For the past few days I, like many of you, have felt a variety of intense emotions. First and foremost I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of relief. No matter what happens next, Donald Trump is no longer President of the United States, and he and his enablers can no longer work to destroy so much of what we love and value (at least not as easily). We can start the hard work of fixing so many things that have been awful and growing worse every day. I’ve felt hope that we can start to make things better, and I’ve even felt a little bit of joy at the noteworthy progress that’s already been made. All of this was expected, but one thing I haven’t expected is how much of a particular sensation I’m feeling, and have seen other people report feeling as well. For some of my friends it was a totally unfamiliar sensation, but as a marine scientist I recognized it immediately: many of us are basically experiencing landsickness, also called “dock rock” or “mal de debarquement syndrome”.Read More
Eleven years is a long life for a science blog. Southern Fried Science was born in 2008, when the main writers were all graduate students. Over the last decade the online landscape has changed. Science Communication changed with it, adapting and evolving to meet an ever-shifting ecosystem. Looking back on the last decade and thinking about the next, it’s becoming easier to see where we went wrong. It’s not quite as easy to determine what we need to correct the course.
This is not a scientific assessment, this is my own personal observations from the last decade of running Southern Fried Science, from teaching Social Media for Environmental Communications for the last 7 years, from working with Upwell, one of the most dynamic and visionary ocean NGOs ever conceived, from helping build and launch multiple online platforms, dozens of novel programs, and hundreds of outreach campaigns, and from spending a lot of time since November 2016 reflecting on what we’ve done wrong.
That Hideous Deficit
Do we really need another 200 words on how bad the deficit model is and why it needs to die?
The basic premise: that science perception and policy is shaped by an information deficit and that if we just make good science education content and spread it, we can combat the spread of misinformation, people will learn, and everything will get better.
It doesn’t work. It never worked. And it ignores the reality that misinformation is manufactured for political and financial gain, with tremendous incentives and, often, far better funding than science outreach campaigns. But beyond that, multiple studies have shown that, when confronted with information that challenges their fundamental world view, people don’t throw out their worldview, they reject the science, creating a more entrenched and intractable audience.Read More
Ever since I moved to Washington, DC last summer, I’ve been fascinated by an ad campaign for the DC Metro. The premise of the campaign is simple: taking public transit reduces your carbon footprint compared with driving yourself. It highlights various negative consequences of climate change, and points out how riding the Metro can help fight them.
Many of these ads highlight well-known consequences of climate change:
Others highlight less well-known consequences of climate change, but are still on solid scientific ground:
But one ad in particular has been perplexing me for months:Read More
Just when you thought it was safe to read another decade-in-review listicle…
As the 2010’s come to an end, it’s a time to reflect on the often-problematic decade that was as we plan for a hopeful future. I am a sucker for year-in-review and decade-in-review listicles, and was devastated to learn that no one had yet written a decade-in-review listicle for sharks! Please enjoy my official, scientific list of the most important science, conservation, and pop culture sharks from the past decade.Read More
Every scientist I work with spends most of the day communicating, whether that’s preparing grants, manuscripts, theses, outreach talks, emails to colleagues/students… the list goes on. However, most of these outlets share fairly strict formatting rules. Grants comes with pages of guidelines. Talks have defined who I am, what I did, found, next, thank you slide. While this sterile approach is arguably fundamental to science’s critical tenant of replication, it makes for terrible communication.
It’s easy to get discouraged or demoralized as an environmentalist in today’s world. It seems like every day brings more devastating news. Half of the world’s wildlife has died in my parents’ lifetime, and current rates of extinction may be up to 10,000 times higher than the natural background rate. We’re losing a terrifying number of birds and insects, and a million species are considered threatened or endangered. Things are bad enough that “eco anxiety” is now a recognized mental health condition.
It is said that in the environmental movement, all of our victories are temporary, and all of our defeats are permanent. Much of the current focus of environmental advocacy has been described as “playing against the slaughter rule,” hoping not to win but to avoid getting totally wiped out in our inevitable loss.
In the face of all this, I’m often asked how I can remain so optimistic, and so motivated to keep working. Some people are surprised to learn that a large part of my answer comes from my Jewish faith.Read More
The “life of sharks” webcomic, which features real facts about sharks along with clever humor, is taking the internet by storm! Creators Christian Talbot (writer) and Sophie Hodge (Illustrator) were kind enough to answer some of my questions about their comic and where they get their ideas. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and check out their online store. Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
David: Tell me about your comic. Why sharks?
Sophie: Mostly the comic is about the minutiae of everyday life, relationships and emotions. That’s kind of funny when you put it into the mouths of fish that are perceived to be cold hearted killers.
Christian: They can be about anything, really. I just like the way we can anthropomorphize the sharks. Sharks just seemed like the funniest animal to try and give human emotions to and put into relationships because they’re seen as being cold, solitary, killing machines. Plus sharks are just cool. Also, sharks can’t claim royalties.
I have a love-hate relationship with movies like this, by which I mean that I love them and I hate myself for loving them. While movies like “Jaws” had a measurable negative effect on public perception of sharks, I don’t believe that more obviously ridiculous movies like SharkNado have a similar effect. Jason Statham playing a marine biologist in a movie that includes Rainn Wilson? Sign me up.
If not for the people who believe that these movies are real and therefore decide to yell at marine biologists on twitter about it, I’d be all for this. Let’s be totally clear here- Carcharocles megalodon is extinct, and here’s how we know. Shark Week lied to you about it. Actresses from this movie asking about it are not experts. This movie is completely fictional. You can certainly watch it and enjoy it, but please don’t cite it as evidence that a 50 foot long whale-eating shark that used to live in shallow coastal waters near what are now populated areas is not extinct.
Anyway, here is a scene-by scene breakdown of what’s in the first trailer. From it, we can tell that this is an action-packed movie with a great cast that does not stick too closely to the books, and is also not particularly interested in scientific accuracy even with respect to issues unrelated to the “giant extinct animals are actually not extinct”central conceit.
Southern Fried Science is growing! Thanks to Patreon and a few passive income streams, for the first time in almost a decade, we’re able to begin paying our volunteer writers for their outreach efforts. This year, we’ve established the Southern Fried Science Writers’ Fund to begin paying out compensation for all the incredible work that David, Amy, Chuck, Kersey, Chris, Sarah, Solomon, and Michelle have put in to making this website one of the most read marine science and conservation blog on the internet.
With the exception of a few weird months in 2010, this site has always been 100% free and ad free. But that doesn’t mean it’s free to run. Support from our fans keeps the lights on and the server humming, and now, with the Writers’ Fund, fan support also goes towards getting your favorite ocean writers compensated for their work. There are currently 3 ways to support your favorite Southern Fried Science writers in 2018.
Subscribe to our Patreon Campaign. My Patreon campaign, Andrew Thaler is creating tools for ocean science and conservation, is, by a very wide margin, the primary source of funding for Southern Fried Science. Patreon supporters get exclusive, behind the scenes access, a few surprises, and, of course, the legendary Jaunty Ocean Critter stickers. We now have a subscription tier just for the Southern Fried Science Writers Fund, so if you want to ensure that 100% of you contribution (minus Patreon fees) goes towards supporting our writers, sign up for the $5 per month subscription. There’s also options to cover server costs, support Oceanography for Everyone, or contribute to our general project fund. Even $1 a month makes a huge difference.
Use our Amazon Affiliate Link. Occasionally you might find an Amazon Affiliate link embedded in an article, if, for example, we’re talking about a book or a new tool or presenting a bill of materials for a new project. When you use these links to buy something, we get a small kickback from Amazon. This is the closest thing to an ad that you’ll see on Southern Fried Science. You can also use this Amazon Affiliate Link to go straight to Amazon and we’ll get a tiny percentage of anything you buy from them. So when you’re ready for a 3D printer or a new hagfish textbook or a $36,000 Wyland original oil painting of dancing orcas, consider using our Amazon Affiliate Link. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it helps us out a ton.
Send a one-time PayPal donation. If Amazon isn’t your jam and you’re not ready to commit to a monthly subscription or you’d just rather send one lump sum, you can send a contribution to me via PayPal. Just make a note that it’s for the Southern Fried Science Writers’ Fund or Southern Fried Science in general.
Unfortunately, because of the way we’ve structured Southern Fried Science, Oceanography for Everyone, and other properties that fall under the same aegis, contributions to Southern Fried Science are not tax deductible.
Heather Cooke graduated with an environmental science degree from George Mason University and studied marine biology. She is now a dive instructor and runs Culebra Divers on Culebra Island. This article was written during brief moments of power on Culebra Island.
As General Manager of Culebra Divers in Culebra, Puerto Rico for the last 2.5 years, I have enjoyed our semi-arid island with its brief storms. Known for one of the safer harbors in the Caribbean, my husband and I watched tropical storm after tropical storm and hurricane after hurricane pass us by. What I am writing is based on our experiences and what others around me have experienced or shared from their families on our sister islands.
Culebra the smallest of 3 islands that make up what you know as Puerto Rico (the “mainland”, Vieques, and us) and we’re 17 miles from the mainland itself. To get here you fly from San Juan or take a ferry from the mainland’s east coast. We get all our food and fuel via that same ferry system. Our water and power travel under the ocean from the mainland through Vieques and then to us so if anything happens to either of those islands, we are screwed. The island has a rag tag rental generator and no desalination plant.
As I write this, it has been 34 days since Maria and 48 since Irma and we still lack non-generator power, reliable daily water, and cell service not provided by some other island.