Small Shark Tagging Day

We’re all smiles 5 minutes into the first day on the water.

I am in Saba in the Dutch Caribbean with the Dutch Elasmobranch Society, St. Maarten Nature Foundation, and the Saba Conservation Foundation serving as a research assistant to an international team of shark scientists participating in the Save Our Sharks Expedition 2019.  Today was our first day out on the water and our objective was to catch, measure, and tag small sharks on the Saba Bank.

It’s a girl.

We caught three Caribbean reef sharks and a silky shark – the first time I’ve ever seen a silky shark (check that one off the list).  Each shark was worked up by the scientists, with data collected to serve their respective research areas.  When each shark was brought to the boat, the first observation was for sex, which we determined from the presence or absence of claspers.  And then measurements were taken for total length, fork length, caudal length, and girth.  We also took a fin clip, a muscle sample, and a blood sample.  Each shark was handled for only a few minutes, and then released back into the water.  Every shark today quickly swam away.

Guido, Jergen, Ayumi, and Walter work up a small Caribbean reef shark on the deck of the boat, with the island of Saba looming in the background.

Our island hosts Ayumi and Walter from the Saba Conservation Foundation were eseential in making today a success.  Walter drove the boat all day and Ayumi served as our expert fisher, helping us with the gear to target the species we were after.

You came for the science, but I’m showing you my fishing pictures.

We also trolled for bonito to and from the Saba Bank.  We didn’t catch any, but I handlined this barracuda, and we also caught a beautiful green mahi mahi.

Stay tuned for a few more blogs where I introduce some of the researchers and conservation practitioners participating in the expedition. You can also follow the expedition on social media using the hashtag #SabaShark2019, or by following the Save Our Sharks social media accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Worldwide SciComm Challenge: #SharkSafetySlogan

Can you remember how young you were when you were first taught stop, drop, and roll? How about turn around, don’t drown? Slogans are abridged stories that fulfill our human need to convey information quickly and memorably. Their uses range from social connection, cooperation, and informing cohorts of risk. Sayings like the above are effective because of these three main achievements:

  1. They are memorable.
  2. They incorporate knowledge with action.
  3. And by fearlessly acknowledging rare, potentially fatal, risks – they create a constructive dialogue.

Imagine a world without stop, drop and roll where children are simply taught that there is an incredibly rare risk that they could catch fire, and that’s it. While the statistic may be true, just providing the information would result in a classroom full of hysterical first-graders. A great slogan captured and presents the risk fearlessly.

Put another way, slogans are science communication wins. So let’s get together and apply this human craft of slogan creation to another incredibly rare risk: shark encounters! Your risk of encountering a shark is extremely low–a statistic that is repeated ad nauseam. But just like our classroom of traumatized first-graders, stats alone aren’t always enough. Enter the #SharkSafetySlogan challenge!

Join us on twitter at #SharkSafetySlogan to crowd-source a memorable slogan. Shark experts and organizations from across the globe will be sharing sharky information to help you on your scicomm quest. Anyone who visits a beach is encouraged to participate!

Remember, keep it memorable, brief, and incorporate shark smarts with actions. An example could be:

Seals? Seabirds?! See ya!

The above slogan is brief, memorable, and incorporates the knowledge that an abundance of seals and seabirds is a strong indication that sharks are present, and you’re better off not swimming juuuust yet.

Come join us at #SharkSafetySlogan and see if your slogan ends up with the most likes and retweets! I’ll be leading the charge at @ScienceRhapsody. See you on the interwebs!

The dark side of “Stop the Scroll”

I have had the pleasure of working communications roles in several industries over the years.  During this time, I’ve seen the rise of a dubious campaign metric commonly referred to as “Stop the Scroll” (or “Swipe”).  This metric has conscientious roots.  Online communications strategists have less than a second to grab a potential donor, stakeholder, or client’s attention.  Good strategists have read Craig McClain’s paper, as a great visual will make your thumb quiver before scrolling on to a video of dogs doing literally anything.  In this light, stop the scroll seems like a pretty good metric for individual post efficacy.  Time is the currency of experience, after all.

Can we count the seconds people spend learning untrue facts as progress towards our campaign? Or change the campaign goals to justify a resource-heavy shit post? 

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30 Earth Month Heroes

Earth Month Heroes Narrissa Spies, Edz Villagomez, Sylvia Earle, and Charlotte Vick.

Earth Day is April 22, which makes next month Earth Month.

I’d like to invite you to participate in a Twitter hashtag campaign for the entire month.  The purpose of this campaign is to bring some attention and praise to the people who are doing great conservation work.  I’m calling the campaign #30EarthMonthHeroes.

Participation is easy.  Starting on April 1, post a tweet about someone who you think is doing great work to protect the Earth or the Ocean, either someone you know or someone you would like to know. Say something nice, upload a photo, link to a story or a video, tag them, and use the hashtag #30EarthMonthHeroes. 

Each subsequent day, thread one additional tweet about someone you admire.  It’s important to thread your tweets, so that by the time you get to April 30, you will have one single long thread.  If you thread them properly, throughout the month, as readers find your tweets they will be able to easily scroll up and down to find the people that you’ve been tweeting about.  If this works the way I hope it will, even the people who find your tweets as late as April 30, will still be scrolling back to your tweets from April 1. 

If all goes according to plan, we reach new audiences on a large scale and greatly impact the conversation about conservation, while building a twitter following for ourselves, as well as the people who we call out as Earth Month Heroes. Plus it’s nice to hear from your colleagues when you are doing a good job.

It’s really that simple. 

This is meant to be voluntary and fun, and it’s a chance to say thanks to the people in our line of work who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place – so no pressure!

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section and I will try to answer them.

How do I thread my tweets?

Ask Twitter.

Does my Ocean Month Hero need to be on Twitter?

If you are picking 30 people that inspire you, chances are one or more are not going to be on Twitter.  Don’t let that stop you from recognizing them!  If you can’t tag them, you could try adding a link to their website or to something they wrote.

Does my Ocean Month Hero need to be alive today?

Again, you should recognize whoever you want.  I’ll be shocked if Rob Stewart and Ruth Gates don’t get a few mentions (I’m going to mention Rob, whose final film Sharkwater: Extinction comes out on Amazon Prime on April 22), and won’t be surprised if the likes of Henry David Thoreau or Rachel Carson pop up.

What if I need to miss a day?  Or a week?

That’s fine.  The idea is to post one Ocean Month Hero per day, but if you can’t post over the weekend, post three on Monday.  And if you only get to 14 over the course of the month, those 14 people will still be happy to be recognized by you.

To tweet to whom – a tweeting guide for marine scientists

Logic is a tweeting bird” – Spock, Star Trek

Social media can be a great tool for spreading and disseminating published science. Potentially it can reach a wide audience and for free !

Most platforms allow you to insert links to direct readers to the original paper or publication. If you are working in an area that is relevant to conservation or policy, social media can be a great way of getting papers to the right audience that may need that information (Parsons et al., 2014). Moreover, there is now increasing data that using social media can increase download and citation rates of scientific papers, which in turn is good for the careers of scientists in an academic setting.

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Writing an Effective Ocean Advocacy Letter

Earlier this year, Andrew issued his Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an Op-Ed.  Inspired, I thought I would straight up steal Andrew’s idea and give a few tips on writing an effective advocacy letter, the type of letter you’d send to a government official to ask them to help protect the ocean.

In my conservation career I’ve written hundreds of letters to all levels of government, from agency staff to presidents.  Advocacy letters are one of the more effective tools in the arsenal of conservation tactics.  They are a great way of communicating a message directly to a targeted person (assuming the letter gets read, of course!) and are a great way to kick off a discussion on protecting the ocean between concerned citizens and government officials.  Here are a few tips: Read More

5 things to know about sixgill shark teeth, this month’s 3D printed reward!

I recently unveiled a new tier of Patreon rewards: 3D printed shark and ray models!For $17 per month, you will get a monthly 3D printed educational model of different shark or ray parts in the mail, and you’ll be supporting my efforts to provide these models to schools for free.

This month’s reward is a tooth from Hexanchus griseus, the bluntnose sixgill shark, a member of the cowshark family!This particular specimen was scanned by Dr. Lisa Whitenack as part of her Ph.D. dissertation work on comparative evolution and biomechanics of shark teeth.

Figure from Whitenack et al. 2011, the sixgill tooth is the one in the lower right! This paper studied teeth of different shapes using Finite Element Analysis (FEA). When Lisa inputs the shape of the tooth, how elastic the tooth is, and how much force the tooth experiences into her computer program, FEA will map out stress on the entire tooth. High points of stress are where a tooth would be likely to break.

Learn more about the bluntnose sixgill shark and it’s unusual shaped teeth below!

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Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an OpEd.

If you’ve been following along with our weekly round-up of ocean news, the Monday Morning Salvage (and, if not, why aren’t you reading the Monday Morning Salvage? It’s your one stop shop for the latest and greatest in ocean science and conservation news!) you probably noticed that we called for scientists and conservation professionals to write OpEds or Letters to the Editor this May. We heard from several folks that they submitted articles, though we haven’t heard back that any have been published yet (please leave a link in the comments if yours have). So, we’re extending the challenge and asking science and conservation professionals to take a stand for something you care about and submit a letter or article to your local paper.

Simone Giertz builds the best robots on the internet.

Why? A recent study with a large sample size, published this year, demonstrated that OpEds can play a significant in shaping people’s opinions about political and social issues. Though this CATO Institute funded study has a distinctively libertarian slant in the issues they chose to use as treatments, the results are reasonably compelling. Not only did OpEds influence how readers felt about an issue, but regardless of political group, exposure to an OpEd made the reader more likely to agree with the author’s position.

“We find limited evidence of treatment effect heterogeneity by party identification: Democrats, Republicans, and independents all appear to move in the predicted direction by similar magnitudes… Despite large differences in demographics and initial political beliefs, we find that op-eds were persuasive to both the mass public and elites, but marginally more persuasive among the mass public.”

source.

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Defining Your Audience (Or How To Plan The Worst Birthday Ever)

Skeptical beardy stock-photo man at a lame party.

Credit: WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock

This is part of the new regular column on science communication. To suggest a topic, email [email protected] 

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re in middle school. The spring formal is approaching and if you don’t have a date, you will literally die ohmygod. Your goal is “find someone to go to the dance with me”. You can’t just walk into the cafeteria and scream “SOMEONE GO TO THE DANCE WITH ME”. (I mean, you can, but…) You need to be tactical. You need to have a specific audience in mind.

A poorly defined audience (or one that is overly broad) is the root cause of the vast majority of issues I run into when I’m working with someone on their science outreach. From “I don’t know where to start” to “I can’t get anyone to listen/subscribe/come to my talk/donate,” my first question is always going to be “who is your audience?”. My next question is going to be “okay, now can you narrow that down”?.

The temptation is always going to be to have the broadest audience possible. If you aren’t appealing to EVERYONE you might miss out on potential opportunities! You could turn away a potential audience! You could miss out on the chance to be the most beloved science communicator that ever communicated!

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I love Jargon: my three biggest peeves about how we think about science communication. #SciComm

I have a fundamentally tactical approach to science communication, which occasionally puts me at odds with more conventional practices. Some of the most common pieces of advice in scicomm tend to be the least effective for accurately and precisely communicating your message to a target audience.

Release the Kraken.

1. The J-Word.

Jargon. Jargon. Jargon. We’re all supposed to eradicate jargon from our outreach. Jargon should be avoided. We need to rehab our use of jargon. Hone your science writing by only using the ten hundred most common words (because ‘thousand’ isn’t among the top 1000 word). Sure, these are good exercises for thinking about how you communicate science, but as actual communication advice, it’s big animal that makes white drink back end drop.

Jargon is beautiful. Jargon is powerful. Not only are jargon words often more precise than their generic equivalent, but jargon acts as a form of shorthand. It tells your intended audience “hey, friend, this article/film/tweet/podcast is for you”. Outreach in all forms is always targeted towards a specific audience. Using jargon well helps define that audience and helps that audience connect to your piece. Smart use of jargon can make a good piece of outreach into a tactical piece of outreach.

Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think about jargon use at all. Understanding how different words are used in different contexts and how technical language can alienate non-specialist audiences is essential to producing high-quality outreach. But the general advice that we should all just avoid jargon the least effective approach possible.

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