Here’s what top science news stories of the year listicles said are the top marine science news stories of the year

Year-in-review news roundups are one of my favorite parts of December. I really enjoy remembering all of the interesting and inspiring things that happened over the past year, especially after a rough year like this one. I especially enjoy “top science news of the year” roundups, and I was pleased to see marine science stories make the cut on many of them. For your “but why is this considered a top story but that isn’t” debating pleasure, here are the marine science news stories that made top science news stories of the year listicles!

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The Worlds First Empirical ‘How-To’ Get Into Graduate School Book

Many years ago as a graduate student at the College of William & Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, my former officemate (Noelle Relles) and I came up with a novel idea: take all the disparate information out there about strategies for getting into graduate school in the natural sciences and coalesce them into a single concise yet comprehensive text. Essentially develop a How-To book about graduate school. But we wanted the book to be more than just instructional anecdotes. We were scientist, and thought it would be useful to add a level of empiricism to the book. We wanted to write a How-To book where the conclusion were driven by results from a national survey of graduate admissions offices in the USA. At the time, writing a book based on a national survey of graduate programs seemed like quite a long-shot as we were both a number of years removed from getting our PhDs, and the most pressing issues in our lives at that time were graduating and finding free food and alcohol.

Living the life of a graduate student at VIMS’ infamous Fall Party. (Photo credit: Kersey Sturdivant)

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Diversity is Resilience

We stand at a crossroads.

Southern Fried Science has occupied a unique niche in the online ocean community. We have defended commercial and recreational fishers as often as we have opposed them. We have at times stood behind ocean conservation policy and at times pushed back against excessive legislation. We have criticised those within our community and those without. We have been radically libertarian and radically socialist and every label in between.

We are comfortable joining the long call, the great song that booms from the belly of a blue whale, and circles the world as it echoes through the community.

We are comfortable being the lone cry of dissent, pushing back against the onslaught of righteous exuberance.

We have never sought consensus, only common ground.

For almost a year now a phrase has been rattling around inside my head. At first it was just  catchy cadence, something to use on the next article. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand what it really means; how deeply it permeates almost every aspect of life on this planet.

Diversity is resilience. Read More

I trained a recursive neural network on old Southern Fried Science posts, then asked it about the future of ocean conservation.

Over the weekend, I decided to try my hand at some deep-learning using recurrent neural networks to create a text-writing bot trained on old Southern Fried Science posts. After 48 hours of training, the Southern Fried AI was born. This is what it has to say about the future of ocean conservation.


In the future, ocean conservation priorities will be dictated by the conservation conservation project. In the post of energy sharks and most of the greatest over the study has been conservation and dedicated to watch of conservation, the all new way that was she than a community to show better some astronation there is a research work (and sharks) in a more server shows of the research design of a discovery of campaign that even the results of some of the operational shark sources in the Climate change for the ensing and make that it may also end in the science of the response to the population of positions of marine scientists with my most months of cheap more and the project of a shark (with sampling and interesting proposal great from the final fishermen in the science and species of mermaids and other projects with some of the career of the Sea How and has a project that will be a dogfish down their beran place to go as a restoration and the ocean that submerse to have interesting a public posting ocean deciding enough to be asking “we could can be among the transports that is a shark critical components.”

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Ocean Outreach in an Evolving Online Ecosystem: Exploration wants to be shared

This is the transcript of the keynote I delivered at the Fourth International Marine Conservation Congress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It has been lightly modified for flow.

Read Act II: Transforming the Narrative.

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Now I want to shift gears and look towards the future, where we’re going, and what tools are available to help us get there. Because the future of ocean outreach, and really the future of ocean conservation, comes down to this one concept: “Exploration wants to be shared”.

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Sealand courtesy the Daily Beast

The online ocean ecosystem is full of platforms–preexisting tools that allow us to produce, share, broadcast, enhance, and manage our outreach campaigns. Not just the obvious ones like Twitter and Facebook, but more niche tools like Slack, github, Ushahidi, medium, and yes, even PokemonGo, or if you want something a bit more serious, consider R as something that’s not just a statistics package, but a way to share your own software and data with the scientific community.

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Ocean Outreach in an Evolving Online Ecosystem: Transforming the Narrative

This is the transcript of the keynote I delivered at the Fourth International Marine Conservation Congress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It has been lightly modified for flow.

Read Act I: Science is Storytelling. 

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In Act I I discussed the underlying structure that frames narrative storytelling, but now I want to talk about how we can use the tools available to us on the internet to transform that narrative into something even more potent.

But before we can do that I have to tilt at some windmills.

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When we talk about good outreach, we often look to people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, like Bill Nye, like David Attenborough, and like Carl Sagan. These are the paragons of scientific outreach, the icons that we often hold up as examples for what constitutes good outreach. We talk about things like Cosmos, both Sagan’s and deGrasse Tyson’s, Bill Nye the Science Guy and his more recent work combating climate change, or David Attenborough and his astounding Nature Documentaries. Read More

Ocean Outreach in an Evolving Online Ecosystem: Science is Storytelling

This is the transcript of the keynote I delivered at the Fourth International Marine Conservation Congress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It has been lightly modified for flow. 

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Good morning and thank you all for coming, especially this early after a long week of conferencing. What I want to do today is talk a little bit about the history of online outreach, talk about how to build effective outreach campaigns, and look towards the future to think about how new technologies are shaping and reshaping the ways in which we think about public engagement with science and conservation.

Picture3So science is storytelling. Sometimes that story an adventure. Sometimes it’s a mystery. Sometimes it’s the dense and weighty exposition of Ulysses and sometimes it’s the absurdity of Finnegan’s Wake, but it is always a story. Read More

Trading blue collars for scarlet robes, my working-class experience of academic life

More people are going to college, graduate school, and obtaining PhDs in STEM fields than ever before (Figure 1), and a growing minority of these PhD candidates are non-traditional or not white affluent males. While we celebrate this change, let us not forget that academia was built by – and for – the “traditional” student. My favourite analogy to explain this type of ingrown privilege is bicycles on USA streets. Bicycles are legally allowed to be on streets, some streets even have extra space just for bicycles, but streets were designed for automobiles. You may be allowed and, in some areas, encouraged to get on the street with your bicycle, but biking a street is going to be intrinsically more difficult than if you were driving a car.

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Like Marconi and La Bamba in a city built on rock and roll, you will inevitably end up in situations that conflict with your way of life. You will not receive a warning before you stumble upon these bumps, and you will be judged by how quickly you accept traditional standards (if you can).  I remember a conversation with traditional tenured and tenure-track scientists discussing proposals for a large grant scheme. One tenure-track scientist was lamenting the process of shopping for editors for his proposal. He talked about it freely, how there were two companies that charged different rates and he was in talks with one but that company felt a conflict of interest that he had worked with another rival editing company. The rest of the traditional scientists nodded in mutual understanding. Finding good, cheap editors to improve your work is hard. My working-class ethos was busy screaming inside my head.  How can hiring someone to edit and improve written works that you will ultimately be rewarded for be so blithely acceptable? You’re not allowed to hire editors for any task throughout your training. You learn how to write from earning disappointing grades (or failing grant applications). You read more, you study written works, you develop a voice, and you try again. The results get better until you are at an appropriate level to move up another notch on the ladder, right? Not for traditionals.

Here are some more bizarre “traditional” customs you should expect if you are biking down the academic street:

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