Category Archives: #SciCommChall

Can your favouite beverage tell you what your reseach as an ocean scientist should be on?

A “fortune teller” for #WorldOceanDay! What would you work on if you were an ocean scientist? And if you are an ocean scientist — are you doing the work you were destined for? ;-) Your favourite drink can give you the answer!

Click on the image below to download a printable .pdf, and find out!

I would really appreciate it if you could give me a 3-minute feedback (click here!) so I can improve future versions of the “fortune teller” as well as my science communication in general!

Preparing a “fortune teller” for #WorldOceanDay

I thought I would try a playful approach to ocean sciences for #WorldOceanDay on Tuesday. When I think back to my PhD and postdoc days, I could well imagine printing and building something like the “fortune teller” shown above, and then go visit some of my colleagues to show it to them. I would have thought it was fun then, and I still think so! So let’s see if people like it when I share it on Tuesday. For now, I would like to share my thought process and ask your advice in the end.

Goal, audience and message

The direct goal is to “condition” people to think about ocean sciences in their every day lives by installing an item they encounter every day as a trigger to make them think about ocean sciences. An indirect goal is that those people will then act as multiplyers to their friends and family.

The direct target audience for are people with an affinity for ocean sciences and some (or a lot of) backgound knowledge. My friends and colleagues, PhD students, master students, highschool teachers. They might then engage their networks in conversations.

The main message I am trying to convey is that you can enjoy the exploration of oceanic processes in your everyday life.


In order to find a trigger in peoples everyday lives that we can use to connect to oceanography, I make use of the fact that most people have a go-to drink they like to order, and that in many of those drinks, there is a lot of oceanography to be discovered! So I am eliciting positive emotions when people think of their favourite beverages, raise curiosity by saying that those drinks can tell them something about their research interest, and then hopefully hold that curiosity in order to transfer it onto the hint of a related hands-on experiment with the drink they have in front of them (if not in that moment, than at least often) and a little bit of scientific input. The input is kept very general. It is not meant to give an overview, rather to show connections between the drink and the real world, and to give people key search terms if they wanted to investigate the topic further.

In previous versions (and before I tried whether the text would actually fit in the available space!), I provided a lot more input on the experiments that I am envisioning people would do with those drinks; on how and what to observe, and how to relate it to the ocean. But I ended up with a fairly minimal version: It does provide ideas about what experiments to do (or so I tell myself), but there is definitely a lot of room for open inquiry!

I find it difficult to imagine measuring the impact of such a gimmick like the “fortune teller”, so here is where I would like to ask for your help. I want to share the “fortune teller” via my blog and social media for #WorldOceanDay on Tuesday. With it, I want to share a link to a short questionnaire (all answers are optional). I am planning to ask the questions below, and I would love your feedback and suggestions for how to do it better in order to understand the impact of the “fortune teller”! :)


  • Did you build the “fortune teller” or are planning on doing so within the next 24 hours? (y/n)
  • Did you show the build version to someone or share the pdf with someone? (y/n)
  • Did you already look at drinks through this new “lens” or are you planning to do so within the next 24 hours? (y/n)
  • Are you now curious to look at other drinks than your favourite one through this new “lens”? (y/n)
  • How else did you or are you intending to use the “fortune teller”? (open)
  • Did you read through all the text? (y/n)
  • What advice do you have for me to make the “fortune teller” more useful? (open)
  • Where did you first encounter the “fortune teller”? (multiple choice: via Mirjam (blog, social media), social media in general, email, in the office, … open: other)
  • Who are you? (open: age; identify as oceanographer; if not open: what else; student/early career/mid career/…)
  • May I contact you to talk to you about the “fortune teller” in a little more detail? (open: contact details)

What do you think? I would love to hear from you! :)

(And since you are still reading, thank you for your interest and here is a link to a printable pdf. I would obviously love your feedback on that one, too! But please don’t share widely before Tuesday)

My wave watching picture book for kids is out!

A wave watching book for beginners and those who appreciate the art and science of wave watching! Now available to order here or via any book store or online dealer that can find books using their ISBN :-)

I wrote this book such a long time ago (read about the process here and follow the linked posts in there), when my niece Line was still as small as I drew her in the book. It then took me forever to go from “oh, the proofs are here” to actually doing the small changes and publishing it.

Line is now quite a wave watcher in her own right, but I hope that this book can raise interest and support curiosity in many other kids (and adults!)

DIY #WaveWatching “fortune teller” on #WaveWatchingWednesday

(Download in English || Download in Spanish; thanks to Felipe Veloso for translating!)

How about a little wave watching game to celebrate #WaveWatchingWednesday?

The minute I saw Andrea Lopez Lang’s tweet, where she made a “fortune teller” (no idea that’s what they were called) as going-away and please-remember-what-you-learned gift for her class, I HAD to make something like that!

Unfortunately I’m not teaching a class right now where I could easily see how this could be done, but luckily there is always wave watching!

Grafic with instructions to build a wave-watching-themed "fortune teller"

Click to get the pdf!

And Kjersti had a great idea for how this could be used right away: To send students out with these toys and ask them to discover one example for each of the waves shown on the toy. Plus then of course document it, and share on social media… ;-)

Waves are traditionally taught in a theoretical and very dry manner, and the transfer to the real world is hardly happening at all (especially since the large tank in the basement at GFI has been demolished, which still breaks my heart), so this is a fun way to get students outside and try & find contents from their lecture in real life.

P.S.: It’s not as difficult as it might seem at first once you start observing and get a little creative. Nobody said that the rock that makes the ring waves had to have been there when you got there, and wakes can be created by ships or bird or even if you pull a stick through the water…

Visualizing boundary layers using rheoscopic fluid

Or: How does momentum get transferred from a rotating tank to the water?

I recently noticed — and it was confirmed by observations and student feedback that my friend Kjersti got — that it is not at all obvious to students how momentum gets transferred from a rotating tank into the water. For me, the explanation “friction” always seemed sufficient. But Kjersti asked her students about it, and for them friction was something that can only slow down things, not speed them up. So I’ve been trying to find a good way to show how the water is actually spinning up and down: From the sides towards the center, and from the bottom up.

I am using a rheoscopic fluid here (prepared after Borrero-Echeverry, 2018, plus blue food coloring). Rheoscopic fluid is “current showing”, as in it looks homogeneous as long as there is no current shear, but as soon as there is shear, these silvery structures show up, thus showing all the small turbulent motion going on in the tank. (The rheoscopic fluid is not transparent, so you can only see the surface and cannot look into the tank)

Here is a movie, where I am first switching on the rotation and spinning up the water, (then bumping against the rotating table, sorry!), then switching the rotation off again and spinning the water down.

Can you see how when the tank starts spinning, shear instabilities at the side wall of the tank form? This turbulent boundary layer grows over time. I didn’t let the tank spin up to solid body rotation but switched it back off maybe half way there. When the tank stops rotating, a similar thing happens: A turbulent boundary layer forms and slows down the water from the outside in (and bottom up).

So basically this:

Borrero-Echeverry, D., Crowley, C. J., & Riddick, T. P. (2018). Rheoscopic fluids in a post-Kalliroscope world. Physics of Fluids, 30(8), 087103.

A #WaveWatching memory game for #SciCommChall

So I don’t know if this is a good idea that anyone would actually want to play with. But when I was visiting my sister last week, she was working on designing a memory game for kids, and it looked so much fun that I made one of my own, and then also made it June’s #SciCommChall.

Making a memory game — finding a concept that you think is important, and a depiction of that concept, and doing that over and over again — is definitely something that makes you think about a field in a different way! It actually reminded me of preparing for examinations during my university studies — I used to always make these little fact sheets with sketches and minimal descriptions and I remember how much I enjoyed those back then, too. And I find trying to be creative around topics you are studying (even only by drawing the little pictures and coloring them in) helps remembering them better and just organize them more neatly in my brain.

So maybe this is something to suggest to students for a fun activity? And if anyone decides to actually play with such memory games they’ll definitely think long and hard about waves! :-D

For a download of my memory game, click on the image below (or here).

Click on the image to get a b/w print version of this memory

Is this something you would suggest to your students? If not why not? I think it’s fun! :-)

March’s #SciCommChall: My personal branding statement

For March’s #SciCommChall, Alice gave us a super cool challenge with really helpful instructions to come up with our own “personal branding statements”. And here I am following her instructions and coming up with my own personal branding statement. A little late, but better late than never…

1. Write down three words you’d use to describe yourself. Take your time and be honest.

So after a lot of contemplation, I think my three words are enthusiastic, curious, and driven.

Curious: I get very easily fascinated by all kinds of different stuff, and I am always interested in exploring new things, learning new skills, visiting new places.

Enthusiastic: As I said, I get very easily fascinated by stuff. And then enthusiastic about it, or you might say obsessed. See evidence of that in my wave watching posts.

Driven: What I mean by that is that once I decide I want something, I am super stubborn and will work hard to get it. For example, once I had decided that my goddaughter was going to get a wave watching book for her christening, I made it happen. Another word to describe that side of me might be pigheaded ;-)

2. Find someone you trust (your partner or a friend) and ask them to describe you in three words. Compare the lists and see what they have in common.

For N=27, this is how my friends describe me (font size proportional to how often a word was mentioned. More or less, at least, since I got answers in English, German, and Norwegian and translated them all to English to be able to cluster them…).

I love how curious and driven are also how my friends see me, along with creative, passionate, enthusiastic and funny! And stubborn ;-)

3. List your core competencies. What are your unique skills and talents that are valuable to others? What accomplishments and experiences define you? Include awards, degrees, and promotions.

Elaborating on this is kinda boring in a blog post. Check out my CV if you are interested in the formal stuff…

But I think what I am really good at is sharing my excitement for topics or causes and getting other people interested in them and excited about them, too. I’m also really good at building networks because I’m not afraid to cold-contact people or to follow up with people I’ve met. I remember people’s interests & projects and am very good at connecting people that should meet.

4. List your goals. What do you want to accomplish this year, this decade?

This year as well as this decade: Sharing my fascination with the ocean!

This year is all about bringing ocean experiences to people that either can’t travel to the ocean, or that can travel but can’t meet up with people to learn from them. I’ve already been doing that by creating a 1-day kitchen oceanography course for kids (in german) or by writing up examples of how to do field courses without having student groups in the field. But there is more in the pipeline already, like an article I contributed to in a popular science magazine, and I have even more things planned. The main thing I want to work on over the next couple of days is to create videos of experiments using the DIYnamics setup because we would be using them with students right now if it was possible, and I have one at home! And I am hoping that those videos can be integrated in such a way that students watch them in preparation for a video call with me, where they can “remotely control” me doing the same experiment again, except modified in whatever way they’d like. What do you think, good idea?

Building on those ideas, my long term goal is to live in a lighthouse, overlooking the ocean. Sometimes I’ll open my home for workshops on ocean topics (for example on kitchen oceanography or wave watching, but also on how to communicate about ocean and climate topics, and many others), other days I’ll observe the ocean by myself or with select, few people, and communicate about that via my blog, maybe livestreams, maybe new technologies that’ll exist by then. Doing this kind of work — building a community around ocean exploration and understanding — is really what makes me extremely happy and I don’t see myself ever not wanting to do this any more.

5. Write out your (core) values.

My core values. Such a difficult question. It is very important to me that I can be my authentic self when it comes to my work and beyond: following my curiosity and sharing things that bring me joy are essential to me, as is building community and being in constant discussion with like-minded people and those that give me new perspective on things. Also experimenting with new topics or skills, being creative, having control over what I work on and how & when I do it. It is also very important to me that even though I love working a lot and traveling for long periods for work, this has to be in balance with time with family and friends (luckily there are so many of my friends that I work with, so traveling to work with them is a win-win!).

6. Create your own personal branding statement. This is a two-sentence description of who you are and what you can contribute. Don’t rush it, composing this statement is not an easy thing to do. Once you’re satisfied, stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day. It’s good affirmation.

Funnily enough this came out very similar to previous “about me” statements I had written for resumés and other such occasions:

“I am endlessly fascinated by the ocean and want to experience and understand it. I am dedicated to creating stimulating and engaging environments for dialogue on ocean and climate topics to share my passion, and to insprire”

I put it up on my porthole which is right next to my current work desk at home / my sewing and other handcrafts table / my dining table (actually, only table in my home). And I like it! Thanks for the idea, Alice! :-)

What’s in Mirjam’s bag? #SciCommChall

My friend Nena has taken over #SciCommChall and gives us super fun monthly challenges to practice our scicomm muscles and try out new things. I love a good challenge, and for me this is really a great way to expand my scicomm portfolio and skills. Check it out!

This month, she’s given us the “what’s in your bag?” challenge. I am excited! Some of my stuff might actually be specific to my #wavewatching and #kitchenoceanography obsessions (even in the tiny handbag I am wearing in the picture below!).

Or they might not be, you tell me: What’s in YOUR bag and why? What’s specific to the science you are excited about?

In any case, here we go with mine:

  1. This is my absolute favourite handbag of all times! It’s always stuffed, but I love it! I carry this on me wherever I go, and my work bag comes in addition to this (give me a shout if you would want to see that one, too). All the stuff around it in the picture usually lives inside
  2. Not so surprising: A little card holder with all the cards I need to carry
  3. And a little coin pouch
  4. Emergency tea. Can’t get caught anywhere without some. Clearly have to restock, this is my least favourite of the favourites I usually carry with me. Also great as dye tracer in a pickle
  5. A spork. Because no single-use plastic! Also for stirring, measuring, that kind of stuff in experiments (we use food dyes, no worries…)
  6. I carry some minerals to prevent (or quickly counteract) cramps. No oceanography connection there
  7. Seem to have skipped no 7 on the picture! Probably to make up for something not pictured, because I was working with it when I decided to accept this challenge and it therefore wasn’t in my handbag: My (tiny) bullet journal. But it’s actually in the picture above, so that’s proof that I really always carry it with me!
  8. Pens! Several. One waterproof, because #kitchenoceanography. Where is my pencil? Seems to have gotten lost
  9. Sticky notes! Always need them
  10. My battery bank for my phone, because my phone holds my life. And I need it to take pictures and movies, to write notes, to do Social Media with it or blog on it. The battery bank is heavy, but for me totally worth always carrying it with me
  11. Headphones, charging cables for my phone & battery bank, that kinda stuff
  12. Oh, now it’s getting interesting! A selfie stick and a microphone for my phone to do wave watching selfie videos with, after I realized how horrible the sound quality was when I was on a Swedish research ship a couple of months ago
  13. A fabric bag because I always end up having to carry stuff somewhere and, as you see, the handbag is tiny
  14. Ziploc bags. Because you always find cool stuff at the beach… At least I do :-)
  15. Emergency cash and emergency plasters
  16. The pouch where the plasters are supposed to be, together with some emergency stuff against headaches, a tiny pocket knife (which I use SO MUCH! Hello, unboxing new rotating table & tanks!) and the very much undervalued lip balm. Which has saved tank experiments several tanks when something was leaking, everybody was freaking out, and I was just like “let me get my lip balm from my hand bag…”
  17. Paint swatches that I got when my nieces and I went to the crafts store because we had the deal that everybody could get three and only three, and I decided that “everybody” should include me ;-) Also I love the colors.
  18. A small scarf and wooly hat, because wave watching happens outside and I like my throat and ears to be warm
  19. A measuring tape. Because knitting, and then I forgot it was there. Came in really useful when we were unboxing our new rotating table and tanks and were cataloguing the inserts and stuff — measured everything right away to know what we are dealing with!

And what’s in your bag?

#SciCommSunday: The reason why I choose to post selfies on my #SciComm Social Media

“I don’t want my face on the internet!”, “My science should speak for itself, it shouldn’t matter who I am as a person!”, “I just don’t like what I look like in pictures!”, “People won’t perceive me as professional when I include selfies in my science communication work!”: There are many reasons for not posting selfies on the internet, and I sympathise with many of them. However, I have chosen (and continue to choose) to post the occasional selfie. Why is that?

My main goal I am trying to achieve with my scicomm Instagram @fascinocean_kiel is to show that exciting science (specifically ocean physics) can be discovered EVERYWHERE if you are open to seeing it. This means that I post pictures of water that I take on walks along any kind of river, lake, ocean, but also in puddles, sinks, or tea cups, pretty much daily.


But in order to make my Insta relatable to other people, I find it important to put these pictures in the context of my life. Yes, I live on the Baltic Sea coast and therefore have the opportunity to see “the ocean” (well, kinda) on an almost daily basis, which is reflected in my Insta. But I commute to work in Hamburg (where I see Elbe river and the Port of Hamburg, which you also see quite a lot), and I travel a lot throughout Germany and beyond. Some days I’m on the train — on those days you’ll often see pictures of water taken from the train window. Or if I am giving workshops in locations with fancy taps, you will see those. My point is: You can discover oceanography everywhere. If you choose to look for it.

But then who does get this excited about this kind of stuff? Well, I do. And this is where #ThisIsWhatAScientistLooksLike comes in. I’m not wearing a lab coat, and I am not even observing this science as part of my job. I’m not even employed as a scientist any more, nor do I want to be. But I didn’t loose my identity as a scientist when I decided to stop pursuing an academic career. That was a huge fear I had when I was in the process of wanting out of academia — that I would be a failed scientist if I left, even if I left because I would rather be somewhere else. So for me, showing that I am still a scientist even if that’s not my day job anymore is my way of offering myself as the role model that I wish I had during that time, showing that leaving academia doesn’t make you any less of a scientist.

Of course, #ThisIsWhatAScientistLooksLike also includes other aspects, for example making women or other minorities in science more visible. Or showing that there is no one “correct” way of being a scientist. For example the clothes you wear or how much effort you put into looking put together are in no way correlated to how serious you are about your science. Contributing to spreading that message is a nice side effect for me.

But does posting selfies do anything to how people perceive scientists?


There is a 2019 study by Jarreau et al. that looked at this. They compared different kinds of Instagram posts, some showing selfies of scientists, some showing only lab equipment or other pictures of the work only. And they found that posting selfies does actually have an impact on how scientists are perceived.

Scientists posting selfies (as opposed to those only posting “work stuff”) were perceived as significantly warmer. Appearing warm is definitely desirable in this context, as warmth is a component of trustworthiness. Obviously, as a scientist we want to be, but also be perceived as, trustworthy. This perception is created in this study when selfies were used.

Another finding is that posting selfies does not result in scientists being perceived as less competent, both for male and female scientists. So here goes the fear mentioned above that posting selfies will make you appear less serious about your work! Or does it? Note that of course this study does not guarantee that nobody ever will think less of you because you are posting selfies. Of course there might be people you are working with, or more generally, that see your selfies online and think any number of weird things. In general, this does not appear to be the case. But you know your bosses, your community, your life best, so ultimately if this is a concern you have, you need to weigh the potential benefits of posting selfies against that risk. In my case, I have decided that I can totally live with what some people might think about me posting selfies because I know that the people who matter to me don’t think less of me because of it. Additionally, I have gotten a lot of feedback that people actually enjoy seeing selfies on my Insta occasionally, because it does make it more relatable.

As a women, I also find it important that I post selfies, because the study showed that this can contribute to making science be perceived less as “exclusively male”. The common stereotype of what a scientist looks like is still to this day an old white male (in a lab coat and with messy hair). Of course there are plenty of those around, but there are so many brilliant and inspiring women out there, too, that I’d like to see that stereotype change.

In total, results of the study are that showing selfies can potentially help change attitudes towards scientists towards the better. The study doesn’t explore the mechanisms through which this happens (so it might depend on, for example, facial expressions, features of the background, or tons of other things), so it is by no means guaranteed to work for every selfie being posted on the internet (and also how many selfies do people need to see for this effect to kick in, or what does the ratio to “science stuff only” pictures need to be? And how long does the effect last?). In any case, to me, this study is indication enough that me posting selfies might have all the intended consequences, and that’s reason enough for me to choose to post selfies. And I encourage you to check out the study and consider posting selfies, too!

P.S.: This picture is clearly not a selfie, it was taken by my brilliant colleague Sebi Berens ( / @sebiberensphoto). Thank you, Sebi!


Jarreau PB, Cancellare IA, Carmichael BJ, Porter L, Toker D, Yammine SZ (2019) Using selfies to challenge public stereotypes of scientists. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216625.