Below you’ll find a document I’ve been thinking about for more than a decade. I teach marine science field skills to undergraduates and graduate students at Field School and the University of Miami, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to observe science and scientific learning in action. This is my best effort to distill the key principles I’ve learned about creating a healthy, supportive working environment. Starting the year, my students at Field School will all read and sign on to these principles before working with us.
It feels important to add that cultures are the product of choices and actions (or inaction). They don’t create themselves; they are created by the people within them. That means, sadly, that in every toxic organization there are people who choose, and benefit (or think they benefit) from that toxicity. The good news is that it also means we can choose something else. It’s not out of our hands.
I’ve spent a lot of my time thinking about how to create
welcoming, supportive learning environments for all of my students. And no: I
don’t believe compassion and acceptance mean you have to sacrifice scientific rigor—in
fact, I think students learn and grow more in these settings.
If you are also engaged in looking for solutions to the systemic problems in how we train future marine scientists, please feel free to join me by sharing this, implementing it in your own teaching, or reaching out with suggestions for how it can be improved based on your knowledge and practice. If you are a student who is struggling with these issues and you need advice or a friendly ear, please know that you are not alone, and my inbox is always open to you.
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:
They are memorable.
They incorporate knowledge with action.
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!
August’s reward is a row from the tooth plate of a spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari! The original specimen is housed at the University of Tennessee fossil collection, and the 3D scan was shared online as part of the FOSSIL project.
I asked University of Florida/Florida Museum Ph.D. student Jeanette Pirlo about the FOSSIL project:
” The FOSSIL Project is an NSF funded project, based out of the University of Florida and the Florida Museum, devoted to cultivating a networked community of practice in which fossil club members and professional paleontologists collaborate in learning the practice of science and outreach. The myFOSSIL.org website is the platform from which our members can collaborate by sharing their fossil finds, curate their personal collections, and participate in ongoing paleontological research” – Jeanette Pirlo
A full set of Spotted Eagle Ray Jaws showing multiple tooth rows fused into a plate, photo by Cathleen Bester courtesy Jeanette Pirlo at the Florida Museum. The specific individual tooth row that was scanned here, photo by Maggie Limbeck, University of Tennessee Masters Candidate. And the 3D printed version
Learn more about the spotted eagle ray and it’s teeth below!
Last month, while traveling to Kuching for Make for the Planet Borneo, I had an idea for the next strange ocean education project: what if we could use bone-conducting headphones to “see” the world like a dolphin might through echolocation?
Spoilers: You can. Photo by A. Freitag.
Bone-conducting headphones use speakers or tiny motors to send vibrations directly into the bone of you skull. This works surprisingly well for listening to music or amplifying voices without obstructing the ear. The first time you try it, it’s an odd experience. Though you hear the sound just fine, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming through your ears. Bone conduction has been used for a while now in hearing aids as well as military- and industrial-grade communications systems, but the tech has recently cropped up in sports headphones for people who want to listen to music and podcasts on a run without tuning out the rest of the world. Rather than anchoring to the skull, the sports headphones sit just in front of the ear, where your lower jaw meets your skull.
This is not entirely unlike how dolphins (and at least 65 species of toothed whales) detect sound. Read More
Jacques Week begins this Sunday, July 22, 2018! Join us for a week-long celebration of the ocean documentarian who started it all! Without Jacques there would be no Blue Planet, no Mission Blue, and no Shark Week. All next week we’re watching classic Jacques Cousteau Documentaries, discussing ocean science and conservation, and celebrating all things Ocean!
Most of these films will available online. Some will require purchase. We’ve provided links to the for-purchase options and offer alternates if you can’t find them. It’s become nearly impossible to find copies of the Jacques Cousteau Odyssey collection, so, though this series includes some of my all time favorites, we’re going to phase them out this year and instead lean more heavily on River Explorations for more recent Cousteau work. Links to all available films can be found at the JacquesWeek2017 YouTube playlist.
Jacques Week is a collective viewing experience. We’ll provide links to each piece of media, due a countdown on Twitter, and then everyone hits play at the same(ish) time and we watch these incredible documentaries together. Read More
I have a bit of a soft spot for classic navigational instruments. In an age where more people interact with maps than ever before and yet spend much less time plotting their own course, being able to look up at the sky and discern your place in the world is a powerful skill. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly easy to make your own navigational instruments. Unless, of course, you have your own laser cutter.
The first month’s reward comes from one of the most (in)famous sharks of all time, Carcharocles megalodon! The first 3D printed Patreon reward is a meg tooth, an exact copy of the meg tooth that has been used to educate thousands of students at UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum!
The original tooth
Here are some things to know about Carcharocles megalodon!
Ah, the transition from middle school to high school… the one part of adolescence no one reminisces about fondly. It’s the time in our lives where mental and physical changes happen at pace without any apparent continuity, and we feel compelled to blend in. This is the same time when most young girls’ interest in STEM stops, and in my educator/zoologist opinion, these events are related.
What does our culture gear teenage girls to prioritize? Making varsity teams, growing boobs to the correct size and at the correct time, and completing enough social jostling to earn the superhuman prom date. Most of the STEM-geared young girls I have worked with couldn’t care less about the above – but the attitude of their peers changes by the end of 8th grade.
Students of both sexes in 6th grade will happily discuss how rainbows are made and share their mutual wonder if the natural world, but those conversations quickly become “immature” when the puberty plague takes hold. It’s also in 8th grade when boys enter a race to the bottom of inappropriate jokes fueled by mutual insecurities. Suddenly, STEM-interested pupils find that their friends are segregating, fashion forward girls to one side and crude boys to the other, leaving a handful who want to discuss the space/time continuum floundering somewhere in the middle.
Then, regardless of where you sit on the social divide, hormones kick in. This critical time is when young people figure out how to create partnerships, what constitutes a good or bad relationship, and the physics of copulation. In addition to this, obtaining a socially higher-ranking partner becomes an unconscious priority. Guess what most young men think is unattractive in women? Intelligence(unless you’re beautiful enough to compensate). YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY.