A shortened – and less ribald – version of this post was published 24-07-2017 in the International Business Times.
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.
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)
That ambassador is Bathynomus giganteus, the giant, deep-sea isopod.
A giant deep sea isopod on the sea floor. Photo via NOAA Photobank.
Conservation has long had the concept of Flagship Species—popular, charismatic species that serve as rallying points for conservation awareness and action. Formalized within the framework of conservation marketing, flagship species are focused around particular goals and audiences. Think of the WWF’s Giant Panda, Polar Bears and a thousand different arctic or climate change campaigns, or even the American Bald Eagle, whose decline galvanized the country into action. These animals are iconic. They connect people to species and ecosystems in crisis. They are Flagship Species.
The Giant Deep-sea Isopod is not a flagship species. The Giant Deep-sea Isopod addresses a much more fundamental issue: despite being the largest, most diverse ecosystem on the planet, most people have no direct connection, no frame of reference, for the deep sea. Read More
Picture a pill bug, roly poly, woodlouse, or doodle bug, an animal found under rocks and logs throughout the United States. Now picture an animal similar to that pill bug, but as big as a cat, crawling across the Gulf of Mexico. That is the giant deep-sea isopod.
The deep waters of the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone is home to this large, recognizable animal, which can reach almost 2 feet in length. Since their discovery in the late 19th century, giant isopods have captured the public’s imagination, acting as an Ambassador Species for deep-sea ecosystems. Ambassador Species are important for education, exploration, and conservation as they provide a charismatic icon to help introduce people to new and unfamiliar places.
WHEREAS: Read More
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I think everyone would agree that the current US presidential election has been one for the history books … and not in a good way. One of the running themes in this election has been how many people do not understand the difference between a verified fact and something they saw on “the interwebs”. That “doing research” to far too many in the US means Googling until they find a website that supports their opinion (and ignoring any other source that does not). Those involved in science communication have long been aware of this problem, especially those involved in communicating issues such as climate change, evolution and health issues. However, perhaps now more of the country is aware that the lack of public understanding of what a fact is has become a major problem, and how substantive the proportion of the country is that can’t tell the difference between a fact and a belief or opinion or, quite frankly, a bold-faced lie. Perhaps now more people realize how dangerous it can be when facts no longer matter.
As a few of you have noticed, we recently added a tiny new member to our little ocean outreach empire. A new baby opens up a chance for us to explore a whole new world of ocean-themed content tailored to our newest explorers. As a family of marine biologists, we very quickly accumulated a massive library of ocean-themed baby books, some amazing, some not-so-amazing.
After critical review by two PhDs in Marine Science and Conservation, for both scientific accuracy and pure delightfulness, here are my top 5 baby books to get your ocean education started off right.
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.
Sherry must have written this book specifically for me, since Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna is already my most widely distributed paper. I know a few things about giant squids. I really love this book. The art is colorful and engaging. The story has a hilarious twist. It’s grounded in real ocean critters (though there’s something funky going on with that jellyfish). And there’s an important lesson about hubris and trophic position in marine food webs. Read More
The American Elasmobranch Society is the world’s oldest and largest professional association of shark and ray scientists
The American Elasmobranch Society, the world’s oldest and largest professional society focusing on the scientific study and management of sharks and their relatives, is now welcoming applications for the 2nd year of our Young Professional Recruitment Fund diversity initiative. Awardees will be given one year of Society membership, in addition to specialized professional development training, mentorship, and networking opportunities specific to their needs as scientists and professionals from developing nations or historically underrepresented minority groups.
Applications, which can be found here, are due by 5 P.M. U.S. eastern standard time on Tuesday, November 15th. All winners will be notified by Friday, December 16th.
To be eligible for a Young Professional Recruitment Fund award, applicants must fill out the application and demonstrate that they:
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.
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.
So 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
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. Read More
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Summer is here, and with it comes the perennial ocean explosion that is Shark Week. Last year, in response to Shark Week burn out (heck, David and I even published a paper on it) and being tired of becoming the saltiest of wet blankets during a week where people are excited about the oceans, we launched #JacquesWeek! #JacquesWeek is an online alternative the Shark Week. We sourced and screened Jacques Cousteau documentaries from the early years all the way through his later works and provide context and discussion from an array of marine scientists and explorers.
#JacquesWeek is back!
From June 26 to July 1, we’ll feature classic Cousteau films, hold Twitter discussions, and host a few hangouts with experts to discuss these films and help put them into context. As with last year, we will try to provide as many free options as possible (due to some very complex issues surrounding copyright, the Cousteau estate, a production company that no longer exists, and some fascinating interpersonal politics, many of Cousteau’s earlier films are de facto public domain) but we will also be drawing from his later series: The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey, Jacques Cousteau Pacific Explorations and Jacques Cousteau River Explorations which you will have to track down on DVD (but don’t worry, alternate suggestions are also provided)
Are you ready for adventure?