7 science/sustainability podcasts worth subscribing to today

I am addicted to podcasts lately. I wake up in the morning and start listening to them immediately. After some in-depth research I think it’s worth sharing my top science/sustainability podcasts. Feel free to share your favorites as well! I do prefer to get entertained as I generally listen while writing, running, driving, or cooking. These are also mostly short in length (I think only one is around an hour) and all have charismatic hosts – the ones marked with a {   } are explicit but also very funny!

    1. Big Picture Science: One recent episode was all about how one animal’s poison might actually be a cure for another. The podcast isn’t dry and is all about storytelling is a modern fashion.
    2. Science … sort of: You’ll enjoy listening to the paleopals (!) as they attack sometimes awkward conversations on topics from The Tragedy of the Commons and author Abby Howard. I cannot wait to track down a copy of Dinosaur Empire! Journey through the Mesozoic Era.
    3. Zookeeper Stories: This one is perfect for the car ride with the kids. Lots of the zookeeper’s have entertaining stories that will keep you laughing and wishing you asked more questions your last time at the zoo.
    4. Sustainable World Radio – Permaculture and Ecology Podcast: Jill Cloutier has been interviewing experts – teachers, designers, environmentalists – from around the globe. She knows how to make each interview compelling and worth your time.
    5. A Sustainable Mind Podcast:   What I like about the approach from Marjorie Alexander is her ability to connect with anyone she is interviewing and create action project ideas that are realistic. She’s the most inspiring on my list and a good Monday morning listen!
    6. Infinite Earth Radio: This is another superb podcast for inspiring change. It’s more civic action than changing behaviors though so you’ll have to bring some of the ideas to your local Facebook group and get organized for town hall meeting.
    7. {Probably Science: All I can say is that there was a conversation on a recent episode about how great an oyster would be as a therapist. Please do not listen with the kids around.}

Do you have any favorites that are your go-to?  How about ones focused on gardening or education?

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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?

“Why is the bath still hot?” An anecdote on temperature & density

I’ve been mama-ing (i.e., SAHM) it lately to a 6yo and 3yo and with that comes some hard lessons to learn. I mean I just explained that there is one ocean but it has five spots with five separate names and now I get “Why is the bath still hot when you added so much cold water!?” (think of that one as being asked in a shrilly voice, too).

I had to keep my cool when I explained that the water on top still feels warm … but, if you could (please, please, please!) stick you toes in the tub to the bottom it will be cold and then you can mix it up.

I jazzed it up and said that when water droplets get cold they huddle together. More of them will take up the same space so it’s heavier (i.e., denser). Therefore, they’ll sink to the bottom of the tub.

In the ocean the water on the bottom is definitely colder, too. However that’s generally because sunlight isn’t penetrating past the first 200 meters (1/8 of a mile).

You see the ocean has a “thermocline.” The thermocline is a place when the temperature drastically changes. On the surface of the sea – the top 200 meters – it’s warm since it gets a lot of sunlight. Sunlight can’t really go any further and the temperature decreases for the next 800 meters. That layer where the temperature drastically changes is called the “thermocline”. After that the zone without sunlight is consistently colder. Check out the image below from NOAA Ocean Service and then this interactive and extremely up-to-date sea surface temperature map from NASA.

 

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!

Seven silly science words: Part II

Remember what I was saying back in January? Science still isn’t scary and still has funny words. Here are a few more that just make me smile. Hopefully they make you smile when you say them or you know a fun science word too. Has anyone taught you a science word you love? If you have someone teaching you that can smile … you’re a lucky duck. What’s your favorite science word? Check out the first round of fun silly science words here.

What's your faorite sea science word?

Narrated by Winnie Miller

 

My awesome, overprotective mom and horseshoe crabs

limuluslove_beachchairscientistwebNo joke. I like horseshoe crabs, but not more than my family. Especially my mom. Let me tell you a story about how incredible she was one particular evening in early June. It was probably about 2002 and I was a seasonal employee for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The job was awesome in every sense. Except the hours … either really early for tagging stripers along the Delaware Bay or really late to survey HORSESHOE CRABS!

In case you haven’t heard watching the horseshoe crabs come up to the wrackline to spawn is an incredible experience (check out my post on the short and sweet of horseshoe crab spawning here). You might see some Limulus polyphemus the nights near a full moon or new moon right as the sun is going down. But, it’s not until the tide is at its highest point that the ancient fossils really come out of their hiding spots. 2.IMGP1651-Photograph-James-Bulley-1024x680My co-workers and I went about as normal for this event and used the  quadrat to estimate the amount of females and males every six steps (the females are much bigger!). We’d log the numbers on a clipboard. After the length of the beach that was our responsibility we’d head home. It was about 2am one particular morning when we finally made it back to the van. I also worked as a waitress in the summer so it had been a long day. The data sheet was my responsibility. It blew away. It’s really windy by the sea usually!

We didn’t fudge any numbers. I went back the next night … but, not alone. My amazing, overprotective mom came with me. After all, I had to drive about an hour to a small town along the Delaware Bay in the middle of the night. It was going above and beyond. I mean, she’s not a nature-type so this was in pure mama bear mode that she made the trek with me. It was incredible … my mom was totally amazed by the phenomenon too. One minute there were about fifteen horseshoe crabs and the next hour as soon as high tide occurred they were covering the beach! That night I was able to share my love of teaching and horseshoe crabs with someone I loved. She exuded such enthusiasm that I have no doubt it’s one reason I keep this blog and it’s focus of all things horseshoe crabs going. She might have been pulling my arm and thought the whole experience was really gross and icky, but parents know how to let their kids shine and that’s just fine with me.

2002_0516_005633aa

NOAA’S Ocean Today provides a great view of the field experience, too. Yes, I did wear a headlamp like those citizen scientists.

What citizen science projects have you participated in lately? Check out what’s going one here.

Seven silly sea science words

Somewhere along the line people got the idea that science is scary and intimidating. But, like so much of this world … science is much more than what we first think. Science can be silly. Science can be fun. Science can be collecting and analyzing data. But, science is creating questions. And, science is sharing results.

Science can even make you smile. To prove it – here are some silly sounding words that make me laugh every time I say them. I actually had to have my daughter narrate this short film because “caudle peduncle” is just too much sometimes. Hopefully this clip will make you curious to explore new words and realms within science. It’s bound to make you smile at least! By the way, do you have a favorite sounding sea science word?

What's your faorite sea science word?

Seven silly sea science words Music by Colin Miller/Narrated by Winnie Miller

 

One Big Wave, and Millions of Lost Legos

Lego dragons Bigbury

Photos courtesy of Tracey Williams

On Feb. 13, 1997, about 20 miles off the coast of England, a massive wave hit the freighter Tokio Express, toppling 62 giant containers into the rough north Atlantic seas.

Trapped inside one of them: nearly 5 million Legos. Many floated to the surface. Carried by currents, they’re still being found on beaches around the world nearly two decades later. Others remain on the ocean floor. It’s not unusual for fishermen trawling the Atlantic to haul up tiny Legos.

The fact that so many of the pieces were nautical themed – sea dragons, pirate swords, sea grass and scuba gear, among others – has turned the Lego spill into one of the most famous and unusual marine debris incidents in recent maritime history.

In Newquay, a seaside town in England, writer and longtime beachcomber Tracey Williams started a Facebook page a few years ago – Legos Lost at Sea – that tracks the whereabouts of the lost Legos as they wash up onto beaches.

Williams recently spoke to the Beach Chair Scientist blog about her work, and you can hear more of what she has to say below. But she hopes to turn the public fascination, much of it generated from a recent BBC story on the spill, into a teaching moment about the harmful environmental impact of marine debris.

Lego octopus Terena

“Clearly, 5 million pieces of Legos spilling into the ocean isn’t good for the environment,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. After the BBC interviewed her about her site a while back, the publicity resulted in people contacting her with stories about beach-bound Legos around the world.

“It has connected beachcombers all around the world, which is fascinating,” Williams said.

She received one report of a Lego flipper found on an Australian beach. She’s also heard from the family of a woman who had scoured the beaches for Lego dragons as a hobby in her 80s, passing her finds along t0 younger generations.

“Obviously, marine debris is a big problem. But I think many children have been captivated by this whole Lego story … I think it reminds people of their childhood. It’s the whole issue of marine debris. Oceanographers are interested in how far it’s spread.”

Meanwhile, she also hears from fishermen who come across Lego pieces in their nets.

“Half of it sinks and half of it floats,” Williams said, referring to the sorts of Legos that fell off the Tokio Express. “So clearly, while we’re finding certain items washed up on our shores like the spear guns and the flippers, fishermen are actually finding other pieces like window frames and car chassis.”

While the lost Legos have made for fun beach combing and treasure hunts, there are bigger questions beneath the surface. If the contents of just one toppled shipping container can spread around the world for decades, what about far bigger and more dangerous spills that go unnoticed because they don’t happen to have Legos in them?

“There were 62 containers that fell off the Tokio Express back in 1997 and we only know about what  was in three of them,” Williams said.

“What’s in all of the others and when will that all wash ashore?”

You can listen to more of Williams and the story of the lost Legos here:

Saltwater vs. Freshwater: Why droughts are a real problem

Earth’s surface is about 70% water. But, only 1% of that is accessible freshwater (i.e., found in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds). McGraw Hill pulled together this beautiful infographic illustrating the amount of water on the surface of the Earth that humans can actually use (‘Just a drop in the bucket’, so to speak). Consider this reality when thinking about the serious situations in California this summer with “its third-worst drought in 106 year“.

MCGRAW-SALTWATER-23AUG-2012CS5

http://www.pinterest.com/mcgrawhilled/make-learning-fun-inspiration-for-teachers-student/

 

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!