#SciCommChall: 10 pictures to illustrate my work

As part of May’s #SciCommChall I am presenting a collection of 10 pictures that illustrate who I am and what I am working on, within and outside of my job. Enjoy :-)

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 which appear on this blog occasionally…

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…

Picture credit: Sara Siebert 

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! :-)

Presenting our new school lab on “energy in the climate system” at a conference

Next week we’ll be presenting out new lab on energy in the climate system (read more about it here) at a conference.

The main focus is on actually presenting and conducting the experiments and showing and discussing the materials we developed, but I put together two posters to put up in some corner, to have something to point at while giving a brief overview over the concept and the experiments.

If you are curious, here they are (unfortunately in german, but give me a shout if you would like a translation of something!).

Poster 1 is about the general concept and the three phases of the lab: The overarching question, the experimental phase, and the expert puzzle which we use together with the MSCM model (more about that here) to bring the experts to a common understanding of the system.

Poster 2 is just a bunch of pictures of individual experiments that are being done at the different stations. And I realized I urgently need better pictures for the next conference! Especially pictures with kids on them and not my team.

So here we go! That’s what I’ve been up to recently.

The energy lab’s dry run. Or: I have a great team! :-)

At first, I wanted to call this blog post “behind the scenes of a school lab” until I looked through the pictures and realized that all I am showing is people sitting around my desk in my office! Actually, not only sitting — test-running all the experiments for our energie:labor!

First, here is Julian’s experiment on atmospheric CO2.

And here an experiment from Jonas’ station on the role of the ocean in the climate system. A candle below an air-filled balloon. Can you imagine what will happen next?

Yes, this.

Sorry about the jump in perspective — even though I knew what would happen I clearly didn’t expect it enough to hold the camera stable. Small consolidation that everybody else clearly jumped, too?

Anyway, the point of that experiment is to look at the heat capacity of air and water. I’ve written about this before, see here (where we also have pictures of bursting the water-filled balloon because this is how we roll. But only in the lecture theatre, not in my office… ;-)).

Below, we are looking at Jonas’ overturning experiment, apparently discussing the work sheets. It’s really great how well this team works together on developing all their materials, even though their personal styles span the whole spectrum of teaching styles!

But we were also having fun, or at least that’s what it looks like… ;-)

In the picture below, taken on the second day of our dry run a couple of days later, we are looking at Henning’s station on the ice-albedo-feedback. As Henning is sitting next to me and we are sitting around my desk, he’s unfortunately not even in the picture!

In the background of the picture above you see the next exciting station that Nicolas prepared (and big shout out to my office mate who didn’t beat an eye when she came in and the office was filled with all our equipment and smelled of vinegar and white spirit…

What the guys are doing on the picture below? Using a bike pump to increase the pressure inside that bottle to make a cloud in a bottle.

Worked really well!

And then, there comes the most sophisticated piece of equipment of the whole lab: Nicolas’ cloud chamber. I’ll only tell you this much for now: It’s awesome! And you should stay tuned for an upcoming publication on how to build it and how to use it in teaching. Because it’s that great!

Now I’m out of pictures, but there is one last thing I want to say: Thank you, team, you are awesome! :-)

My new school lab on energy in the climate system has been launched! :-)

Today was a very exciting day: We launched my new school lab on energy in the climate system! The “energie:labor” is finally up and running again!

Let me walk you through some of the stuff that is going on in the lab.

Below, you see Mirko, who leads the station on the hydrological cycle, and his group working on an experiment.

In the left jar, you see how much smoke a burning piece of paper makes. The students tried this in order to compare it with the jar on the right. Because what they see in there is not just smoke from a burning piece of paper, it’s steam from the hot water at the bottom of the jar — a cloud in the jar! And the burning paper was just added to provide aerosols as condensation nuclei for the clouds.

Another part of the energy puzzle of the hydrological cycle: How much do raindrops falling down on the ground actually heat up the ground? The students are looking at the wooden board on the floor, using a thermal imaging camera. They won’t see a lot when the bouncing ball hits, but they saw a clear signal with the heavy metal ball they used earlier! Kinda like what we did at the European Researcher’s Night (see here).

Now, they are documenting their observations.

And later, they are running an experiment looking at how much moist vs dry air heats up in that insulated container below the lamp to explore the greenhouse effect of water vapour. The setup of this experiment was developed by Julian who is leading a different station on CO2 in the atmosphere, but sadly I don’t have any good pictures of that station!

On the table next to the hydrological cycle team, there is Jonas, working on the role of the ocean in the climate system. Below, the students are dunking air-filled bottles into hot and cold water baths to watch how air expands and contracts depending on its temperature.

They seem to be having fun!

Later, the team at this station did an overturning experiment. I have tons of pictures of that experiment, because it is just super photogenic (or because I am just still fascinated every time I see it, who knows?)

They are using a very strong lamp to model the heating by the sun near the equator, and cold packs to cool near the poles.

And they seemed to enjoy playing with food dye!

We have two more stations (or three, including the CO2 station I mentioned above), one on clouds run by Nicolas, and one on ice-albedo-feeback run by Henning. Unfortunately I don’t have good pictures of those, either, but I will post pictures of our trial run soon, where they’ll be featured, too.

Let’s close this by looking at how we brought all our new experts back together (because each group only conducted one station, for which they had almost all morning) — by using the Monash Simple Climate Model! I’ve written before about how great it is in teaching (see here), and I am still a big fan!

The new “experts” on clouds, the ocean, the hydrological cycle, atmospheric CO2 and ice-albedo feedbacks explained their topics to the rest of their groups. And — surprisingly enough — in the model, you can switch on and off each of these processes individually and see what effect it has on climate!

I think this worked really well to engage students in discussions about the processes they had just explored, and how they work together. Although I want to work on the kind of questions that guide them through the model before the next class visits the school lab in January…

But all in all, I am very happy with how the launch went, and I am super grateful to my great team! Thanks, Jonas, Julian, Nicolas, Mirko, and Henning (from the left in the picture above)! Hope you are enjoying your well-deserved weekend!

And last not least: Thank you, Frank, for letting us borrow your pupils! They were the nicest group we could have hoped for!

Thumb wrestling, “Offshore”, and other simulation games

“Ready? Set! Aaaaand go!” was the command given at the start of a thumb wrestling war. In every pair of workshop participants, thumbs were being twisted, squeezed, freed again. We were given only 30 seconds to win! And then the time was over. “Who got how many points? Anybody more than 10?”. Nope. Most people only had about three. Which, turns out, was because none of us had listened to the instructions given in the beginning: We had been told to play thumb wrestling, but with the instruction to make as many points as possible. NOT to win against the person we were playing with. So the best strategy would have been to just very quickly tap on the other person’s thumb, maybe taking turns, but definitely not to twist, wriggle, squeeze and waste time fighting! Ooooops.

This is how our very busy — but also very exciting — phase at the energie:labor continued. Yesterday, we hosted Klaus Masch, creator of the simulation game “Offshore” (all of the materials for this game are online here), who gave a workshop on the theory behind simulation games and how to implement them in teaching. And since we learn best by doing and then reflecting about it (the equation for this, we learned, is DExR=L, which I remember without looking at my notes, which are on my desk at work while I am home on my sofa. DE being Direct Experience, R reflection, and L learning. And since learning is the product of DE and R, both have to be bigger than zero for learning to occur…  (Or, technically, unequal to zero and of the same sign, but maybe the both-negative case doesn’t apply here ;-)) See, it left quite an impression!), we got to play the simulation game ourselves.

Now. Everybody who knows me in person knows I HATE playing any kind of games. Hate it with a passion. But since I had read so much about the benefits of simulation games in teaching, I really wanted to try it in order to get a better idea on whether I should get over myself and offer one as part of energie:labor. And I have to say, I am a convert.

In Offshore, students discuss the possible investment of their city into an offshore wind park as reaction to the political decision to quit nuclear power all throughout Germany. They research and adopt the roles of different stakeholders (the mayor, the city council, an investment banking firm, the people building the wind park, scientists, environmental groups) and debate risks and benefits. For us, that meant starting research before lunch, already in our roles, staying in the roles over our lunch breaks (which included lots of negotiations and bilateral conversations already!), doing some more research after, and then, finally, debating in the official debate. I got to play a double role: A student at the Institute of Applied Marine Science who is also active in the environmental group Save the Ocean. In a way, that role was probably the easiest of all: I had clear instructions that I was definitely against the project, so I could just be against everything but didn’t have to offer alternatives. All other roles had more balanced roles: Of course the investment people wanted to make as much money as possible from the project, but the role of my boss, for example, a professor in Applied Marine Sciences, was instructed to consider marine protection, but there was still room to interpret that in different ways.

Since Offshore is a frame game, it is quite easily adapted to different situations. One of our participants, for example, could only join after lunch. So a new role, the journalist, was invented for him and he was included in our simulation right away.

Participants in the workshop were all related to the energie:labor or KiFo in some way: Either having previously worked there, or currently working there with student projects or Master theses, or a visiting friend from the University of Applied Sciences who is involved in running their own energy lab that we cooperate with. That was great for me: Now future discussions on whether and how to use a simulation game for the energie:labor can refer to this common experience of playing together for a day, and getting so many useful tips and tricks along the way!

There were also so many useful micro teaching things going on that we can pick and choose from in other contexts, too. Below, for example, you see three participants holding hands: The one drawing on the flip chart has his eyes closed, while both others have their eyes open. And the left person has to guide the pen — through the other two! This, of course, causes a time lag between a signal going out and resulting in something on the paper, which sometimes makes it difficult to navigate the pen. Which is a great simulation of any complex system with a time lagged response: Any action you take doesn’t have visible effects right away, so it’s easy to over-correct and cause a mess just by being to fast in responding on the changes you (don’t) see that were caused by previous actions.

To get back to the thumb-wrestling in the beginning: That micro simulation game is one I, or any of the other participants, for that matter, will never forget. It was a very bold and impressive reminder that collaboration should be the first impulse rather than assuming that every situation, every game is about playing against someone. Maybe that’s what won me over to playing?

This was a really useful workshop, and I highly recommend both the instructor and the game! Thank you all for participating and thanks to our wonderful instructor! :-)

energie:labor at European Researchers’ Night 2017

Yesterday Alice and I spent the afternoon and evening in the cute coastal town of Eckernförde, enjoying the summer-y weather, the Baltic Sea, and — of course! — the science outreach. It was European Researchers’ Night!

We represented the energie:labor and our research group by entertaining many many people in our little blue tent:

The goal was to engage the public in thinking about physics, particularly about energy. What better tool to use than a thermal imaging camera?

I’ve talked about the many ways you can play with that sort of camera before (see here), but last night was special. To catch people’s eyes and engage children as well as grown-ups, we had prepared a couple of fun experiments, for example hitting gummi bears with a hammer and observing how that changes the temperature.

Despite the large media interest we didn’t make the local newspaper’s front page today ;-)

To get an impression of how much fun we had, watch the movie below. This was an hour before the official opening of the event, and the last seconds we had to actually do things ourselves before we got run over by curious crowds. Who knew that people are so keen on learning physics? ;-)

Thanks, Alice, we are a great team and I had so much fun! :-)

Teacher training at Lotseninsel

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently contributed to a teacher training on Lotseninsel, a tiny island on the Baltic Sea coast. The training was run by the Ozean:Labor of the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt, and we spent Friday to Sunday there. I’m going to show you some impressions of that weekend here.

At first, it did not look promising:

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We had to pack A LOT of equipment on a small boat in pouring rain to bring everything over to the island.

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After unpacking all that stuff, we went to test some instrumentation in the pouring rain. This is our cute ROV:

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In the evening, when all the teachers had arrived, we started with the workshops and continued until late in the night. Below you see two groups of teachers working on 3×3 m stretches of the beach, collecting plastic to map the pollution of the beach.

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The next day, the group was split up in two parallel groups. One doing stuff like this:

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The other group, in which I was involved, doing stuff like this:

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Obviously we had to do the melting ice cube experiment in a workshop on ocean physics!

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But Johanna and Dennis did tons of other cool stuff, too, like for example this demonstration of salt inflow events into the Baltic Sea:

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And again, the second time that same workshop was run in the afternoon for the second group of teachers. Amazing how quickly the weather changed!

 

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But of course our group also did some field work: Water sampling and then analysing nutrients, salinity, oxygen concentration…

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The next day, I got to see my first fish dissection. I know why I studied physics…

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I am not showing you the gory pics here because that’s not what we do on this blog ;-)

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Also really cool: Those are baleens, those filters that whales use! Never touched them before.

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But we also got some time to enjoy the weather and play with our equipment: Those are Jeannine, Dennis and Johanna, who I had the pleasure to work with. It was great fun!

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Even though the amazing weather only lasted for a short while, this is them arriving back on the main land with the last of three tours to shuttle everything back…

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But I had a great weekend! And if you haven’t yet, go back and look at the lighthouse on Lotseninsel. I could spend years there, taking pictures from different angles and in different weathers… So pretty :-)

Playing with a ROV

The KiFo owns a ROV that — until now — has never been fully operational. But since I like a challenge (and have a really skilled research assistant who really deserves all the credit) it’s working again!

We first went to test it in a tiny lake on campus.

This was exciting enough, since it seemed to have been leaking on previous attempts.

But this time round it did not, and the lake wasn’t deep enough to test whether it was actually water proof even at increasing pressure.

So off to the Kiel Fjord we went!

And after some careful preparations…

…and a careful launch…

…it worked! :-)

Well, at least until the laptop battery died. But it’s a start! Thanks again for the great work, Nico!!!