Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: Let’s build another trash eating water wheel in Canton!

Ocean KickstarterDecember 8, 2015

Help the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore Build a new Water Wheel powered trash interceptor in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood.

Help Fund the Canton Water Wheel.

I love the Baltimore Trashwheel. Let’s build another one.


In all seriousness, if you haven’t heard about the Baltimore Water Wheel, see my first article, or my 1-year recap at Hakai, or my most recent SFS post, or visit Mr. TrashWheel on Twitter. Of all the tech in all the world proposed to clean trash out of our oceans, these water wheels are the only large scale projects that have best tested and vetted against some serious garbage.


Why I keep returning to the Baltimore Water Wheel

#OceanOptimism, ConservationDecember 5, 2015

Last month, I returned to Baltimore for the National Ocean Exploration Forum. While there, I paid a visit to my old friend, Mr. Trashwheel.

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel is in its second year of operation, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay to the tune of up to 50,000 pounds of trash per day. I have written about this cool piece of engineering and ingenuity several times.

Charm in the fall.

Charm in the fall.

So why do I keep writing and revisiting this project?

It’s working.


So you’ve been asked to review a manuscript? – Tips for the novice reviewer

publishing, Science publishingNovember 28, 2015

Review a manuscript

Any scientist who is trying to publish relies upon the generosity of other scientists to peer-review their work. As any scientist will tell you, this has pros and cons – constructive advice can greatly improve a manuscript and fix flaws, but on the cons side every scientist has stories about the infamous “reviewer #3” who makes every scientist’s life hell at some time or other. As you start to build a name for yourself, you’ll be asked to review manuscripts, and you should! Reviewing manuscripts is an essential task for any academic and is an integral part of academic life – it is basically an obligation. But there is generally no class on “how to review manuscripts” despite it being a critical part of an academic’s job, and the reviewer has a huge responsibility: your review could potentially make, or seriously hamper, someone’s career. Moreover, doing a poor job reviewing could let bad, unscientific research get published, or even prevent important research getting accepted. To help navigate the minefield of reviewing, here are some tips and suggestions for the novice reviewer…


Fun Science FRIEDay – Theory of Relative… easiness??

Fun Science Friday, Natural Science, Science, UncategorizedNovember 20, 2015

This week’s FSF is a bit different. Instead of talking about some relatively new discovery or research endeavor, we are going to focus on an old adage, the Theory of Relativity.  The Theory of Relativity is one of those concepts that is hugely important but very poorly understood outside of the physics community. Instead of me befuddling this really important concept, I am going to share one of the more concise and readily understandable explanations to Einsteins hugely important Theory.

This kid and his explanation is already blowing up the inter-webs, and he does an amazing job of taking a really complicated concept and making it easily digestible, so I needn’t say anymore. Enjoy!



Scanning the Sea: How I create 3D printable ocean objects using a smartphone and free software.

#OceanOptimism, #SciComm, EducationNovember 7, 2015



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.


Fun Science FRIEDay – Virus be good!

Fun Science FridayNovember 6, 2015

“The era of the oncolytic virus is… here.” Stephen Russell, Cancer researcher and haematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnessota

…. and let me be the first to welcome our new virus overlords!

 Viral-based cancer therapy: T cells (orange) are recruited to attack malignant cells (purple). (Photo credit: Dr. Andrejs Liepins/SPL)

Viral-based cancer therapy: T cells (orange) are recruited to attack malignant cells (purple). (Photo credit: Dr. Andrejs Liepins/SPL)

Last week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision that received little fanfare, but has huge implications for modern medicine and how we approach cancer treatment in the US. That decision? The FDA granted their approval for a genetically engineered virus to be used to treat cancer. That virus was the herpesvirus called talimogene laherparepvec, and its use is for the treatment of melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes. This huge decision makes it the first oncolytic virus to receive market approval and could pave the way for more oncolytic viruses to enter the “market.”


Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: Cleaning our oceans one marina at a time.

Conservation, EnvironmentalismNovember 5, 2015

Update 2: Seabin has moved to Indiegogo. Find them here.

Update: Due to issues with the platform, Seabin has suspended its Kickstarter campaign. We will update if there is a relaunch. 

Seabin Project. An automated rubbish bin that lives in the water of marinas and collects floating rubbish, oil, fuel & detergents 24/7

Seabin Project. Cleaning our oceans one marina at a time.

The accumulation of trash in our oceans is a big deal, and while there are some very good systems designed to remove garbage from local waterways, there is also a plethora of questionable projects as well. Seabin, an automated trash collector that catches floating waste, oil, fuel and detergents from marines and other confined, high traffic waterways, fits squarely in that first group. A small, shore-powered, suction driven system draws floating trash into a container, separates oil, fuel, and detergents, and returns clean seawater back to the marina.

This Mallorca-based team has been developing Seabin for several years, and, by all accounts, have poured their time and savings into validating a functional prototype. They’ve been working with marinas and other ocean-tech groups to develop a system that is simple to use and easy to service by a single operator. While the Seabin currently draws high voltage shore power, they have visions of a future alternative-energy system.

Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter criteria! (more…)

The Yellow Admirals of Academia

Academic lifeOctober 31, 2015

As a fan of nautical writers CS Forester and Patrick O’Brian* I do like reading the rollocking adventures of the intrepid Captains of His Majesty’s Navy avasting their mainsails and hoisting their topgallants against the scourge of Emperor Napoleon’s forces. In these books I discovered a new nautical term, a “Yellow Admiral”.

When naval captains of the 18th/19th Century achieved seniority they were promoted to the ranks of admiral. There was no promotion on merit, it was simply a case of surviving until a position opened up. There were three ranks of Admiral (rear Admiral, Vice Admiral and Full Admiral) for each of the main naval forced: the Red, White and Blue squadrons, which were patrolling key strategic areas of the world’s oceans. However, there were some captains that you really did not want to be in charge of a single ship, let alone a naval battle group. These individuals were dubbed “Yellow Admirals” and were given administrative positions on land. As a result, a lot of naval logistics in the Napoleonic wars was mired by incompetence, ego-driven power plays, and financial irregularities. We have something similar in academia: instead we don’t call them Yellow Admirals, we call them Associate Deans.


How I decide whether or not to give an interview to a journalist

#SciCommOctober 28, 2015

I’m quite selective about what journalists/ publication I’ll agree to an interview with, as well as what topics I’ll agree to speak about. I turn down ten or so interviews for every one that I agree to give, though I will often recommend alternative experts for journalists to interview.

First and foremost, if I don’t have time, I won’t do a media interview. My primary job is to focus on my Ph.D. research so I can finish and graduate. If it means helping a friend or taking advantage of an amazing opportunity for exposure, I may be able to reshuffle around some time, but that’s only for exceptional circumstances. Similarly, I’ll generally only do interviews before or after work, while I’m in the car between campus and home, or during my lunch break, because my main job comes first. (more…)

Frequently asked questions about sharks (and about me)

BloggingOctober 27, 2015

Every week on twitter (and every few weeks on my Facebook fan page,) I host a one hour “ask me anything” session. I also give lots of interviews to the press, and occasionally answer high school students’ questions about what my job is like for class projects. Some of the same questions tend to come up over and over. Here are some frequently asked questions and my answers to them.  Feel free to quote anything on this page for a class project or media article and attribute it to me. 

1. What is your job?

A:  I am a Ph.D. candidate and research assistant at the University of Miami. “Candidate” vs. “student” means that I passed my qualifying exams, an important test for graduate students. Research assistant means that my funding comes from doing research and not teaching. Depending on my audience, I’ve also described myself as a marine biologist, a shark researcher, an ecologist, a conservation biologist, a science communicator, or simply a scientist.


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