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Friends, I’d like to share a new writing project I’ve started, called Better Know a Fish!
Ever since my very first pet fish (two swordtails and tiger barbs in a large jar… no they did not live long), I’ve been a huge fan of our finned friends. I admire the freedom that fish have as they swim and maneuver underwater, as if weightless. I’m fascinated by their tremendous diversity, and their contributions to our own species and society — even if they are frequently overlooked in favor of things feathered and furred.
As I write in the blog’s introduction, “Why Get to Know a Fish?”:
There’s been a lot of fuss about caddisflies lately, thanks to the item on BuzzFeed (http://www.buzzfeed.com/babymantis/10-beautiful-things-created-by-animals-1opu) with pictures of caddisfly-assembled jewelry.
I was poking around my old saved blogdrafts, and found this from some years back that seemed appropriate. It’s a scan I made of some of my caddisfly case collection.
Caddisflies are insects in the Order Trichoptera, which means “hair winged” — and indeed they have tiny little hairs on their wings. They are rather related to the Lepidoptera — butterflies and moths. Adult caddisflies basically look like little tiny moths with long skinny antennae, while caddisfly larvae look like little caterpillars, and they also spin cocoons to pupate.
Except that caddisfly larvae live underwater, in streams and lakes. Not all build cases — some go around naked, some form little silk tunnels, while others build little nets with rocky goalposts to trap debris and food from the flowing current, like these Hydropsyche larvae I had in my aquarium once.
You can see this one using its silk glands to connect strands from one rock to another, and back and forth. (No word on what kind of web the crack-dealing caddis spins.)
On Monday, February 13, 2012, I will once again have the pleasure of visiting the University of California-Davis graduate student seminar, “Translating Research Beyond Academia: Communication Strategies”. Here are my notes for the session.
Why Communicate Science?
- Because it’s fun.
- Because it’s fun when your parents actually understand what the heck you do/want to do for a living.
- My take: Publishing your findings is one thing, but it’s just as important to clearly and effectively convey the significance of your research to your dean, a reporter, a senator or a stranger at a party. Simply put, the more people who know the implications of your research, the more opportunities may come for collaboration, funding, influencing public policy and improving societal awareness of science. (http://younglandis.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/communicating-science-through-context)
Why Learn How to Use Blogs
Communicate your research to the public
- Foster interest in your research
- Become a source for information
- Defend your science (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139852035/shrimp-on-a-treadmill-the-politics-of-silly-studies)
- Required Reading: http://io9.com/5873948/you-are-bitching-about-the-wrong-things-when-you-read-an-article-about-science
Interact with others in your academic field
- Find students/advisors
- Engage in critique/punditry (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2011/12/02/happy-birthday-arseniclife/; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/01/23/independent-researchers-find-no-evidence-for-arsenic-life-in-mono-lake/)
- Get help in your research? (http://smithsonianscience.org/2011/03/facebook-friends-help-scientists-quickly-identify-nearly-500-fish-specimens-collected-in-guyana/)
Organize and showcase your research
- Online notebook
- Field blogging (http://seaplexscience.com/; http://www.werc.usgs.gov/ProjectOutreachNews.aspx?projectID=221)
- Interactive thesis (http://landis2009commutesheds.wordpress.com/)
Fundraise for your research
Venture into Science Communications
- Brand yourself (http://www.kirstensanford.com/)
- Hang out with your friends (http://deepseanews.com/)
- Work for that magazine you’ve always dreamed of (http://blogs.nature.com/; http://news.sciencemag.org/; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/; http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/)
- Become a professional journalist (http://www.aaas.org/programs/education/MassMedia/; http://scicom.ucsc.edu/; http://journalism.nyu.edu/graduate/courses-of-study/science-health-and-environmental-reporting)
- Write about your passion; (http://www.persquaremile.com/; http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/)
THE Conference About Science Blogging
Marine biologists are setting up camp in Forks, Washington, this week to capture some fanged predators. They are definitely cute and they have great hair, but their seafood-breath should cut short any romantic fantasies.
We’re talking about sea otters, of course.
Researchers from the USGS Pacific Nearshore Project will spend the next three weeks studying the health of local sea otters to assess the condition of Washington’s nearshore ecosystem. The expedition team will set up base camp at the Olympic Natural Resource Center, while the daily sampling missions will depart out of La Push. They’ll board the research vessel Tatoosh of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and work the waters near Olympic National Park, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the Washington Island National Wildlife Refuge.
This is the third trip this summer for the Nearshore Project crew, which has already spent weeks in Southeast Alaska and recently returned from Vancouver Island. They will once again post photos and field journals as the carry out the Washington expedition.
- Read the USGS press release
- Read the field blogs from 2011 Alaska and Vancouver Island expeditions
- Download sea otter photos from past expeditions
- Visit the Pacific Nearshore Project homepage
- Read a Washington Post story about the Nearshore Project
“We’ll be temporarily capturing and releasing sea otters for physical exams, biopsies and blood tests, observing sea otter feeding behavior, and collecting samples from fish and other species that hold clues to ecological health,” says Shawn Larson, a Seattle Aquarium sea otter biologist on the August expedition. Larson will assist verterinarian Dr. Mike Murray of the Monterey Bay Aquarium with sea otter biopsies and sample processing, and also conduct otter feeding behavior observations.
And how does blood figure into all this?
Blood and tissue samples drawn from each sea otter will be analyzed with the gene transcription technique developed by WERC, which can show whether a sea otter has been exposed to oil, parasites, disease or other types of stress. The gene transcription analysis will be conducted by scientists Keith Miles and Liz Bowen of WERC Davis Field Station.
Researchers also will extract a tooth sample to determine the age of each sea otter. Rounding out the sea otter health exam are measurements like body girth, dental and gum checks and whisker samples.
“Sea otters are the perfect health indicators of our nearshore waters,” says James Bodkin, the project’s chief scientist and a sea otter biologist at the USGS Alaska Science Center. “They’re entirely dependent on nearshore marine habitats and they are keystone species in kelp forest food webs. Some populations are abundant and stable, while others are either declining or struggling to reach healthy numbers. Can these differences be explained by ocean influences, or by human impacts to the adjacent watersheds? That’s what we’re hoping to learn.”
WERC sea otter biologist Tim Tinker will be sitting out of the Washington capture. Tinker will be attending the 2011 Ecological Society of America conference in Austin, Texas, to present findings on diet specializations by individual sea otters.