Playing well with others? Dissecting the tension between the scientist-educator community

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”.
Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German-Swiss-U.S. scientist

 “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions”.
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) French anthropologist and ethnologist

“Those that can’t do, teach”.

It’s unfortunate, but the last phrase above affected my psyche as a child and young adult. I felt that I should go into science and prove that I could ‘do’. I am glad that I did because I’ve spent a decade doing various levels of field and laboratory work (or more recently overseeing grants of those doing field work and then I get to promote their work). It wasn’t until recently that I’ve began to embrace my desire to teach marine science to the masses. If you’ve been following my blog, Beach Chair Scientist, this can be illustrated – hopefully – in the increased quality of content that I’ve become committed to presenting in the past few months. All the while, I kept coming back to why I didn’t go in this direction in the beginning of my career and remembered that it was because I wanted to be seen as someone who could ‘do’. Boy, is that a regret! I have come to realize that non-formal education and all forms of teaching are ‘doing’ and we should all embrace the significant role of teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators play in our society.

Teachers are often our first connection to the big, expansive, beautiful world. Rejecting teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators because it seems as though they ‘play with kids all day’ or ‘invent games and just make PowerPoint presentations’ is irreverent. We become teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators because there is an inexplicable piece within all of us, not to find the answers or pose a question, but rather see “understanding wash over a child” or adult. Our moment of ‘eureka’ and validation is not when we’ve been published, but is centered on sharing the natural world and illuminating connections that may not have been obvious to others.

It seems as though there is a tension when teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators try to gain access to the science department for new knowledge. I can understand that no one wants to part with their work and have someone treat it as their own. But, I don’t think anyone believes that is the case. The relationship between the scientist and those promoting the data (teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators) should be constantly cultivated and sharing findings should be part of the process. I am glad that there is a new generation of scientists learning to engage the public with the use of social media to share findings and learn from other.

But, dare I say that it seems like pulling teeth when anyone that is trained to deal with the public tries to promote findings and interpret and translate scientific information? There are many wonderful organizations (e.g., COMPASS) dedicated to teaching scientists how to connect their science to the wider world, but connecting with nearby neighbors (i.e., coworkers) is vital and builds upon respect for one another. Teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators should be seen as an extension of the news media. Often we get creative with our translations of scientific findings and the news media will cover the interpretation rather than read an abstract. Teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators are highly trained with working with all different audiences. Furthermore, we’re well versed in techniques to filter, spin, coordinate, and share data appropriately (i.e., infographics or demonstrations in classrooms).

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the topic. Recently, I posed the question “Is the scientist-educator/communicator relationship one of a) love-hate tension, b) complete mutual respect, c) neither, or d) both a and b?” on Twitter and Facebook. Comments we’re few and far between most leaning towards b and d.

Related posts:

Dear Online Science Writing Community: A reminder for ‘call to actions’ because your perspective is priceless

What they’re into … with Brittany Biber (Sea turtle trainer)

I am sure you know by now, but this is a series I have 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 to some folks I know and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. Here you get a glimpse into what one of my old co-workers who is lucky enough to interact with sea turtles everyday is into, introducing Brittany Hascup Biber.

Brittany works at Florida Oceanographic Society’s Coastal Center on Hutchinson Island in the Aquarium and Life Support Department. Her responsibilities include food preparation, quarantine treatments, and medication dispersal for all the marine life property. The animals on site range from estuarine species such as snook and red drum to sharks, rays, and smaller reef species. In addition to the gilled animals, she also cares for three non-releasable sea turtles, two green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one loggerhead (Caretta caretta). All of the sea turtles on site have been deemed non-releasable due to buoyancy issues. Lily, the 140lb loggerhead, was struck by a boat and has deep scars on her carapace that serve as a good reminder to why obeying boating rules and regulations is so important. Turt, the 90lb green turtle pictured right, has a spastic intestine and must be administered medication every other day to allow him to swim through the water column with ease. Hank the smallest is still a juvenile and weighs around 50lbs. He has carapace deformities that probably led to his floatation problems. Because these turtles will never be released back into the wild they must get accustomed to interactions with their caretakers so that they are calm and receptive when they need to be fed, weighed, or cleaned. She have been in charge of the training and care of the turtles on site since they each arrived here. Each turtle has its own colored “target” that they have been trained to respond to. When the target is placed in the water the corresponding turtle swims over and receives its food and medicine if needed. The training is done every day for all the turtles and it allows her to have daily interactions and alone time with each turtle away from the other animals housed in the 750,000 gallon lagoon they call home. Training the turtles is always the best part of her day, and she says she may be tooting her own horn but she think it is the turtles’ favorite time of day as well (probably since she’s feeding them). When she graduated from college she hoped to work in the animal husbandry field and she is proud to be doing just that. So even though most days she smell like fish and squid she get a chance to interact with species most people rarely get to see and she says she learns something new about them everyday and it makes all the stinky stuff worth it. Brittany has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Central Florida. You can reach Brittany at bbiber@floridaocean.org.

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
An overpriced bikini.

 What is your favorite fruit flavor?
It’s a tie between watermelon and pineapple.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Night owl, I love sleeping and my bed always seems super comfy when I have to get up for work.

What is your favorite room in your home?
My back porch that overlooks the river, I love watching the wading birds like the Eastern oystercatcher and great blue heron feed on the shore. 

What is your favorite scent?
Coconut, because it makes you smell like you’ve been at the beach all day.

What is your favorite pastime?
Going on the boat with my husband; it’s nice just being with each other away from the responsibilities that wait for us on land.

Thank you for participating, Brittany! It was a honor to read about your interesting day at work.

Don’t forget to read the rest of the “What they’re into …” series.

A little dose of ocean conservation inspiration

This is a whimsical – yet still direct and profound – image I wanted to share from from my Ocean Conservation Inspiration Pinterest board. Do you have a particular phrase or image that drives you?

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.

Philly, it’s time to get enthusiastic about ditching those bags of plastic

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of single use plastic bags (Check out this series about the majestic plastic bag from last summer) and I support any campaign requesting city officials to review a ban on plastic bag. This is especially true when the city of focus is Philadelphia, PA. I might be more of DCist lately, but my heart and soul are from Philly (Go Phils!). My parents are from the area and I still have plenty of family that I do not see enough in the area, not to mention I was raised in south Jersey. The way I always differentiate south and north Jersey for people that wonder why I make such a distinction is that when you say ‘the city’ in south Jersey you are referring to Philly and if you say ‘the city’ in north Jersey you are referring to NYC.

In any event, I actively volunteered with DC Surfrider as they worked vigorously to pass the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009 which set up a 5 cent cost for all single use plastic bags and know that this type of change in a city has an impact on local streets, sidewalks, and waterways. The goal here is simple, if you live in or care about the beautification of Philadelphia, please sign this petition to bring attention to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, therefore initiating a vote in City Council. For more information please visit Green Philly Blog.

Los Angeles has officially banned plastic bags, joining cities Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto & many more. Philadelphia voted and rejected a plastic bag ban in June 2009. We need to bring the ban back to our city of brotherly love.

Please feel free to share this message and if you’re on Twitter use #BanPhillyBags to add to the conversation.
Here is another great infographic on the subject “How Convenience is Killing Our Planet” from the folks at ArteIdeas.

What they’re into … with David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter)

This is a series I’ve been featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the many 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. This week features David Shiffman of Southern Fried Science and I am so glad he agreed since I know this crowd loves shark talk.

David with a sandbar shark in Charleston harbor

David is a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. His research focuses on shark behavior, ecology, and conservation, and he has interacted with over 2,500 sharks on three continents. David writes about shark science and conservation topics for the marine biology blog Southern Fried Science, and is active on Twitter @WhySharksMatter. Additionally, David has a B.S. with distinction in Biology from Duke University, and a Masters in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. If you and your class or community organization are interested in joining David and the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program for a shark tagging expedition in the Florida Keys, please let him know!

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
When I lived in Charleston, SC, crab cake eggs benedict. They don’t have that here in Miami, but there’s a place around the corner from my apartment that makes peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes.

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
Homemade cookies. My first word was “cookie”.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Although field research often involves getting up at 4:00 a.m., I am not a morning person. I enjoy having morning people in the car with me when I have to drive to our research locations before the sun rises, though.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I’m not sure if “Glee” counts as a sitcom, but if so, Sue Sylvester. If not, Jack Donaghy from “30 Rock” or Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation”.

What is your favorite scent?
Bacon. Or maybe popcorn. Actually, they make bacon-flavored popcorn now. It’s surprisingly not gross.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
If this is an island I’m vacationing on, I’d bring snorkel gear, beer, and beer. If this is a deserted island I’m going to be stranded on, I’d bring a satellite phone, a GPS, and a boat to help getting un-stranded.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
I am definitely a dog person. My new puppy Magnolia is sitting at my feet in my office as I answer these questions.

Bonus random fact you’d like to share about yourself?
There is a hot dog named after me (the Shiffman) at the hot dog stand on Duke’s campus. It is a hot dog served on a twinkie.

Yum! Thanks for the amazing idea for dinner tonight, David! Also, thanks for sharing your personality with us. For more ‘What they’re into …’ with other ocean folks click here.

When I cannot escape seaside, I am grateful for Josie Iselin’s unique eye

“Brilliant and captivating images of raw, earthen materials collected from the beach coupled with phrases of a scientific or contemplative nature always reinvigorate my psyche when the beach is near or far.”

It’s no secret that it’s tough to get to the beach sometimes. When life affords me the extravagance of a weekend of nothing to do and some extra comp time I can usually make it up to south Jersey where my husband and I grew up and we still have family. However, since DC is my home base these days, I sometimes find my beach meditation and inspiration in the form of books. I grew up an avid reader and find the tangible qualities of a book incredibly relaxing. Piles of books can be found in each of the rooms throughout our house and when looking for our first home I was unyielding that we be no more than a short bike ride from the nearest library. What this introduction has to do is express how much I value books and, in particular books that inspire me about the sea. With that I would like to share with you the collection of books that I find so dear to me from the artist and author Josie Iselin.

Josie Iselin is the photographer, author, and designer of six books (Beach Stones (2006), Leaves & Pods (2006), Seashells (2007), Heart Stones (2008), Beach: A Book of Treasure (2010), and Sea Glass Hearts (2012)) that focus on the breathtaking forms found in nature, concentrating on those treasures found seaside. Josie’s mission is to “produce enticing, original, and well-designed books that combine art and science, leaving the reader with new information and an appreciation for the world around them”. You can tell why I am so enamored with her work as sharing information in a unique and approachable manner is a big part of my mission on this blog.

Understanding the process that Josie takes to create such beautiful and classic images is fascinating. For almost twenty years she has used a flatbed scanner and computer to generate her images of the treasures she collected along the coast. She has noted that, “She is still captivated by the fluidity with which this technique allows her to render and design with three-dimensional objects”.

The most comprehensive of Josie Iselin’s ethereal catalog of maritime wonders is Beach: A book of Treasure. The over 100-page book published by Chronicle Books has images of seaside plants, oyster, clam, and scallop shells, igneous rock, fossilized seashells, crab exoskeletons, and sea glass displayed with such care that you cannot help but be in pure amazement with the design of Mother Nature. Nowhere else have I been able to view the skull of a seagull in a manner that suits me (often times I get intimidated by text found in captions of extensive ornithology books and that ultimately suppresses my examination). The text is remarkable in that it interweaves first-hand experiences of tossing a Frisbee with the explanation that the beach we play on is also known by scientists as “the first extension of the benthic zone”.

This book also revels in the colors that are the ocean ecosystem. Upon Josie’s placement of light with the scanner, sea urchin tests and multicellular algae are given the proper stage to display brilliant, bright colors and patterns. I also, appreciate the fact that the author took the time to recognize that often times not everything found on the beach is a treasure. As she noted, “We know that its (a pictured object of marine debris) production used a great deal of heat both in its formation and in making the materials it is composed of. This represents a net loss of resources for our environment. In contrast, the self assembly of the oyster shell, a durable and hard thing, occurs with no energy expended and without detriment to the maker’s environment”.

I optimistically encourage you to take the time to review Josie Iselin’s collection of beautiful books and, just like the author, I hope you will enjoy “celebrating the ordinary wonders we find at the beach and will bring thoughtfulness and stewardship to this extraordinary place of discovery”.

What they’re into … with Jim Wharton (Seattle Aquarium)

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 to some folks I know and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. This week’s feature shares some insight into the world of Jim Wharton.

Jim Wharton, Director of Conservation and Education at the Seattle Aquarium, feels at  home again in the Pacific Northwest after over 8 years in Florida working for the Smithsonian Marine Station and Mote Marine Laboratory. He started his career in marine science education as a volunteer, then educator at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Jim is also deeply involved with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) where he is a member of the board of directors and more committees than he has time for. You can learn more about him at about.me/jimwharton or follow his on Twitter for marine science miscellanea @jimwharton.

Jim notes, “The mission of the Seattle Aquarium is ‘Inspiring conservation of our marine environment’. To be true stewards of the marine environment people have to be science-literate and ocean-literate…but first they have to care. Marine science education helps people develop all these muscles, for flexing in support of the ocean.”

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
Unagi. I know freshwater eel is on SeafoodWatch’s sushi red list, but sometimes I’m weak. A colleague explained to me recently that one of the precursors to behavior change is a public declaration…so consider this mine. Any animal that swims thousands of miles out to sea to reproduce deserves a little more respect from me.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Dark chocolate and caramel combo…on principles of general awesomeness.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
Assuming my family and/or a satellite phone is cheating…The Demon-Haunted World, mask/fin/snorkel, sunglasses. The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, is a treatise of reason and a book I can read over and over. Mask/fins/snorkel, well, it’s an island. And anyone who knows me knows that I would be very uncomfortable without my sunglasses.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all (see above). I used to pretend to be superstitious (probably because everyone around me seemed to be), but I’ve given up believing that jinxes, broken mirrors, or wearing the same socks on gamedays have any real effect on the external world. I do think the idea of finding some locus of control in a chaotic world is a very human and understandable impulse. Wait, did I just call myself ‘inhuman?’

What is your favorite day of the week?
I’ve often bragged that Fridays and Mondays are meaningless to me. It’s a fringe benefit of loving the work you do. 

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
A star? Too much? I guess I’ll go with a triangle. Triangles are well-balanced and they have a point. I just hope people don’t find me obtuse.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I actually enjoy public speaking, but hate making toasts. Go figure.

Thank you for participating, Jim, keep up the great work! Everyone else, don’t forget to check out previous editions of “What they’re into …” with David Helvarg and Miriam Goldstein.

What they’re into … with Miriam Goldstein (Deep Sea News)

This is a series I am featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the many different of personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field of today and tomorrow. 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. This week features my favorite commentator over at Deep Sea News, Miriam Goldstein.

Miriam is a Ph.D. student studying Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. For her thesis work, she is researching the impact of plastic debris on zooplankton communities and invasive species transport in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. She is the principal investigator on the SEAPLEX cruise, which explored plastic debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in August 2009. Miriam is an active science popularizer and educator, and has appeared on CNN, CBS, NPR Science Friday, and PRI’s The World, among many other media outlets. Her popular writing has appeared in Slate Magazine and Open Laboratory, and she currently writes for the web’s leading marine science blog, Deep Sea News. Miriam has been a Fellow in the NSF Marine Biodiversity and Conservation IGERT program and the NSF GK-12 teaching program. She holds an M.S. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a B.S. in Biology from Brown University. Before coming to Scripps, she worked as a construction project manager in New York City, an outdoor educator in New Hampshire, and an environmental consultant in Boston. Miriam is originally from Manchester, NH.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
I don’t really like fruit flavored things that aren’t fruit, but I LOVE berries. One of the best things about living in southern California is all the strawberries, especially in February! But my very favorites are raspberries and blueberries.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
That’s really hard since brunch is my favorite meal. I’d say it’s a tie between my own homemade popovers with maple butter (I like to bake) and my husband’s chilaquiles (a spicy mix of fried corn tortillas, eggs, and onions). {Scroll down for the chilaquiles recipe}

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Definitely a night owl, which is sort of unfortunate since marine biology is organized around a lot of early mornings. I still do my best to never start work before 9:30 or 10 AM, since I don’t really wake up fully until then.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I’m a huge nerd and I love kickass female characters. So one of my favorite shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (though I’m really more of a Willow than a Buffy). I also love Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica and Zoe from Firefly. Veronica Mars is probably my favorite TV character closest to being a scientist, since she’s a detective.

What is your favorite pastime?
I like to waste time on the internet, bake, and backpack. My favorite thing to bake is pie, any kind of pie, though my husband’s favorite is my apple cranberry crisp. We’ve been backpacking the John Muir trail in the Sierras for the past few summers – last summer we did an 100-mile hike from Bishop to Mt. Whitney, most of which was above 10,000 feet. Standing on top of Mt. Whitney was pretty amazing – it’s so high that if we were in an airplane, we’d be able to use our electronic devices!

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
Both! I love dogs, but I travel too much to have one. I have two cats, one skinny and one…not so skinny. It’s a constant battle to keep the fat cat at an acceptable level of fatness. (She shared a picture of them here too!)

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
A dodecahedron so I could have the coolest name.

What’s some other random favorite information about yourself?
My new favorite thing is Spotify, the music service. I’ve become a little obsessed with making themed Spotify mixes. You can check them out here: http://sharemyplaylists.com/members/miriamgoldstein/playlists.

I am honored that Miriam shared some insight into her day-to-day life and I definitely agree that being a dodecahedron is the way to go as far as shapes. Be sure to check last week’s featured ocean conservationist David Helvarg, Executive Director of Blue Frontier, and check back next Tuesday for a guy who loves his job so much that Fridays and Mondays are meaningless. Now that’s the way to live!

Chilaquiles recipe
Serves two people, scales linearly. The better the tortillas, the better the dish. Fresh salsa will be better, too (from the refrigerator aisle, or homemade, if you have the energy). This recipe will be mildly spicy. There are lots of way to give it more kick, but my preferred is to add a habanero to the jalapenos.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped into 1″ pieces. Not too small.
4 eggs
8 high quality corn tortillas, sliced into 1″ x 3″ strips (approx.)
salsa (at room temperature)
cheddar cheese (for grating)
half avocado, chopped (optional)
vegetable oil

Tools: Skillet or frying pan, knife and cutting board for chopping, two dinner plates, 1 medium mixing bowl, and 1 small mixing bowl.

1) Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a skillet at medium, enough to coat pan and then some.
2) Put onions into pan and sautee. After a  minute, add peppers. Saute both until soft.
3) Put onions and peppers into small bowl and set aside.
4) Add oil to pan until it’s 1/2″ deep, and heat oil on medium high. When you put a piece of tortilla in, it should sizzle. If it doesn’t, oil isn’t hot enough.
5) Put in tortillas and fry. Push them around until they start to get crunchy. Tortillas will cook unevenly, which is fine. Remove when you have reached preferred level of crunchiness. We like them with some bend left in them.
6) Remove tortillas to bowl with paper towel in it. Pour off oil in pan until there’s enough left to  coat the pan.
7) Put half of tortillas and half of onion-pepper mixture back into pan. Push around until everything is warm again.
8) Crack two eggs over tortilla-onion mixture. Scramble quickly so eggs will cook into mixture.
9) When eggs are cooked, pile onto empty plate.
10) IMMEDIATELY grate cheddar over mixture, enough to make a thin layer over the center of the mixture. Add more if you like more, less if you like less. Cheddar shreds will melt over hot mixture.
11) Repeat steps 7-10 for each person.

Add avocado chunks, if you have them. Put a few tablespoons of salsa on top of each plate. Put the salsa on the table, in case diners prefer more. Eat promptly.

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

I have it on my bucket list to explore at least ten more National Parks in the next decade, but I am going to have to rely on family and friends to share their adventures since I just spent some time in Maine visiting Acadia National Park. My brother, wife, and their sons (8 and 6 years old) just spent a week at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and have kindly taken the time to share their adventures from the boys perspective. Take a look at this 60-second  movie on what sort of wildlife awaits you at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Also, here are 5 little known facts about Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to hopefully entice you to visit. (The interminable forests should become graceful parks, for use and delight. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)

  1. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was purchased with Duck Stamp revenues.
  2. Most historians believe that the famous Chincoteague ponies are remnants from that settlers who used the island for grazing livestock in the 1600’s in an effort to avoid difficult fencing regulation. Descendants of those ponies are still living there today.
  3. In a CNN Special from June 2012, Assateague Island National Seashore was named as one of the 7 prime spots to view wildlife. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is at the Virginia end of the National Seashore.
  4. The endangered sea beach amaranth is well adapted to survive the harsh seashore conditions of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
  5. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has 14 ‘pools’ that total over 2,600 acres that are carefully manipulated to control moisture levels.