Search Results for: science communication

How do you talk about climate change to your neighbors?

On this website I’ve written about climate change extensively over the years. Sea level rise is a settled fact and 10 justifications ocean acidification is a serious concern were posts from five years ago and still very timely topics. But nonetheless it still seems like a subject that I tend to hesitate or stall when speaking to family, friends, and neighbors. It’s not that I fear that I might stumble upon skeptics or deniers but my technique for crafting the conversation with confidence just isn’t there. As a formal educator in the classroom I tended to have plenty of confidence as I was in a setting where I could do demonstrations and present and discuss realtime data often. I was very excited to stumble upon the Climate Stewards webinar on Teaching the Science & Rhetoric of Climate ChangeStrategies, Pitfalls, and Keeping Your Chin Above Water in Turbulent Times presented Dr. Krista Hiser and Dr. Wendy Kuntz from the University of Hawaii, Kapi’olani Community College.

Sometimes I tend to make evening webinars a background while working on other projects (Shhh …!), but, I was taken and envious of the course these professors had developed. You see Dr. Hiser is a professor of Composition and Rhetoric and Dr. Kuntz is an Associate Professor of Biology and Ecology. This is a marriage made in heaven for science communication and all of their students! In the presentation for their class they discussed the importance of this relationship and is highlighted in the class overview “Climate change is complex and multi-faceted. Student learning is most lasting and positive when reinforced across disciplines.”

An important aspect of the class they talked about was a service learning project so I’ve given up hope of taking it online anytime soon. However, my amazing takeaways (i.e., as a person that wants to keep it simple for the readers here) were some ideas on how to be poised and self-assured when skirting around the discussion of climate change. The professors brought up the controversial DYK that the Associated Press states that “to describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science. Avoid use of skeptics or deniers.” When I heard this a light came on for me … I thought well in any discussion all I might need to do is erase some doubt by pointing to mainstream climate science. Sounds easy? But, any audience is going to have to have an understanding of Earth’s Energy Balance. When I think of the Earth’s Energy Balance I tend to think of the atmospheric and water cycle with man-made ingredients such as deforestation and fossil fuel emissions added. This is a relationship that is clearly unbalanced and can be linked to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

The next part of the webinar included some advice on what would be most effective in conversations with confidence. Here are five ideas that I hope to practice in my new Chicagoland home:

  • Commit to having at least 3-5 facts that you can understand and CAN REPEAT
  • Provide measurable actions someone can do
  • Create a metaphor for what climate change is to you or your local audience
  • Name some of the impacts in your local or national area
  • Define what climate change may do in 20 years in your area

Some ideas that I will plan to avoid will be:

  • Stray from green rhetoric such as “the future”, “children” and “the earth”
  • Avoid any debate

Thank you to everyone at NOAA Climate Stewards, Dr. Hiser, and Dr. Kuntz for this important and informative webinar. You can listen to the webinar here. If you have any other strategies or ideas for effective climate change discussion please share below!

Ocean 180: A contest to create a compelling 3 minute video on your latest ocean study

cosee_floridaMovie makers … find a marine scientist with a paper published between January 1, 2008 and November 30, 2013. Marine scientists … find a movie maker with some serious skills for interpreting science. Have the dual set of skills? It’s time to get to work.

The Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Florida is sponsoring the Ocean 180 Video Challenge contest.  I love this idea, not only because it promotes science communication skills and teamwork, but because the judges who will pick the final three videos are potential future ocean scientists … 6th-8th graders from classrooms all over the globe!

Also, it doesn’t hurt that they entice you with a cash prize (but, you didn’t get into marine science or movie making for the money, did you?). The top three video abstracts will receive cash prizes of $3,000 (1st place), $2,000 (2nd place) and $1,000 (3rd place). All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. PT on December 1, 2013.

oceans180Which fields of ocean sciences are eligible to participate?
The Ocean 180 encourages scientists from all fields of ocean science to participate in the competition, including (but not limited to) the following:
  • Biological oceanography/marine biology: plankton, benthic organisms, biology and ecology of marine and estuarine invertebrates and vertebrates, ecology, taxonomy, molecular biology.
  • Physical oceanography: currents and waves, air-sea interactions, ocean modeling, near shore and coastal processes, bio-physical coupling.
  • Chemical oceanography/marine chemistry: trace elements, isotopes, nutrient dynamics, organic substances, gases.
  • Geological oceanography/marine geology: geophysics, sedimentology, paleontology, sediment dynamics.
  • Marine pollution: analysis and monitoring of pollutants, fates of contaminants, aquatic toxicology, ecotoxicology.
  • Marine policy: regional, national, and international marine policies, management, regulation, and protection of marine fisheries and resources, conservation and use of marine resources.

Find the complete set of guidelines and more FAQS for submitting a movie and for teachers interested in having their classroom judge at http://ocean180.org/. I cannot wait to check out the winning entry … Good luck, everyone!

‘Beneath the Wave’ film festival seeks submissions

The Beneath the Waves Film Festival is back for its third year and is currently accepting submissions!

This festival is entirely student-run and is held in conjunction with the Benthic Ecology Meeting, a scientific conference. Alexandra Warneke, a student committee member for the festival, states, “the goal is to encourage widespread science communication by inspiring people to tell stories of their science and conservation efforts”. Submissions are welcomed from any ocean enthusiast, from professional filmmakers to students to scientists. The deadline for submissions is February 24, 2012 and the festival will be held in Norfolk, Virginia in March. You do not need to be present at the festival to submit a film. To learn more about the festival and the submission process, please see our website:http://www.beneaththewavesfilmfest.org/

So you think you want to be a marine biologist?

Have you ever watched an epic movie about the sea and dreamed of being a “marine biologist” or “oceanographer”? Have you ever had thoughts after that thought about … what is the difference between a “marine biologist” and “oceanographer”? Marine biology, or the study of life in the sea, is actually just one branch of the oceanography tree. Oceanography is the larger discipline of describing and recording the contents and processes of the ocean. There are four branches of oceanography. Check out the difference below:

  • If you are a chemical oceanographer you might study (but, are not limited to …): the sea’s oxygen levels and their impact on marine life; toxic dumping; vents on the ocean floor; rainfalls.
  • If you are a physical oceanographer you might study (but, are not limited to …): oil spills and their travel patterns, ocean currents, alternative power, beaches, and shorelines.
  • If you are a marine geologist you might study (but are not limited to …): maps the ocean floor, volcanoes, trenches, abyssal plains, and helps predict the continental drift.
  • If you are a biological oceanographer (e.g., marine biologist) you might study (but, are not limited to …): ocean plants, animals, and all other sea life (i.e., bacteria!).

So, where do you fit in to all of these? Take this fun and informal online quiz from the New Hampshire Sea Grant to see which branch of oceanography would suit you best. My results are below! Go figure the “related fields” includes education.

What was your score? Anything surprising?

Mother Nature vs. Santa Claus? 13 reasons Mother Nature should always win

Say it isn’t so! Unfortunately, it’s the truth: Toys ‘R’ Us has pitted Mother Nature against Father Christmas.

In case you missed the buzz in late October and early November about the Trees vs. Toys commercial I’ll share some of the outrage (that I share, but haven’t expressed until now) from Twitter.

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So how exactly did Toys ‘R’ Us miss the mark? Well, they portrayed nature as a drab, boring place and toys as much more exciting. However, here is a list (in no particular order) of compelling reasons from doctors and other experts in the environmental education field on why kids need nature, not just toys, in their lives.

1. “Children who climb trees, make mud pies, explore streams, stare at clouds, collect leaves, make swords of sticks, wish on dandelions, build forts and fairy houses—these children are exercising their bodies as they exercise their imaginations, with no batteries required, and are immeasurably the richer for it.” Todd Christopher, Senior Director of Online Communications with National Parks Conservation Association and author of The Green Hour

2. “Time outdoors reduces obesity, improves academic learning and behavior, and helps gets kids excited about learning.” Amanda Paulson, Staff Writer with Christian Science Monitor

3. “Because our health is intimately linked to the health of our environment, we can’t have one without the other.  In order to protect and conserve the environment, we must first value it.  In order to value it, we must know it, and in order to know it we must touch, smell, breathe, and experience Nature.  By getting people outside in Nature, I find that much more happens than weight reduction, lower heart rate, and a sense of focus and well-being.” Dr. Robert Zarr, Founder of Parks Rx

4. “Of tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works.” Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine

5. “If you get outdoors, you’re more likely to be active.” Dr. Pooja Tandon, author of study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

6. “While playtime is important, spending some moments outdoors is especially good because it helps with the physical, mental and cognitive development of a child.” Dr. Tandon

7. “Children come alive when they step out into nature.  It may not be loaded with bright and shiny electronic toys that whir and buzz, but the forest has its own sparkling magic and children feel it instantly.” Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO with National Recreation and Park Association

8. “Kids in the woods get other benefits too.  They breathe in fresh, clean air and get more oxygen. They can run and play and burn more calories while getting stronger bones and improved muscle tone.  Their internal sleep clocks are reset by the bright daylight and they can count on a better night’s rest.” Barbara Tulipane

9. “Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder.” Richard Louv during an interview with the editors of Scholastic’s Parent & Child

10. “Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the surface of the skin play an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt … Parenting groups welcomed the findings as ‘a vindication of common sense’ and urged parents to allow their children greater freedom to play outdoors.”  The Telegraph

11. “We are negligently risking the health of our students — and by extension posing a health threat to the Earth — by not ensuring them adequate time to play outdoors in beautiful “wild” spaces.” GreenHeart Education

12. “Time in nature enhances children’s creativity, and the complex thinking, experimentation and problem-solving that nature affords carries over into their academic and interpersonal lives.” Susan Sachs Lipman, Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network

13. “Nature (Vitamin N) can have a profound positive effect on children’s mental and physical health,” Dr. Mary Brown, past member of the board of directors for the American Academy of Pediatrics

Also, worthy of sharing is this video from the National Wildlife Federation “Warning: Taking kids outside may result in smiles and laughter” (h/t @).

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences being a kid in nature or taking kids in nature. Comment below!

10 brief facts on bioluminescence

We all get excited thinking about bioluminescence in nature. Ironically, that excitement is only one of the reasons animals glow like an elf in Middle Earth. Here are some ‘basics on bioluminescence’ you can share with your friends and family the next time you all ogle a firefly and wonder ‘why?’.

What they’re into … with Mark Gibson (Breaching the Blue)

This is a series I’ve been featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the different personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field. It’s essentially an extension of the overwhelmingly popular and well done Tumblr blog, This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, (BCS was featured in April!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I’ve sent a list of 15 random questions and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. Here’s what Mark Gibson had to say.

Mark at Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch, a model ranch in terms of species conservation and land restoration.

Mark runs Breaching the Blue, a website on the “politics, economics, and human dimensions of the global ocean”.  He says you can think of it as a sort of ‘digital nerdery’ – a place and space to tinker with ideas on ocean conservation and politics. These days he spends a lot of time thinking on how we might rebuild fish stocks through innovations in fishing rights and reduce illegal fishing through the application of criminological theory.

He studied international affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC, and tailored his coursework to look at marine policy.  He sees this as a perfect example of how you don’t need to go to a ‘blue’ school to do ocean work. In fact, the combination of a more traditional international security education with ocean affairs led to his tackling of a lot of interesting issues, from the political economy of MPA selection to the international law that would govern displaced island nations.

After graduating, Mark worked at Oceana and the Pew Environment Group.  This led him to some interesting work, from evaluating the damages to fishermen after the Deepwater Horizon Spill to a full-scale policy analysis of Europe’s deep-sea fishing. A major interest of his is helping the NGO world better use all the great economic data out there.  Why work so hard to make moral arguments when so much of the ocean could be protected on economic grounds alone?  He continues to work in ocean conservation in DC, but spares us the details to maintain his independence.

In the long term, Mark hopes to have his own consulting practice that would analyze the economics of fisheries crime and efficacy of enforcement activities.  The aim would be to offer a knowledge product that would a) increase the efficiency of enforcement efforts, b) increase the value of fishery access rights, and c) improve overall conservation. He’s now exploring how he might go about that.

Outside of oceans, Mark spends his spare time rock climbing, practicing pop psychology as a Myers-Briggs enthusiast, and promoting the slightly eccentric diet and lifestyle known as ‘Paleo’.

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
More books. I’ve committed myself to not expanding the Gibson library until the end of the summer.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Banana.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
Avocado and mushroom scramble with a grass-fed beef patty, fresh berries, and artisanal coffee.

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
Almond butter.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Morning person.

What is your favorite room in your home?
The basement.  I have a ‘Bat Cave’ with a small library and a large cache of climbing gear, diving equipment, and other outdoor paraphernalia.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I relate equally to Ron Swanson and Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation. Go figure.

What is your favorite scent?
Fresh coconut.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
I don’t eat ice cream, but it would probably be dark chocolate or raspberries.

What is your favorite pastime?
Scuba diving.  The best job I ever had was as a divemaster in the Bay Islands.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
A sea kayak, a tent, and a bottle of hard cider.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all.

What is your favorite day of the week?
Friday.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
Dog person.

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
An octagon.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
Favorite blogs: Marginal Revolution and the Dan Ariely Blog.
Music: Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Steve Earle
Movies: The Life Aquatic, Moon, 3:30 to Yuma
What I’m reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Why People Obey the Law, Managing Small-Scale Fisheries: Alternative Directions and Methods, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, and The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communication

Thanks to Mark for participating in this questionnaire and I hope you’re finding time to get through that library. Check out the other great folks that contributed to the “What they’re into …” series this summer.

100 ways to live (and die) green

Conservation and marine science education are two primary themes on BCS. And, since I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to marine science education the past few months I indulged myself with this list 100 of ways to live (and die) green. It’s a list of fun suggestions – beyond recycling day-to-day – and is appropriate since this weekend is Earth Day and this week is National Environmental Education Week! Please don’t hesitate to email info@beachchairscientist.com with any questions or comments. Feel free to comment and add to the list. I love new ideas.

  1. Install a dual-flush conversion kit.
  2. Use  water bottle (they even come with filters!).
  3. Make sure your faucets do not leak.
  4. Plug the sink to collect water for rinsing dishes.
  5. If you do have a leak, why not make it count and use the water wisely for something else.
  6. Pre-rinse your dishes for the dishwasher with a squeegee instead of rinsing in the sink.
  7. Why not install a low-flow showerhead?
  8. Filter your water from the tap.
  9. Turn off the water when you brush. (It will save about 8 gallons of water a day!)
  10. Take shorter showers.
  11. Only do full loads of laundry.
  12. Do not dump hazardous materials (e.g., oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints).
  13. When it’s dirty, take the car to a professional car washer. (Doing it yourself in the driveway wastes about 150 gallons of water.)
  14. Use pet-safe deicers when it snows.
  15. When your feisty pet chews the squeaker from his toy, why not put it back in and sow it up for another round of tug-o-war?
  16. Consider natural pet products for your furry little buddy.
  17. Give the wire hangers back to the dry cleaner.
  18. If you dry clean do it less often so they can bulk up more and skip on more plastic wrap.
  19. Xeriscape (i.e., plant natives to reduce the need to water).
  20. Use a rain barrel in the garden.
  21. Consider using alternatives to pressure-treated wood in your garden.
  22. Use some elbow grease to pull weeds or use a natural herbicide to get rid of weeds.
  23. Use a library. (Here I could also suggest switch to an ebook reader, but since my mom is a librarian and I know she loves her job I’ll promote a little community citizen interaction.)
  24. Buy local produce for your dinner.
  25. Switch to fairtrade coffee or tea for the morning beverage.
  26. Use a reusable bag when shopping. (You might remember the ‘Majestic Plastic Bag‘ series from last year.)
  27. Skip the meat in the dinner for a night each week.
  28. Jazz up the garden with some illuminating beautiful solar lighting.
  29. Make sure your exfoliating facial scrub doesn’t have harmful plastic beads that do not dissolve when they go down the drain.
  30. Know what ingredients are in your beauty products.
  31. Ask your workplace to consider carbon offsetting.
  32. Go ahead and send the electronic birthday card. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
  33. Pack your shorty’s lunch in a reusable bag.
  34. Pack their lunch items in reusable containers, too.
  35. When you use plastic cutlery, try a biodegradable option.
  36. Choose an organic version of the fabric of our lives.
  37. Try a DEET free bug repellant.
  38. Compost!
  39. Make your own cleaning products or use some natural ones that won’t harm the local watershed.
  40. Skip the paper towel and try cellulose cloths.
  41. Make certain to maximize the way you wash dishes.
  42. Wash your clothes is cold water.
  43. Get a home energy audit.
  44. Use a non toxic paint.
  45. Install Energy Star appliances.
  46. Hang dry clothes.
  47. Wear a sweater.
  48. Generate your own energy and install a DIY solar panel kit.
  49. Generate your own energy and install a DIY wind power kit.
  50. Install ceiling fans.
  51. When you’re going to leave a room for more than 15 minutes – switch the lights off.
  52. Install efficient lighting throughout your home.
  53. Donate your electronics  properly.
  54. Pay your bills online (and, ask your boss to direct deposit that obscene paycheck you don’t really need).
  55. Ask your neighborhood association to install solar lamp post lights.
  56. Go natural with your products when you’re about to have a little one.
  57. … And, after you have a little one.
  58. Decorate with plants to increase the air quality in your home.
  59. Be a little unconventional with your online shopping.
  60. Be creative in your gift wrapping and use some newspaper or magazines!
  61. Keep your car in tip-top shape to save on gas mileage (and/or go hybrid).
  62. Try to use public transportation or carpool when possible. (Or slug, DCers!)
  63. Consider rechargeable batteries.
  64. Be conservative in what you decide to print off the computer and when you do need to print do it double-sided.
  65. Find the people to call to cancel your phone book delivery.
  66. Skip the ATM receipt.
  67. Turn off the computer monitor at night.
  68. If you’re looking to buy a new computer, purchase a laptop instead of a desktop.
  69. Use recycled paper for your creative needs.
  70. Check out your neighborhood to see if there are proper bike or walk lanes and bike or walk when possible. (Check it out – May is National Bike Month!)
  71. Stop junk mail! (Did you know that the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year?)
  72. Choose a green hotel when traveling (or, my favorite – VHBO).
  73. Buy bulk. (It’s nuts – packaging makes up more than 30% of our waste!)
  74. Rock a green hosting company for your next website.
  75. Rent, borrow, or Freecycle!
  76. Save the take out container and use it as tupperware or to hand out cupcakes at your shorty’s birthday party.
  77. Bring your own mug to the local coffee shop so you don’t have to use one of theirs.
  78. Telecommute.
  79. Skip the CD or DVD purchase and download online.
  80. Stray away from imposing balloon releases unless you know they’re latex.
  81. Stray from using 6-pack rings (or cut them).
  82. From time to time use one less napkin.
  83. When fishing always be an ethical angler.
  84. Eat sustainable seafood.
  85. Skip the produce in additional plastic wrap.
  86. Participate in local clean-ups.
  87. Rock a new TV as they’re a little more efficient.
  88. Keep the freezer at least 3/4 full.
  89. Once a month bake a loaf of your own bread.
  90. Once a month why not roast your own chicken and stock up some homemade chicken broth afterward.
  91. In winter, keep the shades drawn when you’re away.
  92. When purchasing furniture find products that are earth-friendly and organic (e.g., cotton, wool, hemp, natural rubber latex).
  93. Plant a tree.
  94. Rock some vintage jewelry.
  95. Clothe diaper.
  96. Make your own play-dough with the kids.
  97. Blow your nose green. (Ewwwww … what did she say?)
  98. Recycle toner.
  99. Stay informed and educated.
  100. Be buried green.

Farting on a school bus – bad; Farting as part of a school of herring – ok

Recently two Ohio middle school boys were suspended from riding the bus for farting on the bus. If these boys were part of a school of herring they’d have no repercussions. In fact, they’d be making the grade in language arts.

Back in 2003 an article published in the U.K. science journal Biology Letters explained a phenomenon discovered by scientists at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, British Columbia, Canada, where herring produce high-frequency sound bursts followed by a fine stream of bubbles, dubbed Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT).

The noise can be up 22 kilohertz.

It is suspected that these FRTs are not to be a call to hunger or a call to breed but rather are triggered while the fish are swimming at night while in large densities as a means of communications. According to a National Geographic article on the subject, “It might seem an amusing idea to us that herring communicate using farts. But for herring and the mammals that prey on them, FRTs may signal safety—or the next meal.”

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10 questions with a marine biologist

Here are some question and answers with Professor Jeffrey Levinton of Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. He is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. He has been lucky to be able to teach college students for many years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which has a Marine Biology Major. He greatly enjoy seeing students learn about the marine environment and sometimes decide to embark on a career in marine biology.
In case you are interested in the field here is what you are in for:

1. What, in your opinion, are the disadvantages of being a Marine Biologist?
Don’t see any real disadvantages at all. Can’t complain about freedom (a fair amount), opportunities (lots in everything from government to teaching to popular book writing)

2. What, in your opinion, are the advantages of being a Marine Biologist?
Advantages include doing what you love to do; travel, often to fascinating and lovely places; interactions with interesting folks.

3. If you could do it all over again, would you have chosen this field? Why?
Maybe, but maybe not. Who knows why? Life is complex. I started wanting to be a writer, but found that I loved geology and majored in this in college and in graduate school. It was in graduate school that marine biology took over as my primary interest.

4. What do you find the most satisfying part of this field?
Following your interests as a researcher, teaching students.

5. What are some related occupations to the field of Marine Biology?
Oceanographer, Environmental Manager, Molecular Biologist

6. How did you first get interested in marine biology?
This is hard to say but I am pretty sure that it was seeing Jacques Cousteau‘s famous film “The Silent World.” My father took me to downtown NY City to the Paris Theater to see this movie, which was then regarded as a great artistic film, directed by the great Lous Malle and winning an Academy Award. The coral reef was enthralling and I was hooked. Incidentally, I have to say that I am pretty cross with those marine biologists who dump upon Cousteau and see him as an opportunist who took advantage of scientists and stole center stage; he coinvented SCUBA and has inspired more people in this world to love marine biology than any 100 other marine biologists. As a boy he wrapped an above-water camera in a clear bag and shot many underwater pictures. His obsession has been to our great benefit.

7. What does a high school student need to do to become a marine biologist?
These days the college route is essential, but don’t feel that you have to go to a school that specializes in marine biology. Find a college that is first rate in science but has good humanities and communications training as well. In the summer of your junior year or senior year make SURE that you get a summer job or take a course in a marine lab (see marine lab links and internships/ summer course links on the main page of the MBWEB URL). This will do more for you than any 5 marine biology courses in college. After college your marine biology education will be acquired in graduate school. Another good strategy is to be a biology major in a college that has marine biologists doing research. If you wish to become a technician a Masters degree will do, but a Ph.D. is essential these days to become an independent scholar who can supervise research projects be a well-placed official in an environmental protection agency, etc.

A masters degree will usually take about 2 years to complete. It is important to choose a university where the program has substance. You want to pick up a core education in marine biology, but, depending upon your career goals, you may want a very specific set of courses and an opportunity to do some research. It may be possible to rapidly complete a masters but you may have no substantive education to apply to a job. This will especially be true if you want to work in a specific field, such as shellfish mariculture. The Ph.D. degree will take an average of six years in a United States graduate school, but there is considerable variability around the world. In the United Kingdom and Australia for example, Ph.D. degrees tend to take 3-4 years, as they tend to omit formal course work, emphasizing research. In the USA many Ph.D. programs take good students right from their undergraduate school, but a substantial number of students take a masters degree first, to see if they want to go through with a Ph.D. Institutions such as the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook and the Virginia Inst. of Marine Sciences have dual programs, which allows a smooth transition from Masters to Ph.D. student status.

8. What do you do as a marine biologist?
I am a university instructor who gets to spend a substantial time doing research, writing textbooks and working with other groups interested in marine problems. My research may seem obscure to many, but it involves understanding how the functioning of individuals can be connected to population fluctuations. An example of this is to study how the feeding and burrowing activities of marine clams, worms, and other sediment-eating animals affects the environment by helping decomposition of organic matter, stirring and oxygenating the sediment, and controlling the particles in the sediment. If you ever walked on a gooey mud flat you are on my territory! I also have been very interested in how filter feeding oysters and mussels affect their ecosystem by rapid filtration of the water column; filtering of such creatures is very efficient and inland waters may be stripped clean of food particles. I also have been working on the effects of pollution on marine bottom populations, particularly with regard to resistance to toxic substances. Often a toxic pollutant will kill all but a few individuals, who are genetically distinct and resistant to the substance. These individuals reproduce, leading to a genetically resistant strain. This can be bad because such individuals may concentrate a toxic substance and transfer it up the food web, sometimes to be eventually consumed by human beings.

9. What types of problems do you encounter?
A major problem is balancing responsibilities, e.g., teaching time against research time. Also, for much research grant funding is essential, but also very competitive. I have been reasonably successful in getting grant funds, but it becomes more difficult as time goes on.

10. What type of actions do you take to solve those problems?
Working on research away from campus helps deal with time use conflicts. I spend every summer at a marine lab nearly 3000 miles from my university. This makes it easier to return and devote time to students without feeling that I am missing something. Applying for grants is a time-consuming process and one has to be creative in finding funds from different sources and getting involved with different projects.

Thanks for sharing you insight Dr. Levinton!