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“Social Media for Science and Conservation: A Guide to Making an Impact in the Digital Age”

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science (Einstein).”


Being in grad school, it is not very often that I have time to read books “for fun” as most of my colleagues I am sure would agree. However, when a multitude of people sent me the link to the new ebook from Christine Beggs, “Social Media for Science and Conservation: A Guide to Making an Impact in the Digital Age,” I had to see what all the hype was about. I had actually been looking for a book just like this and let me tell you, if you were searching too…look no further. The book I now lovingly refer to as SciComm101, hits the proverbial nail on the head. As I just recently flipped the last page of this one on my kindle, I wanted to share my thoughts, without giving away all the juicy details, on a book I believe all scientists (young and slightly more distinguished) should be reading.

  “Stories are at the core of our beliefs and through the ages, the importance of documenting and passing on information and knowledge has shaped the evolution of the world’s cultures and societies. Stories and language are the threads that stitch individuals together, allowing us to communicate complex ideas, emotions and messages…And in a time of increasingly complex environmental issues, we need communicators from across cultures and disciplines; we need good storytellers.”


I could not agree more with this introduction. Whether you are writing a novel, a blog article, or a manuscript for Science, your story and how you tell it is the legacy that you leave behind. Social media, in all of it’s forms, allows scientists an open and global platform to portray their ideas, their research, and most importantly their stories. The use of social media makes scientists and their research real to a much broader audience where access was previously limited. Beggs explores this concept in depth and answers the Who, What, Why, and Where, in this fairly all-inclusive and well synthesized social media “how-to-guide.”

SM4S&C begins by giving it’s readers a quick and dirty definition on what Social Media is and isn’t as well as the numerous types of ways to get your message out there (Online forums, Social sharing, Microblogging…oh my!). The best part about it is that due to the various platforms scientists/conservationists can use, no matter who you are or how much time you have to denote, there is something for everyone.

The blurb on “Why Use Social Media?” I believe to be particularly important, especially for all those out there who aren’t quite convinced. Citing the one and only A. Thaler, who hails from the deep southern lands of Southern Fried Science, I believe this question was summed up perfectly, “Because communication of knowledge, is at ‘the heart of conservation, environmentalism, and environmental science’ (Thaler et al. 2012).” From increasing transparency of the research realm, to inspiring and promoting conservation and societal change, no matter what your end goal, Beggs walks readers through the in’s and out’s of exactly why social media is such a powerful tool. No doubt, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility (EXPECIALLY IN THE ONLINE WORLD), but luckily for us, Beggs touches upon even some of the downsides of social media and how they can be avoided.

Continuing right along, I found all of the statistics/inforgraphics for Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. that Beggs referenced to be quite fascinating and well surpassing the magnitude and volume I was expecting. Especially this one, which really hits home on the reach and power of social media to get your message across.


Source: Socialnomics

Source: Socialnomics


However, what I probably love most about this book is that it is easy to understand, even for those of you who still think that MyBook and Facespace are real things, and walks you through all of the social media platforms step by step (some of which I didn’t even know about and will now be using, Thanks Christine!). From the importance of setting goals of what you want your online presence to be, to finding the best place to make those goals a reality depending on the audience you are looking to reach, this book truly has it all.

As scientists, social media allows us a chance to keep up with the current research in the field, to collaborate with our colleagues and friends and people we haven’t even met before, to open up new dialogues and carry on with old ones, but most importantly social media allows us to increase the reach of our stories.

“Monitoring conversations that are taking place on issues and research in your area of expertise will help you identify opportunities (Weidinger, 2012). These opportunities may come in the form of new connections or a chance to leap into a discussion and transform an issue. Social media gives individuals and organizations the power to make an impact in the digital age by crafting messages of science and conservation that are compelling, viral, and easy for people to act on.”


Without reservation, I recommend this book to all of those looking to garner a better grasp on the numerous online avenues that are changing the way we communicate science.

About the author:

 “Currently pursuing her Master’s in Marine Conservation at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), Christine Beggs is the founder of Project Blue Hope. Her zeal for understanding the complexities of marine issues and coral reef protection drove her decision to attend the RSMAS program, interdisciplinary at its core, which prepares students for jobs actively informing policy and engaged in conservation efforts.

Beginning life as a dancer, turned scientist, turned entrepreneur, diver and conservationist, Christine says, “It has been said that we have ‘unlearned the patience and attention of lingering at the thresholds where the unknown awaits us.’ This is what my connections with communities and the ocean teach me and what I try to impart.”

Learn more about ProjectBlueHope.



Own it for yourself! Purchase Here.

Social Media for Science and Conservation: A Guide to Making an Impact in the Digital Age

Performance. Feedback. Revision.

Anyone who works with me will tell you…I am a walking mixed tape. On the boat. Singing. In the lab. Singing. Underwater…yes…still singing (not so good for air consumption). With the exception of science, music is my greatest passion. So as you can imagine, when I started mixing the two, I found an outlet that worked for me.  At least this way, if marine ecology doesn’t work out, I have a fall back as a science rapper. And like every science rapper….I have my fair share of people who inspire me. Those brilliant lyricists whose rhymes and rhythms span generations, change the status quo, and give us all a reason to pump it up and dance in the car (you know you do it). Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop, Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan, Missy E, Nas, Tupac…honestly there are too many to name, but you get the picture. However, as a science rapper specifically, there is one whose musical medleys I have always found quite epic. Reason one being…he drops the beats on Darwin in a way I have never hear before….

Check it (includes some of my faves):


Baba Brinkman is a Canadian triple threat. Rapper, writer, “former tree-planter”, and probably a whole list of other fun things. Learn more about Baba’s work here:

Anyways, since hearing his science raps a couple years back, I was like… “This guy is freaking awesome…it would so cool to meet him one day.” Not actually thinking this was possible I put it on my bucket list and went on living the life of an aspiring science rapper (more scientist than actual rapper, but I do try)… that was until last week.

As you all know from my previous postings, I will be one of the lucky souls in attendance at the 2013 ScienceOnline conference. Now I have known for a long while that this conference was going to be off the chain. From networking, to science-ing, to collaborating, you name it, #SciO13 will have it (Shout out to Bora, Karyn, and Anton…for making the magic happen). What I didn’t know however, due to some outrageous oversight on my part, was that indeed B. Brinkman himself is going to be a converge speaker. How…how did I not know this?! ScienceOnline how do you continue to prove your unarguable epicness time and time again!?! So with this knowledge, I must now revise my previous post of goals to meet at #SciO13


Goal #1: Rap with Baba Brinkman

Currently working on the deets to make this collab happen… A check on the good ole bucket list. Time to channel my inner Eminem and get to the drawing board.

Send some good mojo.

Side note: For all my peeps in San Diego who can’t make it> Join the SD Watch Party here! Or follow my adventure on the twitter @Alex_Warneke

We are going on an adventure!! to #SciO13


This is an OMG moment. Why you ask? The answer is simple…as I write this only 23 days, 21 hours, 44 minutes and 1 second stand between me and the conference I have been waiting a year for. If you are close to me, I apologize again for having to hear about my nerdy infatuation, but ScienceOnline 2013 is going to be epic.

For the peeps that don’t know what I am talking about, I believe a little 411 is in order. ScienceOnline is what has been described as the “unconference” conference. A gathering of the gurus, newbies, and the all out craziest minds of the online science community to talk about my favorite topic. ScienceOnline seeks to promote conversation, community, and  collaboration amongst scientists, journalists, bloggers, tweeters…you name it, they have it.  I have never been in attendance, but when I got wind of what this was all about, naturally I had to get in on it.

So as I begin to think about which shoes I am going to pack (I believe Dr. Bik would agree that this is a critical part to every adventure) and all the thought-provoking talks I am going to see, I have been following #SciO13 on the twittersphere for the latest updates.  There was one tweet in particular that struck me, from Caren Cooper @CoopSciScoop talking about her goals for ScienceOnline. Reading through this, and being a big goal maker myself, I felt inspired to write about the things I am looking forward to and most interested in taking away from (and contributing to) at #SciO13. This is a topic that has actually been on my mind for a while now, but I am excited to finally put it down and share with you.  So here it goes…

The Big Goals

I figured it would be best to align these with the 3 major C’s of ScienceOnline, so that I know I am getting the most out of my experience and covering all of my bases if you will.

1. Conversation: It’s really no secret….I love to talk to everyone. I think I missed the whole “do not talk to strangers” train when I was little or something, but so far, being a social butterfly hasn’t let me down and I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of butterflies just like me at this conference. My goal is to put a face to, give a hand shake, and maybe even have a drink or two with all of my favorite online names (too many to put here, but I will find them all). I am most excited for the stimulating conversations that are going to ensue about the most pressing issues in Science, online communication, and public outreach.

2. Community: Community building is a topic some of my colleagues and I have put extensive thought into over the last couple of months.  How do we best set up a line of communication between the public and us as researchers? Or perhaps even more importantly, how do we build a strong community within our department (students, faculty, staff)? Not only am I looking to expand my online community at #SciO13, but I am also on  the look out for the best tools, both online and other places, to bring back and build up the community here at SDSU.

3. Collaboration: I am a scientist by trade, but people from all different backgrounds flock to ScienceOnline. I am looking forward to talking with peeps from disciplines across the board and maybe taking away a new outlook from journalists and writers on how to best portray science or think about communication.

The Little Goals

1. Balance: As a graduate student with a plate as full as Mt. Everest, I am definitely interested in talking to others whom of which I know take on even more than I do and seeing how they survive without sleep. What are their secrets? What kind of caffeine drip they prefer?….Just kidding…but I am interested in the balance. How does one balance both an online presence and a budding research career, and still look great doing it?

2. Communication to an older generation: Often I feel like the focus of our educational system lies in bringing science to children in the classroom. However, I am interested in bringing science to the older as opposed to the K-12 generation. However, how does this work for those who might not be so versed in Twitter, WordPress, or even the the internet?  How do I bridge this generational/technological gap? A topic I hope to delve more into.

3. Learning how to sell it: Of any group I have come across, I find that the online science community is the best at “getting people to buy what they are selling.” Now what do I mean by this? In order, to have a solid online presence, you have to be able to synthesize information in not only a way that the public will understand, but in a way that they will also buy. They know how to present themselves and their science in ways that people keeping coming back and demanding more. This is a skill that I have been working on and I believe strongly translates into other avenues of the research process (such as grant writing). Thus, I would love to take a page out of the books of the best and learn a thing or two about workin’ it.

The (Um…Random?) Goals

1. Ask Carl Zimmer pretty pretty please would he sign my copy of Science Ink.

2. Perform a little diddy at Open Mic…7+ hours traveling from San Diego to N.C. I am bound to come up with something….

3. Science of Beer: I don’t know why this has always fascinated me, but I am making it a goal to attend this… because it’s awesome (…and liquid nitrogen beer floats intrigue me)

ULTIMATE GOAL: LEARN AS MUCH AS I POSSIBLY CAN….and then tell all my friends so they too can have the knowledge-y goodness.


So I don’t know if you could tell by now or not…but I am quite excited…. yes this is what I look like….


ScienceOnline 2013 will be an adventure indeed and I hope that you will join me. I will be tweeting my whole experience from @Alex_Warneke using the conference hashtag #scio13. I will also try to post periodic updates here as the weekend progresses about what I have learned and how I am getting along on what I have set out to do. For those of you going to the conference, can’t wait to finally meet you.

I leave you with this…the top 3 talks and their descriptions from the ScienceOnline wiki that I won’t be missing and you will definitely be hearing more about. (Though…looking at the schedule…I don’t know how I am going to pick!) Stay tuned.


Where at #SciO13 is Alex San Diego?:

Why should scientists “do” outreach? Pt. 1

The perennial discussion about scientists ‘doing’ outreach intensified this year, with lots of opinion and some data about who’s doing it, who’s fault it is that so few do it, what the roadblocks are, and how to alleviate them. Rather than host yet another tiresome round of the blame game (e.g. Scientists should do more outreach! Scientists suck at outreach!), the goal of this two-session track is to create a take-home resource for scientists hoping to do more and/or better outreach or trying to drum up enthusiasm for outreach in their departments/institutions and for those hoping to recruit more scientists to do outreach. In this session, we will focus on why scientists should want to do outreach. Drawing on the collective ScienceOnline expertise, we will brainstorm a list of ideas for incentivizing outreach that take into account the limitations (time, etc.) and barriers (stereotypes, etc.) that researchers face.

- If the currency of a scientific career is peer-reviewed papers and grants, how can scientists be encouraged and supported to take time away from these activities for outreach?
- What are the incentives to do outreach, and what are the limitations and barriers?

Science Art as Science Outreach

A discussion of how art can be a powerful tool in communicating complex scientific concepts and can reach an audience that may not normally find an interest in science. The commonly-held belief is that science is dry and art can add passion to it but the reality is that it works both ways. Science can be a huge inspiration. We will include discussions of examples using art as an effective tool for science communication and outreach, and want to get a list of examples going on the wiki page. Creating art can also enhance mastery of scientific concepts and ideas and we will draw from studies and examples to discuss ways of incorporating artistic creativity into science education.

- What artists, authors, creators use their art to communicate science?
- Can being scientifically accurate hurt the creative process? Enhance it? Both?
- What comes first? Science or art? Science can inspire art but it can also be incorporated into a creative piece.

Blogging in Grad School: Pro’s, Con’s, and Potential

Blogging as a graduate student is a great way of keeping abreast of topical research as well as using one’s expertise to communicate science to the public. It might also turn into a great segue out of the lab and into a career in science communication. However, your P.I. might not agree. In the current climate of job shortages, not just in academia, it would be great to discuss the value of blogging and networking (and building an online presence and brand) while working on an advanced degree. But what are the pitfalls of making the decision to do this? How do you navigate the negative vibes coming from your mentors and often peers? And lastly, what are the long term effects of blogging in grad school?

Do you worry about how your P.I. views your blogging (or do you keep it a secret)?
Do you use Twitter to publicize your blog?
Has blogging in grad school helped or hindered you on the job market?

“The Sweet Spot in Time”

Source: The Virginia Quarterly Review

As many of you know, I am a big fan of this scientist’s work and global mission. I was sent this article today and had to re-post it here. Read it and Think.

The Sweet Spot in Time by: Sylvia Earle

An eye the size of my fist peered through the window near the bunk where I lay, half awake, just past midnight on July 20, 2012. A goliath grouper, a fish larger than my desk, swerved past me into the dark sea, its mouth brimming with small fish attracted to the lights of the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory, my home for a week on Conch Reef near Key Largo, Florida. For the tenth time, I was living under the sea, experiencing what I had dreamed of doing as a child, living out a fantasy that had begun with Captain Nemo, Jules Verne, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

One of my five fellow aquanauts, marine biologist Mark Patterson, astutely observed that we were about 20,000 millimeters below the surface—some sixty feet—in a warm, dry suite of rooms, with access to the best swimming pool in the world: the ocean. A rectangular hole in the floor was the entrance to the lab and our exit to the sea beyond, with the pressure inside Aquarius keeping the water from rushing in. For as much as twelve hours a day (or night), scientists who work in Aquarius can explore that richly endowed Florida reef, observe and document the behavior of marine life, conduct experiments, enjoy the perspective of a resident, and make the most of the chance to occupy what is presently the world’s only “space station in the sea.”

Continue reading…

Ta-Da List

Source: Olive Chan

Now that all the fun of finals and the end of the semester is at a close, it is time to do the damn thing. Before I get into some bigger (more expensive) experiments  I have scheduled for next semester, there are a couple of things I will be working to figure out over winter break.

Alex’s To Do List:

1. Pick study species (both algae and herbivores)

2. Lock in heavy metals and their environmental concentrations

3. Figure out chemical analysis and how to use a Mass Spectrometer

4. Shopping Spree for lab equipment (almost as good as shopping for clothes…almost)

5. Set up preliminary experiments

6. Get Data

Let’s get crackin’.


Can someone please explain to me how to put up an RSS feed on this thing… Google fails me…

The Science.

Source: Liquid Assets

Source: Liquid Assets

Just to get everyone on the same page, I figured I would post this up front. Here are the basics on what I am trying to accomplish in the next 2-ish years. (The best part about science is that it constantly evolves and changes, so don’t be surprised if a year from now, you come back here and things are not as you remembered.)

“The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life, but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world-the very nature of life.”

-Rachel Carson

The Basics: First and foremost, my research deals with Aquatic Chemical Ecology. Particularly, I study the biological interactions that are regulated by chemical compounds. Now what the heck does that even mean? Well, many of you might have already had firsthand experience with chemical ecology and didn’t even know it!! If you have heard of something called pheromones, little invisible compounds that organisms produce to attract members of the opposite sex, you are already half way there. Essentially, these types of compounds drive all sorts of ecological interactions, especially in the ocean where organisms can’t always rely on their senses of sight and sound. The interactions that are driven, by what I will now refer to as chemical cues, include everything from how organisms find food, where they can live, who mates with who, and how organisms can fend off enemies. As you can see, they pretty much regulate just about EVERYTHING, which is why these chemically-mediated interactions are crucial to maintaining a well balanced ecosystem. With my research, I primarily study how some species of algae (seaweeds) produce these chemical cues to make themselves unpalatable (nasty tasting) in order to defend against their predators, a concept known as chemical deterrence. More importantly however, I am interested in how human impacts are altering these chemically-mediated interactions and what this might mean for life in the ocean.

The Problem: Now as some of you may or may not know, heavy metal pollution poses a unique and growing threat to aquatic ecosystems world-wide. Most heavy metals enter the watery realm mainly through industrial or agricultural run-off; however everyone is really playing a part in this problem. From burning gasoline to improper battery disposal, we are filling our oceans with a toxic cocktail of heavy metals and other persistent pollutants.  So what does this human-induced contamination mean for those who call the ocean their home? Many algal species, that provide both food and critical habitat for a range of critters, have been shown by scientists to accumulate high concentrations of heavy metals into their tissues (i.e.copper, zinc, lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium). As you might imagine, this phenomenon can be problematic for both the algae and those critters that rely on the algae. This brings us to the question that I am particularly interested in. Remember those chemical cues we talked about earlier and how algae can use them to keep predators from eating them? Though it has been suggested, no one has actually looked at how these absorbed heavy metals might be altering algal chemical defenses. These chemical defenses keep predators away and protect certain algal species, yet heavy metals might be interacting with said defenses, potentially leaving algae undefended and vulnerable to a suite of hungry predators.

What I plan to do: With my work, I plan to investigate the changes in interactions between predators and their chemically defended, algal prey as a result of heavy metal contamination. The results of this research will provide a better understanding of human influences on marine communities, as well as further our understanding of heavy metal accumulation in marine food webs.

Why should I (and by I, I mean You) care?: Well I am just so glad you asked. Here’s the skinny… Heavy metal contamination presents significant challenges, not only in California coastal environments, but globally. That’s right…this is a GLOBAL problem. “But Alex…it’s algae…how is that going to affect me?” As hard as it might be to imagine…algae (and terrestrial plants too) are what we like to refer to in ecology as “primary producers.” That means they are the base of the food chain and just about everything, in some way, relies on them. Therefore, if we start to alter these basic interactions between primary producers and the critters that eat them, these alterations will eventually start to compound and influence other interactions later on down the food chain and guess who’s at the top? That’s right. You. Therefore, research such as this is important in informing managers and contributing to more accurate risk assessments, especially for areas of high industrial input, so we can better control heavy metals and other pollutants in the environment.

New Beginnings.

Source: Kim Yoeung Seng

Source: Kim Yoeung Seng

Greetings Friends!

I hope this is finding everyone enjoying their holiday cookies and bowl games. What a crazy couple of months it has been! Sorry for the MIA-ness. I have been quite the busy bee this past summer/semester, finishing up my undergraduate degree in May (Yay!) and hitting the ground running to start my Masters this Fall. All in all it has been an adventure and I am finally sitting down to do a long awaited re-vamp on DJ’s Locker. As you may have noticed…some things have changed. I figured every New Year needs a new look (at least that’s what I learned on Fashion Police last night). Thus, I have given the site a much needed facelift and am ready to start the year off fresh. I am not one for resolutions, but I will give it a good faith effort. This next season I will also be doing things a little bit differently. As some of you may or may not know, I had the privilege of participating in the #SciFund Challenge in Nov/Dec. (What is the #SciFund Challenge? ->Click Here) Through this platform I was able to raise $1,765 for my research (See “The Science”) from the generosity of people just like you! (Mad shout out to my #SciFund Crew). Overall, Round 3 SciFunders were able to crowdfund over a quarter of a million dollars! An amazing feat and a testament to what happens when scientists and the public join forces. With our powers combined and all that.

Anyways, after everything was said and done, I decided I wanted to take my blog down a bit of a different route. Do not be alarmed, I will still have the occasional rad post about what I feel is funky fresh in today’s science world. However, I want to transform this site into more of an online lab notebook. This will allow a couple of things to happen:

1. As is ALWAYS the main goal >>Bring science to a broader public audience in a way that is easily understood, accessible, and (hopefully) interesting.

2. Allow those who have supported me in the #SciFund Challenge and anyone else who is interested to keep tabs on what I am up to in the lab/field.

3. Give me a chance to keep a running dialogue of my research with pictures and interesting tidbits…when I go to write this all up for my thesis/manuscript, I know I will be thanking myself later.

4.  Make it easier for me to update this site semi-regularly (I am hoping that with this new format, I will at least be able to maintain monthly/bi-monthly postings)

So that is the skinny. Have a look around as I have added some pages that I thought would be a fun edition. As always, I am open to suggestions on content and format (M. Goldstein…I promise I will left justify from now on ;) ). Just hit me up in the comments section or on which ever social media outlet you frequent (Facebook, Twitter, Email, Smoke Signals, etc.) the lines are always open. Hope you enjoy the new look and thank-you for tuning in.

Happy Holidays from The Locker!


The Great West Coast Migration

“The Great West Coast Migration” is a conservation-minded, open art show sponsored by PangeaSeed, in collaboration with the Beneath the Waves Film Festival.  The aim of PangeaSeed is to use the mediums of art and film to spread the message of shark and ocean conservation to a broader audience. Their West Coast Tour will be culminating in our very own San Diego, August 18th and 19th and promises to provide a wonderful showing from artists and filmakers all over the world.
The art will be exhibited at the Space4Art gallery located in downtown San Diego ( In addition, Sunday night will feature a selection of films provided by the Beneath the Waves Film Festival from researchers, students and conservationists alike. For more information on PangeaSeed and the Beneath the Waves Film Festival, please check us out on Facebook This is a great opportunity to share marine conservation to your friends and family!
Event Details:
“The Great West Coast Migration”
Saturday, August 18th 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, August 19th 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. (Film festival: 7 p.m.- 9 p.m.)
325 15th Street
San Diego, Ca. 92101
Refreshments will be provided.

The Ocean That We Want To Know.

Okay Okay, so as overplayed as we all know Gotye has become these days, I couldn’t help but post this awesome video. Enjoy.

Props: OneWorldOneOcean


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