This past semester, my Deep Sea Biology class at Boston College got to participate (from shore) in a NOAA Okeanos Explorer expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. The experience, in particular a field trip to the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, was described in this story.
This website was long overdue for an update, so I've been playing around with what I want it to be and how it should look. I think it was a decent site for a grad student, but now that I have a "real" job, it didn't feel quite professional enough, so I've made some changes. I've removed old content, removed the blue header color, and made placeholder pages for descriptions of the classes I teach. It still needs some work including new content and image. I'm debating whether on not to keep this blog, and what else I should include. Stay tuned.
I work best to deadlines. I always seem to get the most done not when I have some free time to dedicate to my "someday to do list" (that would make far more sense), but when I have too much going on, and therefore no time to procrastinate. I've found lately that I can trick myself into productivity with self-imposed deadlines too. Shhh Don't tell me!
So, when I realized that an interview I did on the Lady Paragons podcast was about to go live, I gave myself a deadline. Get Nature Nerding episode 2 done before it comes out. And, surprise surprise, I got it done last night after putting it off for a few weeks. In addition, I came across this post this morning eloquently explaining exactly why I'm trying to get this Nature Nerd Network off the ground.
Not a bad start to the day. Now back to all the things I actually have to get done! Little things like job applications, the second chapter of my dissertation, and teaching. But like I said, the more I have to do, the more extra stuff I seem to get done.
I've spent the last few days at a conference called ComSciCon. Organized by grad students for grad students passionate about communicating science. I often leave conferences inspired, but this one was enabled me to bring together a bunch of things I've been thinking over for a while, and gave me the confidence to try something new, so I did. And here it is. First I will try to outline my thinking process.
Problems that keep me up at night
- skepticism/mistrust of science
- memorization-based science curriculum making people not enjoy science
- growing disconnect with nature
- lack of access to wild/wilderness/green spaces
Existing relevant things
- Attenborough style nature documentaries: awesome, but don't do much to show the scientific process or get people outside
- Science channels on YouTube: many great ones, but I don't know of many that are purely nature centered
- Science fairs, summer research expreinces etc.: awesome, but not available to every student
The Goal: Create an online community that gets kids (or anyone else) excited about exploring the world around them intentionally and experientially.
- Create Nature Nerding videos for YouTube that model this type of interaction with nature.
- Show that this can be done anywhere, but also bring people to fun and exciting locations
- Profile "Expert Nature Nerds" (i.e., other scientists I know who do cool field work)
- Create a facebook community where nature nerds can share their experiences and get inspired.
Things that motivated me at ComSciCon
- Hearing Jeff Lieberman describe his creative process as just doing what you love doing and not being scared to suck, over and over again.
- Multiple conversations with attendees where I described this idea received overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging feedback.
- Seeing so much other science communication awesomeness, and a repeated message from panelists to dream big. As in think TV show, and maybe you'll end up with a YouTube channel that inspires some people.
Obligatory self deprecating qualification: This is my first attempt at making a video. I don't know what I'm doing. But in the spirit of getting something done while you're thinking about it, this is my first attempt at a Nature Nerding video. I think next time I will try to have more of a theme, by starting with a question. I would love any and all feedback on this little video or the bigger ideas in general.
I am about to head off to Phoenix to attend ComiCon. I am going as part of their attempt to increase the science content at the convention. They partnered with NASA and are going to have a FameLab competition that I will be participating in. It's been fun to craft a short talk that bridges science fiction and the kind of research that I do. It will first time I've ever formally talked about SciFi in public! They have us in a room that holds 1,500 people (Yikes!), but we are on at the same time as Nathan Fillion, so who knows what the attendance will be.
As a sidenote, the international FameLab finals are going on today, and you can watch them live (3pm EDT) here if you are so inclined. The FameLab USA contestant has made it to the finals.
I love that NASA values science communication by supporting events like this. I'll let you know how it goes. I am certainly looking forward to letting my Inner Geek out this weekend!