Nena’s take on the May #SciCommChall: 10 pictures illustrating her work!

In response to the May #SciCommChall, Nena has picked 10 images that represent her work. She writes…

The baseline of my project is the 14-metre long sperm whale skeleton in the Zoological Museum in Kiel. The fascinating biology of this marine mammal makes him to be the perfect exhibition object for my study.

With the help of virtual reality, we want to show the biology and ecology of whales in an understandable way. Therefore, we have three main target extensions

1) to visualize the complex evolution of whales from a mammal on land to one in the sea

2) to provide a fundamental understanding of the interactions of skeleton, muscles and organs

and 3) – the focus of the study – to clear about the connection of whales to the anthropogenic underwater noise.

Regarding to our third aim we want to study the assessment competency of our target groups – a wider society of teachers, students, pupils, visitors, families –  about the topic “underwater noise and whales” and the transfer of knowledge through virtual reality media in an informal learning placethe museum. Next to this, we started an inclusion project for visually impaired people – also they should make great experiences about the whales and their biology and get to know the structure of the sperm whale skeleton with a 3D model.

To do this, there is a lot of passion about whales and the aim to help people see their fascination and and a lot of motivation to manage this project from best friends to do it.

Join – learn – be astonished

10 pictures illustrating Mirjam’s professional identity for #SciCommChall. How would you illustrate yours?

In response to the May #SciCommChall, Mirjam has picked 10 pictures to illustrate her work. She writes…

1. This is where I work

This is my office. I love this space! Even though it is a small room, I am very lucky to have so much light and space for my plants and my posters and paintings, featuring (of course!) research ships, light houses, and jelly fish. Guess I can’t hide that I am an oceanographer through and through! 🙂 (And yes, there are puzzles in the bowl on the table. I also like to play…)

2. Another place I like to do work at

Despite having a great office, a lot of the creative work that I do as part of, or related to, my job does not happen in the office. It’s not always “creative work” in the sense that I will draw, but I get a lot of quality thinking, idea generation and broad background reading done when relaxing at the sea. And I definitely enjoy “taking work home” in this sense!

3. I see oceanography everywhere and need to share how ridiculously excited it makes me

The picture below isn’t an impressionist painting (although I am fond of art, too), it represents something that I am really passionate about: Observing the world around you and discovering physics, and specifically physical oceanography, everywhere. I can’t help seeing it, but I want other people to see it, too: In puddles or the sink, in rivers, lakes, the sea. Here you see pollen on the surface of the Kiel fjord and you can use this to deduct something about waves over the last couple of hours as well as ocean currents from it! (How? Check out the @fascinocean_kiel post on the topic).

4. Communicating science

I use several ways to communicate aspects of science that I am excited about. For example, I created the Instagram account @fascinocean_kiel, where I share daily pictures of water together with descriptions of what oceanographic phenomena you see in those pictures. Two years ago, I wrote a book called “Let’s go wave watching!“, where I point out all kinds of wave phenomena so parents can go wave watching with their kids. But I am also active in many other formats, all of whichI write about on my blog

5. I’m a #DigitalScientist

Being close to water is very important to me. So much that I chose this selfie of me inside a “Strandkorb” over more formal portrait shots to illustrate an interview that I gave on Social Media Consultant Susanne Geu’s blog (link!) on being a #DigitalScientist. Since a large part of my job is related to using social media as a scientist, I was very excited about getting this opportunity to present myself! Also I really enjoy the opportunities that the web presents to communicate science in many different formats to many different people.

6. I like sharing my excitement

You saw this in the previous pictures already, but I love to share what I am excited about. Part of my job is the scientific coordination of the Kiel Science Outreach Campus (KiSOC), and in that role I develop and conduct workshops on science communication, specifically social media in science communication. Here you see me (on the left) with two PhD students, looking at Instagram on my phone, and me clearly gushing about my experiences with it. All part of implementing an exciting social media strategy for KiSOC, which will go live shortly…

7. Designing learning opportunities

The second big part of my work revolves around creating informal learning opportunities, and I love doing this collaboratively. In the picture you see me and part of my team work on further improving the “energie:labor“, a school lab in which we have school classes visit us for a day to work on energy in the climate system with them. Here we brainstorm on how to better integrate all the different experiences the students make throughout the day in a final activity, and how to help them compile it into a take-home message that they will hopefully remember for a long time.

8. Running the school lab

In the “energie:labor”, students conduct experiments with me and my team to investigate different aspects of the climate system. They spend about half the day becoming experts on five different aspects, before they then come together into teams to combine their expertise and use it to explain things going on in a simple climate model. I really like how hands-on experiments complemented with the climate model give students an idea of how climate scientists work and where challenges might arise.

9. Hands-on experiments

Even though I am trained as an ocean modeller, what I love best are tank experiments. This is how I spend rainy weekends (or sunny ones, if there is something I really want to try) and I am trying to incorporate my expertise in how to use this kind of experiments in teaching in my day job. I just submitted an article on the process you see in the tank below, double-diffusive mixing.

10. And where are we going from here?

Actually, I have no idea. And as an example, below you see me and my sisters a loooong time ago, playing music at Ratzeburger Segelschule (where I used to work as sailing instructor for many years), to illustrate that there are things that have I have always been passionate about: Being in/on/near water. Doing creative things in one way or another. Working in a team. Leading. Instructing. Right now, all of this is combined in my job. Are there other ways these passions can be combined? For sure! For example when I finally fulfil my dream and live in my light house, from which I will watch the sea, create materials, run workshops, all related to oceanography scicomm.

If anyone has any good ideas how to get me there, I am all ears 🙂

That’s me and my work in 10 pictures. People who know me, tell me: What aspects of me & my work that you find important did I miss? What pictures would you have chosen instead of the ones I chose? Which of those I chose did surprise you? I am really curious to get feedback on this! 🙂

Nena’s research project in one sentence

Nena has recently started the instagram channel nena_weiler where she posted her response to the January #SciCommChall — her thesis in one sentence (which she kindly let us share here, too):

“I would like to know your opinion on the fact that animals that are louder than the Frankfurt Airport can’t communicate with each other any more”

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

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?