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?

Round of virtual applause

June 3, 2009

I’m back, and can continue to neglect the Oyster’s Garter in person! Unfortunately the forecast is for “Overwhelmed, with a chance of running off gibbering into the night,” so things around here will continue to be slow. But you can always check me out twice a week at Double X. (Why am I not an equal-opportunity-neglecter? Cause the money from Double X pays for critical science supplies.)

A round of virtual applause and beer for Kristen’s sweet blog stylings. Many, many thanks to her for guest blogging, and I’m hoping that we’ll see more from her in the future. I think Electric Coral Porn is either the name of her New Wave band or her future blog.

Introducing your guest blogger for the week

May 22, 2009

I am going to be gone for the next week on the third and final field trip for my California Ecosystems class. This one is Eastern California – we’re going up through Death Valley, around Yosemite, and down by King’s Canyon. I’ve given up on nature tweeting since time spent typing into my phone is time taken away from snuggling with snakes, but this time I will not leave you alone, gently weeping next to the Oyster’s Garter’s slowly cooling corpse. No, this time you will be entertained and thrilled by a shiny new guest blogger, punk rock scientist and fellow SIO graduate student Kristen Marhaver.

Kristen works on coral reproduction in the Caribbean, and most recently has spent her time there watching coral babies swim around and around and around in little dishes.  She was recently catapulted to scientific rock star fame by starring in San Diego’s Nerd Nite, a show that blends together rock music and science talks into a night of infamy. Kristen’s talk, entitled “How Many Corals Does it take to Screw in a coral reef? Coral sex and why you didn’t really want to be a marine biologist,” literally rocked the Casbah.

Not only is this Kristen’s first foray into the blogosphere, but she is the ONLY PERSON at my illustrious oceanographic institution who has believed my wild-eyed promotion of online science communication. Please comment lots and lots on her posts so a) she doesn’t think that I’m crazy and b) so we can lure this amazing science communicator into the wicked depths of the internet.

I’m going to go pack before I abuse any more adjectives. See you all next week!

Off to Arizona

April 26, 2009

Things will be quiet around here for the next week unless Eric feels inspired. I’m off to Arizona, sans internet, for the second of three field trips in my Ecosystems class. “But Arizona is not exactly on the ocean!” you cry. Ah, but it was on a vast inland sea in the Cretaceous, and we will be visiting a lovely fossil reef filled with corals and rudists.

As before, I will be attempting to tweet my adventures at @oystersgarter. I was tipped off that I didn’t make a lot of sense on my last attempt, so I will try to do better this time. And of course, the cell coverage might be intermittent.

To the Sonoran Desert!


April 13, 2009

The Oyster’s Garter is going to be syndicated by Slate spinoff Double X! While the Oyster’s Garter home will remain here, blog posts will be simultaneously published over at Double X.

Double X is a new Web magazine, founded by women but not just for women, that Slate will launch in spring 2009. The site will spin off from  Slate ‘s XX Factor blog, where we’ve started a conversation among women–about politics, sex, and culture–that both men and women listen in on…We’ll tackle subjects high and low with an approach that’s unabashedly intellectual but not dry or condescending.

Double X is scheduled to launch in early May. I’m planning some extra-special sciencey goodness for launch week, but if you have suggestions for a glorious meeting of ladyblog+marine science, let me know!