My favorite posts from 2013

One of the highlights of 2013 for me was gathering the family and neighbors to put in storm drains signs. Learn more on why it's important to know what's going down the drain here: http://beachchairscientist.com/2013/03/01/and-that-concludes-my-we-affect-what-goes-in-our-watershed-week/

One of the highlights of 2013 for me was gathering the family and neighbors to put in storm drains signs. Learn more on why it’s important to know what’s going down the drain here: http://beachchairscientist.com/2013/03/01/and-that-concludes-my-we-affect-what-goes-in-our-watershed-week/

This isn’t the typical list of the most popular Beach Chair Scientist posts throughout the year (you can find those on the right sidebar under “Top Posts & Pages from BCS” any day of the year). Those posts typically include questions typed into a search bar such as ‘Are manatees and elephants really related?‘, ‘Do sharks have bones?’ or ‘How much salt is in the ocean?’.  This list is a review of my favorite posts from the past year and why I enjoyed them:

  • 99 reasons I’m in Limulus Love: Before the horseshoe crabs started mating in May and June I sat down and cataloged a list of 99 reasons Limulus polyphemus are a creature worth respecting.
  • All five posts from the “What we do affects our watershed week: This series was a great reminder that even though you might not live anywhere near a river, lake, or stream our daily actions have massive consequences on the waterways – and ultimately the ocean.
  • Mother Nature vs. Santa Claus: 13 reasons why Mother Nature should always win: This post was a response to the Toys ‘R’ Us commercial that pitted nature against toys. It’s important to remember what Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine stated as the “tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) that is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works”.
  • A seal on the shore isn’t always stranded: This post is a nice reminder to stay back and let nature takes its course, also you never know what you’ll come across during a wintry beach walk.
  • 3 truths on the fables about dolphin-safe labels: It was an eye-opening post to write and discover that just because it’s labeled as dolphin-safe it isn’t safe for all marine life.
  • A Scientist’s Inspiration (by Jim McElhatton): This interview with Dr. Penny Chisholm, recipient of the National Medal of Science, should be a must read for anyone in school with even a slight interest in science as she explains how “My interest in science grew slowly as I went through school”. She also explains the merits of writing for children in that it helps to boil down the subject matter.
  • Beach Chair Birding, A Ray of Hope in a Sea of Chum, A Visit from Dungeness Crab: These posts are three of my favorites because they were all contributed by guest bloggers. Ernie Wilson, Jim Wharton, and Cherilyn Jose each brought a perspective as unique as they are … I can’t wait to see what they’ll share next year! If you’re interested in guest blogging please feel free to share your ideas anytime!

Which “holiday” crustacean am I?

Here are five facts to help you identify the featured “holiday” crustacean from the BCS “Christmas/winter-themed marine organisms” Pinterest board.

1. This crustacean belongs to a group (including species from five different families) which prefer the habitat of caves, pools, crevices, or wells in limestone or lava rock that is flooded by seawater.
2. This crustacean has poor eyesight (i.e., tiny eyes) and are brightly colored.
3. This crustacean prefers temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius.
4. This crustacean is quite jolly, enjoying it’s time cleaning parasites and other debris off of fish (HINT: I wonder if this leaves a minty flavor?).
5. Some species of this shrimp have bright green eggs.

Have fun guessing by leaving a comment below.

Hark! The herald angel (shark) strikes?

Angel Shark

Just one of the 25 Christmas/winter marine themed organisms on the Pinterest board. Check out the others here: http://www.pinterest.com/beachcscientist/christmaswinter-themed-marine-organisms/

Not often. But, the angel shark has been known to strike – if provoked. These strikes are similar to those made by its cartilaginous relatives, rays and skates, coming from the surface of the ocean floor (they’re pretty good with the camouflage as you might notice from the picture on the right). However, unlike rays and skates, the nocturnal angel shark doesn’t have a mouth on the underside of its body, but rather in front. This location is best suited for a diet of crustaceans, mollusks, and flatfish. With their enormous mouth they’ll suck the prey in and swallow it whole.

But, one of the most significant “Did you know?s” about the angel shark are that their lower lobe is longer than the upper lobe, whereas most shark caudal fins are top-heavy.

Also, pretty fun to learn is that angel sharks are ovoviviparous, just like frilled sharks, seahorses, and scorpionfish. This means “The young sharks tend to develop inside the female mothers.”

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!

Jellyfish protein help create glow-in-the-dark ice cream

Looks like seaweed isn’t the only ocean organism used to make ice cream a special treat these days, particularly if its glow-in-the-dark ice cream. Charlie Francis, British ice cream creator, partnered with a Chinese scientist interested in understanding the nuances of jellyfish proteins, to synthesize the fluorescent jellyfish protein specifically for use as part of an ice cream flavor. Francis and his partner recreated the luminescent protein to construct a specialized calcium-activated protein that only glows in the dark once you lick it. And, the more you lick it the more it glows. No jellyfish were harmed in the making of this ice cream flavor. Is it safe to taste? Francis tasted it and said “I tried some and I don’t seem to be glowing anywhere” How much is a scoop? $220. Would you try it?

la-dd-glow-in-the-dark-jellyfish-ice-cream-201-002

Check out the ‘Lick Me, I’m Delicious’ Facebook page to learn more about all of Francis’ creations here: https://www.facebook.com/lickmeimdelicious

Under normal, non-dairy related circumstances, jellyfish protein glow when the photoprotein aequorin interacts with seawater to produce a light (i.e., green florescent protein or GFP). Why do animals and plants glow in the dark? Find out here.

gfp2_conncolldotedu

GFP was first described in 1955.

The Coral Song: “I may look like a rock, but I’m certainly not”

I listened to this three times last night. It’s “The Coral Song”. It’s a fun song. It’ll get caught in your head. I had to share. Maybe we’ll hear each other humming in line at the pharmacy. The Reef-World Foundation gets all the credit for helping the production get the science straight on this catchy tune.

The screenshot below is of my favorite line. What line do you find completely genius … in that “oh, so perfectly simple” way?

coralsong_image

Thursday Inspiration: Waves

ThewavesoftheseaJillDavis_BCS

Find more ocean quotes here and you may also want to visit the Beach Chair Scientist “Conservation Inspiration” Pinterest board. What inspires you? Artists? Books? Songs? Please share, I’m always looking for more fresh ideas.

5 things you might not know about oarfish

Last week 2 giant, shimmering oarfish washed ashore in southern California. This is not a common occurrence and some speculate that it may be a means to warn of an impending earthquake. Others say that it could just be a “banner week for weird fish photo ops“. In either case, I’m making the most of the teachable moment and sharing some facts about the prehistoric looking bony fish.

1. Oarfish, nicknamed “King of the herring,” are the longest bony fish in the sea reaching a length of up to 56 feet. This fact is not to be confused with the largest fish in the sea or the largest bony fish in the sea.

2. Oarfish got their common name from their long extended pectoral fins. Another identifying feature of oarfish are the long red plumes stretching from their head and other fins.

3. Oarfish swim holding themselves straight up and down in the water column. It’s believed that’s how they search for food.

4. Oarfish are inedible with a gelatinous body texture and hold no commercial value.

5. Oarfish tend to reside in the deep-sea up to 660 feet below the surface of the water. They only come to the surface of the sea when they are sick and vulnerable and often wash ashore after storms. Because of these sightings they’ve tended to prolong sea serpent lore. It wasn’t until 2001 that a oarfish was captured on film by the US Navy.

Image (c) Catalina Island Marine Institute

The first of the 2 sighting from last week was found by some very lucky environmental educators. Image (c) Catalina Island Marine Institute

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!

10 techniques for science bloggers to discover inspiration

I’ve been blogging for five years and lately what has happened is that I’ve been fortunate to share my successes and challenges with other people. Fresh off the plane from Science Online Oceans (the most unconventional, inspiring, and interactive conference I’ve ever attended – loved every minute!), I noticed a reoccurring challenge that other online science writers and myself often face – finding inspiration. So here are 10 techniques for creating posts. Now this list isn’t anything monumental, but given that I barely posted this summer I thought writing this list might help me get out of the rut (I know … so selfish!). If you have any other ideas that may be useful, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

1. Google Alerts: Knowing the most up to date information will certainly generate some inspiration! Whatever your specialty, make sure to know when it’s mentioned in the news, if a video on the subject is released, or when someone else writes a blog post on it. These alerts go straight to your mailbox daily, weekly, or as they are published … depending on how you set it up. Make sure when you put your specialty into the search query that you surround it in quotes. For instance, I want articles of “horseshoe crabs” to come to my inbox, not articles that might mention “horseshoes” and “crabs”.

2. Your photo albums: Come on, I know you have extensive catalogs of pictures from fieldwork or on trips with the family. All you have to do is place a picture into PowerPoint or inDesign, put a caption or a favorite quote around it, save as a jpeg and you have a short, sweet, and original post. Below is my husband looking out at a lake on our honeymoon in Maine with a John Muir quote attached which I posted on John Muir’s birthday.

Colin in Maine

3. Mentors: Sure you have a mentor and you typically focus on what they do NOW as a goal … but, take time to focus on HOW they got to where they are today. Interviews make great posts. Were there any particular people – in or out of science — who helped and encouraged their interest in science at an early age?

4. Citizen science projects: You may be in a rut because you’ve dissected your methods and discipline to death on your blog. Take time out to participate in a citizen science project or volunteer project that you might enjoy and write about your experience. What do they do that you could incorporate into your own discipline?

5. Other “non-science” related blogs: You might obsess over science blogs to see what others in our cohort are doing these days, but take time out to check out blogs of your other interests as well. For instance, I found the inspiration for the series “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” from my cousin’s fashion blog. You know you’re into your cars, music, food … how do they do it and how can you do it better?

6. Google search: horseshoecrabsearchYes, it’s THAT simple sometimes. I’ve been known to type in a word and see what phrases populate in the Google search bar. I like to think to myself “populate” is linked somehow to “popular” so this is what people are reading about on this particular subject. For instance, when I type in “horseshoe crab” you see what populates. Along those same lines, Google image searches can provide some interesting inspiration as well.

7. Your audience: Looking through the statistics of your blog and reviewing how your audience is referred to your blog can draw some interesting inspiration. From those clicks you can see which posts are the most popular and you can share more on that topic.

8. Think ahead: Are there any strange holidays or major milestones in your field that are coming up? Is the anniversary of a significant paper published in your field creeping up? Are there any monumental televisions shows about to end their run? Use these events as a way to craft a post that will certainly be shared due to its timely relevance.

9. Magazine covers: This is the opposite of “Think ahead” and can help make something you may have already posted seem fresh and innovative. Use magazines to find crafty titles and then formulate a post around that title. For instance, “Secrets of …”, “6 new ways to …”, “5 myths about …”, “3 easy plans to …”, “How to easily understand …”, “Can you imagine life without …?”, “Top 8 benefits of …”, “5 things you might not know about …”, or “5 reasons … is like …” are all fun ways of drawing people in on a subject. Remember, even if you’ve already shared this information of your blog, repackaging it with new and updated pictures isn’t a no-no.

10. You: Even if you have created an “About me” page on your blog take time to share with your audience a little bit more about where you grew up, how you got into your field (this is probably not your first job), the methods behind your science (you know there is never enough room for that in a published paper), a funny story from your fieldwork, or what inspires you. Not all of that needs to be in one post. Make it a short series. It’s great practice in building a narrative which can help in translating your science to others in-person.