An environmental educator’s field guide to Pokémon Go.

#SciComm, EducationJuly 19, 2016

Pokémon Go is officially a thing.

In the last week, this game has outpaced even Google Maps in number of downloads. It has more daily active users than Twitter. Its user retention rate is astronomical. It is either a herald of the end of western capitalism or a huge boom for small businesses. People are going outside, exploring their neighborhoods, finding dead bodies, walking off cliffs, experiencing nature, getting robbed, making new friends, and getting shot at.

It is the best of tech. It is the worst of tech. Or maybe, it’s just tech, and people can interact with technology in as many ways as there are Pokémon to be found.

Last week, I wrote a brief introduction to this phenomenon, which I won’t rehash here.

But of course, the big question emerging within the sphere of environmental educators is “how can we capitalize on Pokémon Go to engage with the public on environmental issues?”

After spending more time with the app, and focusing on specific features that can facilitate environmental education, I have five suggestions.  (more…)

Fun Science FRIEDay – Open-Acess Science for the Masses

Citizen Science, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, oceanography, Oceanography for Everyone, Open Science, UncategorizedJuly 15, 2016

The oceans belong to all of us. With this simple statement in mind, the Oceanography for Everyone (OfE) project was launched with the goal of making ocean science more accessible. One of the biggest hurdles in conducting ocean science is instrumentation costs, and 4 years ago the OfE team began trying to make one of the most basic ocean science tools, the CTD (a water quality sensor that measures Conductivity-Temperature-Depth), cheaper… much, much cheaper!

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Bill that would ban SCUBA divers from feeding sharks in U.S. waters introduced in Congress

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks

Some SCUBA diving operators use bait or chum to attract sharks so that their customers can get an up close and personal encounter. A new bill that would make this practice illegal in all U.S. waters has just been introduced into Congress. Section 3 of S. 3099, the “Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016,” contains the following provision:

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Tweets from Shark Week 2016

UncategorizedJuly 3, 2016

Below is a Storify of curated tweets from Shark Week 2016 shows, including fact-checking, commentary, praise, and criticism. Enjoy!

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Shark Week 2016 episode reviews

#SciComm

Below are all of my Shark Week 2016 episode reviews from my Facebook page.

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Help crowdfund shark research: understanding the yo-yo dives of a top predator

marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJune 30, 2016

Photo by Zoe Gillam

Photo by Zoe Gillam

Sammy Andrzejaczek grew up ocean obsessed in Western Australia and knew from an early age she wanted to be a marine biologist. She completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Queensland and developed a fascination with all things shark. Her Honours thesis on whale sharks fed that fascination and she has now moved onto a PhD where she is looking at the vertical movements of sharks and other pelagic predatory fishes. She hopes her project on tiger sharks will become the cornerstone of her thesis and enable her to compare findings with other species of shark around the world. In her (limited) spare time she can be found outside – surfing, diving, camping and hiking. She also loves martial arts and is a black belt in Zen Do Kai.  

We live in the age of computers and information. While technology advances, the devices we use are getting smaller and more compact, and we are able to carry a world of information in our pockets. The same can be said for animal-borne tagging devices. Tags no longer just record where an animal is going; rather they are capable of telling us how an animal is moving, measure the physical environment that the animal passes through and record the physiological state of the animal as it undergoes movement.  Some tags even have embedded video cameras that effectively carry us along for the ride as animals go about their daily behaviours. These advances in tagging technology offer a huge potential for researchers to gain an understanding of drivers behind movement patterns, i.e. not just where an animal goes, but how it moves and why it moves to get to a particular destination. For sharks – my study species – most movement research to date has largely focused on horizontal scales i.e. movements across ocean basins or along coastlines. However, marine animals live in a three dimensional environment, moving up and down through the water column as well as across it. It is fair to say that unless we understand how and why animals move in these three dimensions, then we have little chance of getting a real insight into their ecology.

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#JacquesWeek Debrief: The Silent World

#SciCommJune 28, 2016

Last night, as part of #JacquesWeek, we watched The Silent World. The Silent World was Cousteau’s first feature film, was released to wide critical acclaim in 1954, and quickly vanished in a puff of weird copyright shenanigans. Most USians, even die-hard Cousteau fans, have never seen the Silent World.

It’s a tough watch. In order to help prime the #JacquesWeek audience for what was coming, I hosted a pre-viewing briefing, via Facebook live.

live1

The Silent World is an important moment in the history of marine conservation. It represents the birth of a more general public awareness about life beneath the waves. A the time, it was the vast majority of people’s first experience seeing what life looks like underwater. But it also features Cousteau’s team killing a baby whale, attempting to harpoon others, riding sea turtles and land tortoises, and slaughtering sharks. It’s a hard watch. Some of our viewers had to cut out half-way. Even I conveniently got up to mix a stronger drink during some of the worst bits.

After the show, we also hosted a debrief to talk a bit more about the Silent World, put it in context, and talk about how the film fits into the history of ocean conservation:

live2

If you missed this last night, you can still watch The Silent World at your own pace, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s an important film and should be taken, warts and all.

Shark Thrillers as Old as Time – The Tales We Told before Jaws

marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks

unnamedMareike Dornhege is currently finishing up her PhD on shark fisheries in Japan. She is based in Tokyo at Sophia University and after seeing no sharks many times were there should be sharks on reefs all around the world she wanted to dig deeper and find out when we lost them, why and where. She is trying to reconstruct baselines by looking at the history of sharks and humans, talking to old fishermen and of course modern data as well. And she really loves going on that shark-feeding dive about 90 minutes south of Tokyo!
The latest shark thriller The Shallows just hit theaters—coincidentally with Shark Week around the corner – and is latest in a long line of shark thrillers. In the grand, yet predictable fashion of movies like Deep Blue Sea, The Reef or Open Water, it fuels our fear of the sleek ocean predators that was first awakened by the mother of all shark movies, Jaws, in 1975. Or, was it? It is only since the Jaws theme that got stuck in our heads, even if we are just paddling around in a swimming pool at dusk, and images of dangling legs under water, that we got so irrationally scared and obsessed with the well-designed teeth of these fish after all, right?

Actually no. During my research on the history of shark and men I came across some hair-raising anecdotes of monster sharks from the Caribbean and man-hunting mantas that are just a bit older. A few centuries that is. This fishermen’s yarn must be the pre-digital equivalent of this youtube video of a megalodon shark caught on tape, real mermaids, and dragon footage. Let’s look at what they say and then at what the real science behind these stories is.

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Sink Your Teeth into Elasmobranch Science: A Primer on Shark Teeth

marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJune 27, 2016

Josh Moyer PIctureA member of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) and the American Elasmobranch Society (AES), Joshua Moyer is an ichthyologist specializing in the evolution, biodiversity, and morphology of sharks and their relatives. Joshua has co-authored multiple scientific articles about shark teeth and routinely lectures in courses on marine biology, vertebrate biology, and evolution. He earned his Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and is an instructor in the massively open online course (MOOC) in shark biology offered by Cornell and the University of Queensland through edX.org. Follow him on twitter! 

What is a shark without its teeth? For that matter, what is any animal without the ability to process and ingest its food? So important are teeth to the way many jawed vertebrates survive, that you can tell a great deal about an animal just by looking at its teeth, or in some cases, lack thereof. Sharks are no different. By asking a series of questions, you can look at shark teeth and begin to piece together a more complete picture of the shark whose teeth you’re studying.

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Open source. Open science. Open Ocean. Oceanography for Everyone and the OpenCTD

Oceanography for EveryoneJune 24, 2016

Andrew compares the OpenCTD readout to a hand refractometer, because apparently he's a hipster ecologist.

Andrew compares the OpenCTD readout to a hand refractometer, because apparently he’s a hipster ecologist.

Nearly four years ago, Kersey Sturdivant and I launched a bold, ambitious, and, frankly, naive crowdfunding initiative to build the first low-cost, open-source CTD, a core scientific instrument that measures salinity, temperature, and depth in a water column. It was a dream born from the frustration of declining science funding, the expense of scientific equipment, and the promise of the Maker movement. After thousands of hours spent learning the skills necessary to build these devices, hundreds of conversations with experts, collaborators, and potential users around the world, dozens of iterations (some transformed into full prototypes, others that exist solely as software), and one research cruise on Lake Superior to test the housing and depth and temperature probes, the OpenCTD has arrived.

Kersey strike a pose while deploying an OpenCTD in our local estuary.

Kersey strikes a pose while deploying an OpenCTD in our local estuary.

Over the last week, Kersey and I have been hard at work building a battery of CTDs while methodically documenting the construction process. You can watch the event unfurl on the #HackTheOcean hashtag. We now have three new CTDs ready to be distributed to collaborators at various institutions for more field tests and, in particular, to assess the precision of three different conductivity probes, all of which have been calibrated and validated here, in Virginia.

OpenCTD versus commercial CTD temperature and depth test. Conductivity test are occurring this summer, but initial surveys indicated no significant deviation from commercial instruments (indeed, we’re even using a commercial conductivity circuit that has been thoroughly tested in other environmental monitoring contexts.)

Now, finally, after 4 years of challenges and opportunities, of redesigns, re-education, and re-development, it’s time for you to join our open-source community of Citizen Oceanographers and build your own OpenCTD!

We’ve hosted the entire build guide, as well as the software, 3D printer files, support documentation, and raw data from our first research cruise in the Oceanography for Everyone GitHub repository, where you can also find guides and designs for the BeagleBox field computer and the Niskin3D 3D-printable Niskin bottle. 3D print files are also available on Thingiverse, if you’re more comfortable with that platform. We’ve also gone out of our way to make the build as simple as possible. You’ll need to learn basic programming and electronics, but the technical aspects of building your own CTD shouldn’t be a barrier to entry.

Over these four years, the OpenCTD has grown from a single project to a community of citizen oceanographers committed to making the tools needed to study the oceans as accessible as possible. As my friend and colleague Eric Stackpole said upon launching the first OpenROV kickstarter:

“Ocean exploration shouldn’t require a research grant, it should require curiosity.”


Since launching, numerous people have asked us if we can build an OpenCTD for them. We are not really set up to be a manufacturer of CTDs, however, get in touch with either me ([email protected]) or Kersey ([email protected]) and we can talk about holding an OpenCTD training workshop with your institution or organization.

Staff: Andrew David Thaler (1082), David Shiffman (491), Amy Freitag (235), Guest Writer (70), Kersey Sturdivant (43), Chris Parsons (42), Chuck Bangley (18), Michelle Jewell (16), Administrator (2), Sarah Keartes (1), David Lang (1), Iris (1), Michael Bok (0), Lyndell M. Bade (0)
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