5 years of “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”!
Today I am celebrating my blog’s 5th Birthday! 5 years of documenting my “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”. That feels both like an enormous amount of time, while at the same time it feels like only yesterday that I started one evening on the spur of the moment while sitting on the couch at my friend A&I’s former apartment, babysitting (Happy anniversary, A&I!).
When I started, I did not really have much of a plan of what I wanted to do with the blog, in the beginning I didn’t even plan on sharing it with anyone. I had, at that point, been teaching and doing science communication in oceanography for several years, and had done some pretty cool and innovative stuff (if I say so myself). Only trouble: I did not remember what I had done from one year to the next!
The main thing I wanted to archive were “kitchen oceanography” experiments: Experiments on processes related to the ocean that can be done using only household items. In honour of my blog’s 5th Birthday I have gone through some 700 posts introduced the new category, “kitchen oceanography“, to bring together all the blog posts that match that description. And it’s quite impressive how much cool science stuff you can do using only things you have in your home anyway!
I am a big fan of those experiments that can be done impromptu — for using them in teaching and outreach as planned features, as well as just whipping something out when the opportunity presents itself (for example on a skiing trip using our last drops of red wine as dye tracer). Once people get over the initial “what kind of kindergarden trick are we about to be presented with here?” reluctance, they ALWAYS get so engaged and want to start experimenting themselves. Those are the best moments!
Observations everywhere: from my sink to rivers to the sea
Another kind of teaching resource I wanted to archive on my blog were observations that I was making every day but didn’t have a good way to store: Oceanography in my kitchen sink, on puddles at the bus stop, in drains during a huge downpour (I was still living in Bergen back then), and when looking at the sea. There is so much physics everywhere that most people don’t notice, and as a proud, semi-new-ish smartphone owner, I had so many examples of what people could observe if they knew what to look for. I wanted to collect all those pictures together, have them searchable by keyword, and have them at hand whenever I wanted to show them to someone, whether in teaching or any other occasion.
Literature on teaching, learning, science communication
And then I had started reading literature on teaching and learning, and later on science communication. And while a good system to archive your literature is necessary in any case, I liked the idea of summarising relevant literature for the readers of my blog (and for my own reference, too). So that became the third main “genre” of blog posts on my blog.
Building an archive
So yes, the main idea when starting this blog was that I needed some way to archive pictures of experiments I had done together with short descriptions in a way that was easily searchable. For a while I had used Facebook (and I did like all the positive feedback I got when I posted pictures of experiments!) but in the end I wanted something I could customise to meet my needs and that would stay “mine” independent of what happened to other platforms.
But there were so many other benefits to this blog that I came to realise over time! The biggest one for me personally is that I now have a “reason” to get out my phone, snap a picture of the layers in my latte or other interesting features I come across in my daily life, and think about them more than just in passing. And it makes me so happy when I bake cupcakes with my sister just to use them for a blog post on ice coring or borrow a huge set for experiments on venturi tubes. I don’t think I would have gone to all that trouble if I didn’t have a blog to post the pictures on, and I would have missed out on so much fun! To me, doing those things is really rewarding and something I definitely want in my life.
Building a portfolio
But since the blog sometimes make me go to more trouble that I would without, and since I want it to be an archive of all this stuff, it has become a great portfolio. Going back over those 700-ish blogposts to tag all the “kitchen oceanography” ones, I noticed different phases related to different employers and places I lived at, but also in how much effort I put into blogging. And my blog has definitely become an asset: Based on what I put online here, I am fairly regularly contacted by people who ask for advice on teaching and especially experiments, or by people who found my blog for other purposes, for example for finding out how much salt there is in seawater in order to use it to beak bread! And I really value the interactions that have risen from people reading things on my blog and then getting in touch with me. I would never have been able to build such a diverse and fascinating network of people around me had it not been for my blog!
And then this blog has had a huge influence on my professional development. Not only have I gotten over the fear of writing and publishing things online completely. I have also, by building this portfolio, created opportunities for myself that might not have been possible otherwise: I changed from a traditional postdoctoral career in oceanography research into providing advice to oceanographers and climate scientists on their teaching and science communication! And this is the career I have been dreaming of long before I was able to put it into words, and then long before realising that I had already put it into words, because it lets me combine the best of both exciting worlds: Oceanography and teaching!