Nena shows us the “Tree of Project”: How to become a good biologist!

Nena gave us quite a challenge yesterday: Coming up with a “Tree of Project”. Today she shows us how it’s done:

My Tree of Project – My Tree of getting a good Biologist


I have not a real PhD Project or something similar, because of that I want to show you my biggest Project, to become a good Biologist.
It was very early I learned to be fascinated about the nature around me. With my siblings and me, my parents often went into the black forest to go for a walk. There they told us a lot about animal tracks we saw or all the huge trees. I am sure there was more, but that is what I remember from this time. This was my impact to learn more about life, and so I decided to study biology. At the University there were four lecturers and a lot of good friends who make my decision to study biology feeling right. During my studies I noticed that my way was more in the direction of animals than plants, and if I want to learn something about plants, than it must be trees.
At some points, probably it has to do with my time on Helgoland and the whale I saw for my first time, I had the feeling to capture all the great stuff I was discovering outside. I started to photograph birds, butterflies, bees, beetles, flowers, trees – to show the people around me what I have seen. In a nature conservation organisation, I started to talk about my experiences and my photographs and did a lot of volunteering work with kids. This leads me from my home, through Stuttgart to Kiel into the Zoological Museum where I started to guide people through the amazing exhibitions of this wonderful house. In the museum I got a lot of influence of the director, my colleagues which became one of the best friends I ever had. There I also worked in a marvellous group about science communication, where I learned more of talking about the fascination about my passion. Not least because of a great colleague, which became a good friend and something like a mentor and my personal life coach After two years I decided to go into a nature conservation organizationin the Southern Harz to work there to show people the beauty of the world and of biodiversity and so to leave behind familiar paths. Here I get a lot of connections to political actors, volunteers, farmers, like-minded people and opponents and also the industry. That’s were I am noew. All the time I am still learning to distinguish between idealism, realism and fascination and if I am at the end of myy Tree of Project, I want to be a good Biologist. Thanks to all they join my way!

May’s #scicommchall suggested by Nena: Show us your “Tree of Project”!

Nena is suggesting this month’s #scicommchall. She writes:

“The tree of live shows us the genesis of life. Single-cell organisms evolved in a complex environment. The cells go continuous through a development to organisms of higher levels. Different functions were taken over by different new compartments, new limbs were grown and life styles change from day to day, from year to year.

How is you project going on? Which point is the base of your project which developed into different branches of your own Tree of Project.”

We are super curious to see what you come up with!

A giveaway that works well for scicomm? Alice’s popsicle stick wave is such a great idea!

Such a fun giveaway with tons of scicomm potential suggested by Alice for April’s scicommchall on her awesome Instagram @scied_alice — and she even included a “how to” on her blog! Doesn’t this make you want to start playing right away? (And also: follow Alice on Twitter @Alice_in_SciEd!)
Alice writes:
“Have you ever tried a popsicle stick wave? For every popsicle stick added to the chain, there is some elastic potential energy added. When the chain is released, all that elastic potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, resolving into a motion that resembles a wave. Just look at the slow motion video, where you can only see a small chain released and think of the chain reaction when a huge amount of sticks is connected!
And by the way – that is my #scicommchall giveaway! Obviously, I‘d also include a booklet with instructions on how to set up the wave and an explanation of the phenomenon. And off it would go – the perfect SciComm giveaway for my 200th post! Keep an eye open for that special occasion!”

Motion cards for wave watching

Mirjam writing about giveaways that also work as scicomm props for April’s scicommchall:

One of my scicomm foci is wave watching: looking at the water and trying to figure out why the waves look exactly the way they do. What caused them? The wind, ships, animals? What’s the influence of the shape of the coastline or the depth distribution? That kind of stuff.

In order to discuss these kinds of questions, it’s useful to visualize wave crests (or troughs) in pictures, so everybody is talking about the same things, which is surprisingly difficult when you look at a moving water surface.

I like to annotate pictures and create gifs for my blog (like the one below) to then be able to explain things, but I am thinking that a motion card (you know? The kind of card that shows two or more pictures depending on the angle you look at them at) might be a fun way to show a similar thing. It would be small enough to carry with me to give to people at e.g. conferences, or cheap to send to people per (snail-) mail. People might like to put it up at their pin boards at work, or have it on their desks, or even send it to other people because it’s fun. And I think it could be intriguing enough that people would follow a link to read more about what’s displayed on the card and about wave watching in general. So it would be a way to get people curious about everyday physics.

What do you think? Would it work on you?

Spinning tops as giveaways as well as scicomm tools!

Katrin tells us about a really neat scicomm giveaway for April’s #scicommchall:

“My job is the science communication of a collaborative research center called SPIN+X. Physicists, engineers and chemists are working together within SPIN+X doing research on spin phenomena.

Spin is a property of particles like electrons, neutrons or protons. Because of their spin, those particles behave like little spinning tops. So, at science events we give away little spinning tops, with which we can show and explain phenomena like precession (the staggering of a spinning tops axis) and their application in spin research, for example for developing new kinds of electronics.

Besides their usefulness for science communication, the spinning tops are nice to play with whenever your bored because not everything can be as exciting as spin research

April’s #scicommchall — designing your project’s giveaways for science communication

For April’s scicommchall, let’s think about giveaways. Many big research projects and institutions regularly spend a lot of money on things like pens, mugs, canvas bags, or even pool noodles (I kid you not, my former employer did that!), all typically branded with the institution’s or project’s logo. While many of those are certainly useful and others funny, wouldn’t it be even better if they had a science communication aspect to them, since they are already budgeted for, anyway? And even if you don’t have a budget for giveaways at the moment, wouldn’t it be fun to have a game plan in place for when you do?

So tell us:

What giveaway would you ideally like to have for your own project?

For some thoughts on how to use giveaways in science communication, check out Mirjam‘s recent blog posts on what the literature tells us about giveaways, on designing a scicomm giveaway, and on checklists & logistics to consider.

A concept cartoon about teachers’ reasons not to implement Inquiry-Based Learning

Alice is sharing her contribution to March’s #scicommchall on her Instagram @scied_alice (which you should totally check out!). She writes:

“I‘m finally submitting my concept cartoon for this months #scicommchall – and it‘s about teachers‘ reasons NOT to implement Inquiry-Based Learning and addressing diversity. All of those reasons are hindering factors and are totally legitimate. They‘re not excuses but subjective perceptions of the situation in which teachers assess their opportunities for action. It‘s my job to find those factors influencing the teachers‘ beliefs and their self-efficacy and to convince policy makers and educators of the importance of addressing those factors.”

A concept cartoon to kickstart discussions about why water striders can walk on water

In March, we are developing concept cartoons. They are perfect to get people discussing, since they give several common answers to a question and people have to explain why some of them are valid while others are not.

In Sara’s case, the question is “why are water striders able to walk on water?” and answers include “because they are so light”, “because they distribute their weight”, “because of their long legs”, “because of surface tension”, “because they re so fast”. What do you think? Why can water striders walk on water? And how would you use concept cartoons for your own topic?

#SciCommChall in March: Join us in creating concept cartoons!

For this month’s #scicommchall, let’s do concept cartoons!

The idea is that in a concept cartoon, the sketch of a situation is given, along with a couple of people who each give a statement explaining the situation. For example on the topic of whether a sundial can be used in both hemispheres, the characters state things like “yes, you just have to position it the other way round”, “yes, if you swap the numbers”, “no, because the sun moves in the opposite direction”, “it will work, but with a 12 hour offset”.

This can then be used to support discussions: Since many possible misconceptions are made explicit on the sketch itself, it is easy for people to identify with one of the answers and explain why they think that it is the correct one. It is also useful to use answers to argue against or to use them as a starting point for experiments or literature research, or to talk about your topic with an audience you suspect might harbour some of those misconceptions.

So let’s go: Show us an interesting question related to your science in a concept cartoon!