Walking on water with Sara’s #SciCommChall!

For April’s #SciCommChall, Sara (follow her on Instagram: @frauwissenschaft) came up with a really cool idea: DIY water striders for kids! This is a fun activity kids can do with us (or their parents, or anyone, really!) to learn about surface tension, nano technology, physics, all kinds of interesting subjects! And that they can take home to remind them and their parents of what they learned together.

We don’t have the diy instructions ready just yet, but isn’t this prototype adorable? If it inspires you to other cool scicomm crafts, let us know! 🙂

How do whales sleep?

Nena had yet another cool idea for our March #SciCommChall “science on the breakfast table” and she created the graphic below that would be amazing on, for example, a box of corn flakes. She writes:

The sleeping behaviour of whales and dolphins is fascinating and different in every specie. We want to present you amazing facts about how marine mammals sleep and how it works.
Very special in all of them is their ability of an active regulation of breathing. Humans breathe automatically, whales can control their breath. How they deal with them during sleeping varied from whale to whale.

“Wimmelbild” of a research ship

Mirjam writing:

For April’s #SciCommChall, I did a quick sketch of a “Wimmelbild”* of a research ship, the idea being that kids can color it in and discover a lot about life on a research cruise: People taking water samples and measuring them in a lab, but also others doing some whale watching, people on the bridge steering the ship, a cook preparing meals, washing machines, people hanging out in the lounge or sleeping in their cabins, and many more.

I think something like this could work very well in combination with someone telling stories about all these aspects of life at sea and oceanographic research!

There is some stuff I will change when I draw this research ship for real: For example make sure that the ship itself looks like a ship, and like one that won’t topple over first chance it gets. But all in all I am quite pleased with this first sketch. What would you suggest I should improve on in the next version? Looking forward to your feedback and suggestions! 🙂

*In case you are wondering what the translation English of “Wimmelbild” might be: No idea how to properly translate it! Apparently they are used in the “I spy” books in the US, in “Where is Waldo?” in the UK, sometimes called “busy pictures”, sometimes called “look-and-see” pictures. How would you call something like this?

#SciCommChall in May: What picture would you pick to represent your research?

Sometimes it’s super helpful to have some nice visual representation of what your work is all about. Not only for your own scicomm, but also for stuff like your project’s annual report, your institute’s website, your conference poster, …

So as part of the #SciCommChall in May, challenge yourself:

Create 10* images that represent your work and share them with us!**

And tell us: What part of your work is represent in which picture, and how? Is it the way you feel when you think about your research? The question you are addressing with your science? The methods you are using? The environment you do your work in? The reason you are interested in your research question? A typical day in the office? …? And what makes you associate that image with that aspect of your work?

*Yes, 10! Why? Because if you pick more than just one or two, that takes the pressure off of each of those to be 100% perfect: Showing all aspects of your research, being visually pleasing, artistic, whatever expectations you might have. That’s NOT what we are trying to accomplish here! We just want to try to find images that you can show to illustrate your work.

**Only one additional condition here: Make sure you either take photos / draw images yourself, or make sure you have the right to use and share whatever other images you find that you didn’t create yourself.

Water striders and cereal boxes. Sara’s #nano #scicomm as part of March’s #SciCommChall

Sara presents her March’s Science Communication Challenge on her brand new Instagram account @frauwissenschaft.
She found a funny water strider motto “Water strider – You cannot please everyone. Even if you can walk on water, someone will come and ask if you are too stupid to swim.” and created a meme using one of her research pictures and that motto to stick on a cornflakes package, so that families are prompted to discuss about surface tension and all the cool nano research during breakfast.

Toy trains explaining melting of shelf ice in Antarctica

Mirjam here!

Can we use our topics to come up with ideas for crafts projects that kids can do while we chat with them and their parents about our science? It would be cool if we could let them create something they proudly take home, that would always remind them of the science we talked about and spark conversations about it!

Here is one idea I came up with for April’s #SciCommChall: A postcard that kids can color in. The science that inspired this drawing is cutting-edge research by Elin Darelius and her team at the University of Bergen, Norway. Elin investigates how ocean currents influence melting of ice shelves floating on the water around Antarctica, and I have been involved in some of their research and outreach.

On the back of the postcard (or maybe an additional leaflet, I haven’t completely thought this through) I would print an explanation of what we see on the postcard (and obviously both the text and the drawing itself would have to be agreed upon with the research team, which they are not yet. I am just presenting an idea here!):

“This postcard shows research on how ocean currents melt ice in Antarctica.
When ocean bring warm water next to the ice, the ice melts. But where that happens, how fast, and how much ice melts depends on the properties of the currents. You can imagine the current like a toy train going past the ice, transporting warm water. But the train could go fast or slow. It could go on nice, smooth tracks, or around sharp corners, loosing some of its cargo on the way. It could be very warm or rather cold. It could carry heavy or not so heavy goods. And there are many more options that you could imagine that would influence how good a job the train does at melting the ice!
How do we know which of those options are important, and which settings are correct? To figure this out, Elin and her team go on research cruises to Antarctica and measure directly how fast the currents go, which pathways they take, their temperature and their density — all the properties that we know already we need to get right to drive our toy train like an Antarctic ocean current. Elin and her team also do experiments in large water tanks, where they can set those properties similarly to what they measured in Antarctica and see whether there are other properties they should also take into consideration.
It’s rather complicated, but it’s also very exciting! To find out more about this research, go to https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius/

What do you think? I can tell you that not everybody on the team is happy with how much I am simplifying by using the toy train as an analogy, and I completely understand and respect that. I don’t think I would have been able to talk about my own research in such simplified terms, I can completely relate to how that must feel, and maybe I have gone way too far down the rabbit hole of simplification. But I still think it’s a fun idea, and I welcome your feedback! Do you think I am simplifying too much here?


Hairy legs and walking on water – #LOLmythesis as part of January’s #SciCommChall

We’ve been doing the #SciCommChall offline for a while already, and this is a cool example of a #LOLmythesis that Sara did as part of the January #SciCommChall.

Sara is working on developing scicomm for material sciences (specifically nano sciences) in a virtual reality format. She writes: “When water striders get wet feet, tiny hairs have superpowers and audiences tear up. Who gets immersed more? We’ll soon find out!” and it is shown on a scanning electron microscopy image of a water strider’s hairy leg.

Sara is writing about her PhD- and scicomm journey on Instagram: Find her as @frauwissenschaft (“Ms. Science” in English)!

Fun #scicomm crafts for kids involving whale skeletons? Yes please!

Mirjam writing:

Remember that I gave you a sneak peek into my April #SciCommChall idea a little while back when I was drawing whale skeletons?

Here is where I wanted to go with that:

It’s a prototype of a “Oh, a whale! Now you see its skeleton! And now you don’t!” toy that kids could make with us while talking to Nena about the weird hip bone (did you know that what that detached bone was? I didn’t until she told me!). And then bring it home and think about it every time they see it…

If you like the idea, here is a printable .pdf. If you make your own toy, don’t forget to share a picture with us! (Here is how)


Learning about whales from a milk carton? Nena’s response to the March #SciCommChall !

Nena writes:

At first sight whales don’t look to be very athletic, because mostly they huge and it seems they not really moving fast in the ocean. But they are! Since my research project deals with whales, I came up with the idea to show people what whales enormously perform during their live.

On the one side of the milk carton the riddle starts with a short story about five kids be on holiday on different places to different times. All of them see whales and we print their pictures of the fluke connected to where and when they have been seen. The viewer now is asked to notice which fluke where seen twice and thus to recreate the migration way of them on.

The “riddle” side of the milk carton. Click on the images to enlarge!

On the other side of the milk carton, I present the solution to the riddle and explain why they have to travel these routes.

The “solution” side of the milk carton. Click on the images to enlarge!

Read more about humpback whales below the cut (in german)

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