science outreach


My first four illustrations for the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs: Oviraptor, Pinacosaurus, Protoceratops and Velociraptor. We are seeking to raise money to fund an expedition across Mongolia that will recover poached fossils, educate children about paleontology, and hopefully make a significant dent in the damage done to some of these rural communities by greedy fossil poachers. Perks for donating include awesome dinosaur swag featuring the above illustrations and many other things, including a once-in-a-decade opportunity for a fully-detailed painting by me of any dinosaur for a $1200 donation.

Check out the campaign page here!


I made a science zine about antibiotic resistance! 

I was reading NPR stories today and stumbled upon this article, which kind of just reminded me of the importance of science outreach for the public. ABR is something I care about, so if this spurs you on to learn more about it, I am really happy. 

If you want to print it as a zine, here is the printable version, in color and in b+w. Here are instructions on how to fold it, if you need them. 

I have the best readers in the world. Seriously, everyone one of you is amazing. In less than 23 hours, you have blown past the goal I set. I will be going to the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting thanks to you. THANK YOU!

For those of you reading who will be at APS, I plan to do my utmost to be available to grab a coffee between sessions, hang out, discuss research, talk outreach, go out to dinner – whatever! For those of you who won’t be there, I want to share as much of the experience as possible with you through social media. Prepare to be inundated at the end of the November. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be at APS, and I’d like everyone who contributed to have a chance to enjoy the experience.

Per IndieGoGo’s terms, the campaign will remain open until its October 11th deadline. Any contributions I receive above and beyond my APS costs, I plan to set aside for improvements to FYFD. The reader survey indicated lots of you would like me to make my own videos, and I aim to. Extra funds will first go toward equipment for that purpose.

Thank you again to each and every one of you, whether you contributed your money or helped spread the word. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and will continue striving to bring the best of fluid dynamics to FYFD every weekday. Thank you all!

I am proud to present Scinapse NYC!  Scinapse NYC is a site and newsletter that compile STEM events, internships, and volunteer opportunities in New York City for teens.  Our goal to foster a network of students who love doing science and facilitate awesome collaborations.  Eventually, we hope to host our own teen events (i.e. panels, conferences, projects) throughout the city. Attend events, discover opportunities, and volunteer with us. If you really like Scinapse and want to support us, you can donate here.  

Check out our new site, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our newsletter! 


Chemical Gardens.

I made these small colourful gardens recently for a Science outreach day. These amazing plant like structures are created when metal salts are dropped into a solution of sodium silicate and water. The colours come from the metal salts. A few of the ones used in these experiments were potassium sulfate, copper chloride, iron sulfate and cobalt chloride.

They’re made as the metal salt dissolves in water and begins to react with the silicate. These form small fibrous crystals which look like strings of plants. As pressure builds within these tiny solid structures tears form at the top allowing for more reactions to happen which form new solids. This way the crystals formed from this experiment grow upwards and look like tiny colourful underwater plants gardens.

"Just Being Who We Are Is Extremely Risky": An Honest Discussion On Race In Silicon Valley

A small group of African-American tech leaders met recently for a roundtable discussion that was funny, frank, and uncompromising.



Readers, I need your help! Funding for my project got cancelled prematurely thanks to sequester-induced budget cuts and my research group no longer has the funds to send me to the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting where I am scheduled to give two talks, one about FYFD and one about my research. APS’s DFD meeting is the big fluid dynamics conference of year, where thousands of researchers, professionals, and students come together to present their work. It’s always a major source of beautiful, interesting, and exciting photos and videos for FYFD. I’m asking you to help me raise the $2000 I need to attend. Watch the video, check out the perks available for donors over at IndieGoGo, and please help me spread the word by reblogging, retweeting, etc. Thank you!


The Brain Scoop:
Shark Fin CSI 

Every year, millions of sharks are slaughtered for their fins. Some sources estimate the number is as many as 100 million killed annually. When you remove the top predator from an ecosystem, second-tier species move in to take their place and often times have far more specialized diets resulting in a total imbalance of their environments. Sharks are the ultimate stabilizers of their ocean habitats. 

 With shark fin soup selling for as much as $100 per bowl in some restaurants, enforcing laws against distributors seems to be the first place to begin. So, how do we put the brakes on such a booming and lucrative industry? The Field Museum teamed up with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in order to develop new methods for identifying degraded tissues from confiscated fins. This allows our scientists to match key markers against known species, and provides enough information to legally charge an individual or business with supporting illegal trafficking. 

It’s a start. Help us spread the word. Shark finning needs to stop. 


Nathalie Pettorelli is at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Seirian Sumner is at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. They founded Soapbox Science four years ago to promote the visibility of women in science in a simple, yet very public way. You can meet them, along with 12 other female scientists on London’s South Bank at Gabriel’s Wharf on Sunday 29 June, 12-3pm. More information here.

Source [x]

Blog about science? Kiss your grant proposal goodbye

I was absolutely stunned when I discovered this while watching a presentation from UC Davis Professor, PeerJ Academic Editor and author, Jonathan Eisen.

The controversial segment of the presentation, embedded below, starts at the 9 minute and 17 second mark. Uncertain of the exact year that Eisen is referencing when this happened, but it is shocking. Shocking - that for simply communicating science, which is HIS JOB as a Professor of Microbiology, that he could be denied a grant. (Update: this was recent - 2012)

Excerpt  from the grant review (bolded text my own emphasis):

Outstanding group of individuals, and the organizational and management structure appears sound with clear roles and responsibilities of theme faculty. There is a large focus on developing this for microbiome research, but Eisen seems to be the only team member with this expertise, and may not have the bandwidth to coordinate this on such a large project alone, especially given his high time commitment to his blog.

It doesn’t matter if he blogs in his spare time, or during `office hours,` this shouldn’t have happened. One could argue that dollar for dollar, a grant spent on Eisen will have far greater return on investment and impact than a large majority of other scholars. What do I qualify as impact? It goes beyond direct research contributions, but inspiring new students, inspiring citizen scientists, inspiring peers, and inspiring one’s self by exploring thoughts through different channels. Science outreach should never be penalized, yet that is exactly what has occurred. 

I’d argue that Eisen hasn’t been a successful scientist despite his scientific outreach activities, but precisely because of having done them. Instead of spending his time at wine and cheese parties, Jonathan thanklessly and tirelessly communicates his science to anyone who will listen through any channel - and he gets dinged for that? The grant committee really dropped the ball on this one.

Jonathan has been gracious enough not to publicly out whoever was behind that funding decision, but I’d like to make an offer to Jonathan to let me, Jason, know. And if they are a current editor for PeerJ then we will politely excuse them. If they are a future reviewer or author, we’ll ask them to submit their peer-reviewed research elsewhere. People can and should be forgiven, but unless that person or group has changed their tune, then they do not share our values at PeerJ.

- Jason Hoyt

Co-founder, PeerJ

An update and clarification on PeerJ’s policies:

My initial gut reaction was borne out of frustration with the system, but clearly not the best approach to enacting change within it. Asking the author of the review to submit elsewhere was a personal statement and doesn’t represent the views of the Journal (which remains agnostic to who submits to us, provided they follow our guidelines / requirements). Additionally, we recuse ourselves from editorial peer-review decisions as long as they follow those policies. My initial statement will stay up for the record, but with a strikethrough

- Jason

Bill Nye Talks About Canadian Oil and the Certainty of Climate Change

Yesterday, Bill Nye touched down in Toronto to attend the International Astronautical Congress, an annual gathering where space enthusiasts (where, as Nye says, the nerd factor is “turned up to 11”) share research papers. Since his mega-hit show, Nye has taken the reigns of the Planetary Society, an organization founded by Carl Sagan in the 1980s that focuses on science advocacy, research, and outreach.

As the CEO of the Planetary Society, Bill Nye is clearly using his powers as a celebrity scientist for good. During a keynote speech at the University of Toronto last night, he discussed a project the Planetary Society was developing to conquer the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth. Their solution? Laser bees. These “bees” are tiny robots that surround an offending asteroid and by using mirrors, “focus sunlight onto a spot on the asteroid” that can “gently move it.”

Anyhow, I caught up with Bill Nye before his speech to chat about Canada, the tar sands, and the Harper government’s muzzling of scientists. 

Bill Nye: I’m hip with VICE, I’m down with the VICE.
VICE: Oh awesome, that’s good to hear. Let’s jump right into it then… Climate change has been immensely politicized. How do you respond to outside influences, like industry and government, that try and control the message of the scientific community?
The government in Canada is currently being influenced by the fossil fuel industry. [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is a controversial guy in the science community because [of] the policies, especially in western Canada, with regard to the production—that’s the verb they use, “producing,” but you’re taking old earth and burning it. [The production] of tar sands, oil shale… is there tar shale? Is there sand goo? Whatever.

I used to work in the oil field, albeit much farther south, in Texas and New Mexico. Oil is noxious, but it’s not that noxious as stuff to spill on the ground. However, when you start taking this tar sand and oil shale, where you’re you’re strip mining many, many tons of earth to get to this stuff, and then you have to burn a lot of it to make it soupy enough to pump. The environmental impact is huge!  And there was some trouble with some train cars, and some explosions.

A town exploded.
Yeah. This is all stuff that could be controlled, but part of it, at least for me as an engineer, is that the extraction methods in that part of the world are so aggressive, it’s so hard to get this stuff to [a point where it’s] useful. The bad news, writ large, is that we’ll never run out of fossil fuels. There’s so much stuff, so much coal, so much tar sand oil shale everywhere around the world that we’ll never use it up. But we will use up the really easy to burn gasoline, easy to burn diesel fuel.


Scientists of Tumblr...

I need to hear all your wonderful advice and personal experiences again. I want to hear any and all opinions on this. I take part in an outreach programme specifically aimed at high school kids, and a big part of it is letting them ask questions about a career in science, but also providing advice and perhaps answers to questions they didn’t know to ask.

We have a good range of advice and stories here, but naturally, we want more. So, to try and get some advice from this great community, here are some starting questions:

What do you wish you had known in high school about being a scientist?

Is there anything you think would have made you pursue science more eagerly if you had heard it earlier in life?

Did you accidentally discover you liked science in college? If yes, what do you think made it exciting in college vs. high school?

Or did you always love science and know it was for you?

Seriously, anything you want to share with me will be useful. Thanks in advance tumblr!

1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits The Sun. Yes, Really.
by Ian O'Neill

Dear Science Communication Professionals: We have a problem.

Earlier this month, the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham creationism “debate” received a disproportionate amount of press coverage. Considering that there really is no debate to be had when it comes to the science of evolution, for bad or for worse, Nye faced a hostile audience at the Creationist Museum in Kentucky. He hoped to score some scientific points against Ham’s literal translation of the Bible and his absurd assertion that the world was created in 6 days and that the universe is 6,000 years old.

In my opinion, (an opinion shared by other science communicators), the Nye vs. Ham debate did little for science outreach. It was all about who sounded more convincing and only gave creationists some free advertising.

And then, today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) delivered news of a pretty shocking poll result: around one in four Americans (yes, that’s 25 percent) are unaware that the Earth orbits the sun. Let’s repeat that: One in four Americans — that represents one quarter of the population — when asked probably the most basic question in science (except, perhaps, “Is the Earth flat?” Hint: No.), got the answer incorrect. Suddenly I realized why the Nye vs. Ham debate was so popular.

But wait! I hear you cry, perhaps the NSF poll was flawed? Perhaps the poll sample was too small? Sadly not. The NSF poll, which is used to gauge U.S. scientific literacy every year, surveyed 2,200 people who were asked 10 questions about physical and biological sciences. On average, the score was 6.5 out of 10 – barely a passing grade. But for me personally, the fact that 26 percent of the respondents were unaware the Earth revolves around the sun shocked me to the core.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of the U.S. education system? Perhaps this is just an anomaly; a statistical blip? But then, like the endless deluge of snow that is currently choking the East Coast, another outcome of the same poll appeared on the foggy horizon of scientific illiteracy: The majority of young Americans think astrology is a science.

What the what? Have I been transported back to the Dark Ages? Astrology, of course, is not a science; it is a spiritual belief system at best and at worst a pseudoscience driven by charlatans and the tabloid press. The positions of the stars and planets in the sky do not affect my mood and my horoscope has little bearing on the kind of person I am. Even in China, one of the birthplaces of astrology, 92 percent of the people know that astrology is bunk. Really America, get your act together.

Unfortunately, if we are to use the “Is astrology a science?” as a litmus test for scientific literacy, things are looking grim. In 2004, 66 percent of the American public said astrology was bunk. Every year since then, that majority has slipped. By 2012, only 55 percent of Americans considered astrology “not at all scientific.” Probably of most concern is the fact that only 42 percent of young respondents aged between 18-24 said astrology is “not at all scientific.”

But there is a small glimmer of hope. According to the same NSF poll, the vast majority of Americans seem to love science. Although they returned woeful test results, it seems America is hungry to learn about science and think that science funding is essential for the well-being of the nation. But I’m now concerned about what America thinks science really is, especially in light of that astrology result. Also, just because the U.S. public wants to learn, can they find the institutions that will actually teach real science?

Schools across the nation are currently facing the unthinkable notion of teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms. The fact that religion is given the same standing as science is not only absurd, it’s a fundamental institutional failing where children (who may be excited to learn about science) will grow up with a second-rate education, neglecting decades of scientific knowledge in favor of pseudo-scientific religious agendas.

For a nation that prides itself on science and discovery, it will be a tragedy on a national scale if fundamental science is undercut by superstition and the bad policies it inspires.

You can read detailed results of the NSF poll here (PDF).

Source: DNews
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…….so. There’s this. However, we do have much working in our (humanity’s) favor: the very technology we depend on for information and communication is being used by humanity to evaluate, compare, and verify through a self-correcting process called science.

I know this report is extremely grim, but my fellow curious human family…this is precisely why we delight in sharing information, educating others, communicating across these artificial boundaries set up before us, and encouraging alternative means to pay it forward for the next generation. We’re in the midst of a grand transition regarding how we inspire, create, and contribute to the world.

If there were any time in our society where a massive transition from long-held beliefs, superstitions, and traditions was needed, now is that time. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing with as much patience as possible. We have resources and access to information on a scale never before witnessed or applied to any society throughout history. Not even the Library of Alexandria could compete with the amount of knowledge we have and the means by which we can communicate it to others.

Let’s get to work.
Ask Science Live!

One of our contributers, Alex, is going to be a panelist on this brand new Google + Hangout Series TODAY at 6PM EDT.

Ask Science Live is going to be a live discussion among scientists involved in the /r/AskScience community of Reddit using the Google+ Hangouts on Air broadcasting service.

We’ll be featuring lots of audience questions live on air. But for this to work out, we’ll need you guys, the audience! You can send us questions on Twitter using the #AskSciLive hashtag.

AskScience Live is a video podcast where youchoose the topic. Our panel of scientists are each experts in their field and ready to answer your questions.

You can ask your questions any time on Twitter using the hashtag #AskSciLive. Then, tune in to the Google “On Air” Hangout to hear the answer.

You can start tweeting questions with the #AskSciLive Tag now AND during the show.

I hope you’ll take the time to tune in. If you’re interested in Sciences and Science Outreach, this should be the show for you. 

Please Reblog and Spread the word! Audience participation will be key to this series.


Education and Outreach Webinar Series: The BrainScoop: Insight into Using Videos as Engaging Outreach Tools

Hey! Next Wednesday (4/13) I’m hosting a digital presentation about making educational videos on natural history topics/in museums. Tune in if you want to know more about our creative process, covering things like: 

  • how we pick our content (topic strategy!)
  • how to structure interviews (not naturally ‘good on camera’? no worries brah i got you)
  • conducting/managing research (when you know diddly about the topic)
  • how we measure success (in a way that doesn’t mean gOiNg ViRaL)

…and other “no one size fits all” subjects!