the possibilities and bounced ideas off of my dive buddies during the hours we spent traveling to and from the coast. Read More
Roughly every few Thursdays the Condon Lab at the University of North Carolina Wilmington host an “Who Am I” Throwback Thursday. The premise is to expose people to scientist who have had a measurable influence in their respective fields. We will start broadcasting those Who Am I at Southern Fried Science.
This week features one of the pioneers in zooplankton, HAB and particle export research. She formed early paradigm on particle flux, detrital & plankton food webs, and toxic plankton blooms. She is also the academic grandmother of Dr. Rob Condon. So, Who am I?
Go to the Condon Lab’s page to vote:
“Her contributions to marine science and education, and her leadership in mentoring junior staff, are fitting tributes to the high standards, spirit of collaboration, and strong commitment to the field” Dr. Robert Gagosian, Ocean Leadership (Photo Credit: Carl Lamborg)
“She led the way for people with strong family commitments to go to sea, showing that scientists could combine challenging, field-based careers with family life.” Dr. Margaret Delaney, UCSC (Photo Credit: Jim MacKenzie)
William E Bemis is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell and lead faculty member for the edX MOOC Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology, and Conservation. He studied at Cornell University, the University of Michigan, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Chicago before serving 20 years as Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From 2005 to 2013, he served as Kingsbury Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory at Cornell. Bemis conducts research in comparative vertebrate anatomy, trains research students, and teaches courses in vertebrate anatomy and evolution.
How do you get thousands of people interested in basic biological concepts? By teaching a course on some of the most fascinating animals on Earth – sharks and their relatives.
This is a particularly exciting time to be a shark scientist. An explosion of new research methods and technologies are leading to a surprising world of discovery. Our new course, free and open to anyone in the world, explores discoveries in many areas, including:
This is art. Maybe. Probably. Old Spice has taken it upon themselves to ask the all-important question: How many different violations of the Marine Mammal Protection act can we demonstrate in a single minute and fifteen second commercial? As it turns out, quite a few.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act expressly forbids the “taking” of marine mammals, a “take” being defined as:
“To harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. This includes, without limitation, any of the following:
- the collection of dead animals, or parts thereof
- the restraint or detention of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary
- tagging a marine mammal
- the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel
- the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal
- feeding or attempting to feed a marine mammal in the wild.”
Broadly, this include any actions that may interfere with a marine mammal’s behavior or cause it undue stress. Fines can be… severe.
All of the revelations about the lead in the water system of Flint, Michigan have made residents and curious neighbors alike wonder ‘haven’t we solved the lead problem’? There are thousands of well-established scientific studies; the sources and even many of the solutions are well-understood and frequently implemented. Not to say the problem’s gone, but we’ve wrapped are heads around it. So how is it possible that a new lead problem has surprisingly reared its ugly head? And more importantly, what does that mean for exposure to chemicals for which we’ve barely scratched the scientific surface?
The world of fisheries has its analog – mercury. We’ve all heard the recommendations for pregnant women and small children to avoid tilefish, swordfish, mackerel, and shark. We understand that it bioaccumulates in the food chain – and that as humans not exactly at the bottom, we’re susceptible. The dynamics of methylmercury (the poison variety) and elemental mercury are fairly well mapped out and we can identify areas of potential hazard where more methylmercury is likely to be naturally created. We’ve also stopped doing things like spraying mercury-based pesticides and covering our landscape and foodscape with the toxin. Kids have even stopped playing with ‘quicksilver’, it’s been removed from dental fillings and vaccines, and you should get rid of that mercury-based thermometer. Yet, if you scanned most people’s hair (the way we measure these things), there would be mercury present. And there’s still a host of ways they might have been exposed. But the better question is – if there’s still mercury in your body, what else is floating around in your system? And why do we focus on only the best-understood pathway of chemical exposure?
Modern Mercury Exposures Read More
From simple sand dollars to life-sized hammerhead shark skulls, 3D printable ocean objects present an incredible opportunity for ocean outreach. Many commercial biological models are expensive, fragile, and often overkill for educators’ needs, where simple, robust, and easily replaceable anatomical models suffice. Over the last year, I’ve been honing my 3D printing skills, learning how to design 3D-printable objects, and mastering 3D scanning using free software and the now-ubiquitous smartphone. My designs, along with the open-source objects used for Oceanography for Everyone, can be found on my YouMagine profile (though Patreon supporters get early access to most prints).
Earlier this year, I wrote about how the ability to essentially photocopy a three dimensional object in a matter of hours revived my Ocean Optimism and opened up a whole new world of outreach possibilities. Since then, I’ve been working behind the scenes on some bigger projects that depend on 3D printing, one of which, Oceanography for Everyone launched last month. It’s a big ocean out there, and one person can’t possibly come close to producing a comprehensive collection of ocean objects. With several successful 3D scans under my belt, I think it’s time to share the process and invite the rest of the ocean-loving world join me in my efforts to scan the sea.
123D Catch, the software that powers it all.
In this book kids learn about sharks and the oceans as they travel with Norman on his adventure through the Bahamas.
Sharks4Kids First Book: Meet Norman the Nurse Shark
Sharks4Kids is an educational non-profit based in Florida that produces curricula and media designed to teach primary-school age kids about sharks and shark conservation. They also conduct Skype-in-lessons, classroom visits, field trips, and shark tagging camps. For their first Kickstarter campaign, they’re producing a book, targeted at elementary-school students.
Sharks matter, according to my co-author who uses the handle WhySharksMatter, and ocean outreach literature targeting younger students is often light on solid educational content. Online media is great, when available, but not everyone has reliable access to the internet. One of the campaign goals is to distribute this book to schools in the Bahamas, which is a major benefit to a region where persistent, high-bandwidth internet is not always a given.
Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter criteria!
1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science? Sharks4Kids has a solid tract record producing entertaining and scientifically literate content that appeals to a younger audience. I have no doubt that Norman the Nurse Shark, though necessarily anthropomorphized, will provide fact-based, pseudoscience-free information about nurse sharks. Read More
It’s been a big week for papers here at Southern Fried Science. This morning, Amy, myself, William (of Bomai Cruz fame), and Dominik and Erika of OpenROV published our guidelines on minimizing the potential for microROVs to act as invasive species vectors in Tropical Conservation Science. The abstract:
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) present a potential risk for the transmission of invasive species. This is particularly the case for small, low-cost microROVs that can be easily transported among ecosystems and, if not properly cleaned and treated, may introduce novel species into new regions. Here we present a set of 5 best-practice guidelines to reduce the risk of marine invasive species introduction for microROV operators. These guidelines include: educating ROV users about the causes and potential harm of species invasion; visually inspecting ROVs prior to and at the conclusion of each dive; rinsing ROVs in sterile freshwater following each dive; washing ROVs in a mild bleach (or other sanitizing agent) solution before moving between discrete geographic regions or ecosystems; and minimizing transport between ecosystems. We also provide a checklist that microROV users can incorporate into their pre- and post-dive maintenance
Read the whole, open-access paper over at TCS!
Robots as vectors for marine invasions: best practices for minimizing transmission of invasive species via observation-class ROVs.
The future of ocean exploration is here.
OpenROV Trident – An Underwater Drone for Everyone by OpenROV
I’ve been watching, exploring, and working with the folks at OpenROV since their last Kickstarter, way back in 2012. Today they announce the launch of Trident, the next generation underwater vehicle, and one of the most capable microROVs that I’ve ever seen. I had the rare pleasure to join them in Lake Tahoe this May to test fly one of the earliest prototypes, and it surpassed all of my expectations.
You don’t need to hear me sing the praises of one of the most important emergent technologies in marine science and conservation. The rise of affordable, capable, portable underwater robots will fundamentally change the way we think about exploring the ocean and monitoring ocean health.
Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter criteria!
1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science? You bet. OpenROV have been building underwater vehicles for upwards of four years. I use their robots in my research and education programs. The first peer-reviewed publication using OpenROV as a research platform will be coming out at the end of the month. Read More