I have moved to Deep Sea News

January 31, 2010

As of January 2010, I am now blogging with Dr. M and Kevin Z at Deep Sea News. February’s Carnival of the Blue will be hosted over there.

The Oyster’s Garter is officially on indefinite hiatus, though the archives will remain up. Thanks for reading!


Thoughts on the “Talking Trash” section at Science Online

January 3, 2010

Welcome to the zombie Oyster’s Garter, resurrected from the blogular grave to eat your braaains. Or at least to pick your brains (which in the context of zombies sounds most distressing.). At the upcoming Science Online conference, I will be co-moderating a panel called “Talking Trash: Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The other panelists are freelance journalist Lindsey Hoshaw, who made news this summer by crowdsourcing her trip to the North Pacific and writing about it in the New York Times, and photographer/videographer/ocean advocate Annie Crawley, who was with me on the R/V New Horizon as a documentarian for Project Kaisei. (Bonnie Monteleone was originally going to be on the panel but unfortunately had a scheduling conflict.)

We are planning on letting our panel be largely audience-driven, but we would like to get a feel for what you are interested in. (If you are not attending Science Online, fret not – our session will be either livestreamed or recorded or both – if livestreamed you can ask questions on the web.) I can’t speak for my co-moderators, but I don’t want this session to get too hung up on specific marine debris issues – I think it would be much more interesting to talk about our experience trying to meld real-time science, nonprofit advocacy, outreach, and journalism.

Here are some preliminary questions. Please comment and tell us what you think. This is also posted at the Science Online wiki, and you are invited to comment there as well.

  • Why is the media & the public so interested in trash in the ocean? Can this interest be leveraged/created for other issues?
  • We are three people with different perspectives on what is important in communication: a scientist, a journalist, and a journalist-artist-filmmaker-documentarian.
    • What were our disagreements? Here’s a few examples off the top of my head: I did not agree with much of Lindsey’s NYT article; Annie had a tough time getting stressed-out scientists (me included!) to work with her while at sea, SIO is an academic institution while Project Kaisei and AMRF are nonprofit advocacy groups.
    • Do we as scientists/journalist/artists have a common goal? Beyond Littering Is Bad? Is loving the ocean enough?
    • If we do have a common goal, what are lessons learned from this summer? What would we do differently next time?
    • Can we offer advice to other scientists/journalists/artists trying to work together?
  • How can scientists, journalists, and educators balance “exciting findings live from the field!” with “highly preliminary unpublished non-peer-reviewed data that our labwork might contradict”? For example, one thing that is tough with advocacy and education is the scientific emphasis on peer-reviewed publication – the timescale is waaaay too slow for good real-time communication. How can we be accurate, entertaining, and educational?

Here’s some background on our experiences in the Gyre:




Seeking the Science of the Garbage Patch

July 27, 2009
The R/V New Horizon

The R/V New Horizon

It’s finally time to announce why I’ve been neglecting the poor Oyster’s Garter all summer. This Sunday, August 2nd, the first Scripps expedition to study plastic accumulation in the North Pacific Gyre will depart San Diego. A collaboration between Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the nonprofit Project Kaisei, SEAPLEX (Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition) aims to quantify exactly how much plastic is a lot, and what effects the debris might have on the base of the food web.

And I’m SEAPLEX chief scientist. Eeek.

But I couldn’t possibly lead a blog-less Twitter-less cruise. And I especially couldn’t work on this issue without giving people a chance to see the problem (virtually) first-hand. So you’ll be able to follow along with SEAPLEX through our blog and our Twitter feed. You can also sign up to receive email updates by joining the SEAPLEX Google Group.

Though our internet access at sea will be limited, we will be able to respond to your questions and comments. We are incredibly excited to go on this cruise and even more excited to share our observations with you. So get your RSS feeds ready – it’s going to be an interesting three weeks.

Summer science hiatus

June 28, 2009

As anyone still reading might have guessed, I’m having trouble keeping up with both Ye Olde Oyster’s Garter, the Double X outpost, and my actual science. So, with much sadness, the Oyster’s Garter is going on hiatus until September. I’ll be back and raring to go by September 1.

In science news, I have a very exciting new project in the works (here’s a hint!) that will have a red-hot online outreach component. I’ll announce it as soon as the web parts are ready.

I’ll still be writing for Double X twice a week, and I would absolutely love more feedback over there. You do have to register in order to comment, but it only takes a few seconds. Isn’t it time to expand the glorious world of marine science into lady-blog-land?

Double X: A Novel Approach to the Climate Change Report

June 28, 2009

The noir (and romance and haiku) of the latest government report on climate change:

Last week, the United States Global Research program released a report on the potential impacts of climate change in the United States. Based on a year and a half of work and a consensus from 13 federal agencies, the 198-page report makes the doom, gloom, and destruction that await us available to all. Still, who reads 198-page government reports? Well, I do.

So in an attempt to bring some amusement to a dark situation, I’ve summarized the main points of the climate change report using five different literary (ok, quasi-literary) styles. Each vignette is set in the year 2100 under the “higher emissions scenario,” which is a conservative estimate that presumes some kind of international reduction in emissions.

Read the rest here!

Double X: Oil Rigs in the Penguin Habitat

June 23, 2009

Shiny new science art, with a hint of vintage humanities:

I live in San Diego, so I visit our famous zoo a couple times a year. My favorite part is a lush, leafy canyon lined with tigers and tropical birds and tapirs. It’s a little piece of the Asian forests on which it’s based, an idyll untouched by the downtown skyline or nearby highway. Sure, the path is lined by earnest plaques about poaching and logging and the dire peril of endangered species, but I’m there for a pleasant afternoon stroll and I’ve never read them.

That’s the fate of most earnest attempts to educate zoo-goers about environmental peril. Nobody (except perhaps attendees of environmental film festivals) wants to pay $50 to be depressed and guilt-ridden. But the Vienna Zoo has a different vision. As covered by the landscape architecture blog Pruned, the Vienna Zoo has inserted the nasty side of the human world right into the animals’ enclosures.

More here.

Double X: The Scariest Animal in Pastel Hotel Art

June 18, 2009

In which I fall back on an oldy but goody:

It roams the ocean floor, always ravenous, always ready to kill. When it finds its prey, it pulls it apart with hideous strength and then eats it while the prey is still alive. What is this fearsome beast? Is it a shark? A kraken? The Loch Ness Monster? Nope. It’s a starfish. The most common starfish species on both the East and West coasts, beloved by millions of beach-going children, are actually mighty predators.

More here!