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“Live rich now”: advice by Marie Forleo and David Bach, and how it relates to my life

On living the dream — and getting there, through the nightmare (ok, not quite as dramatic, but you get the idea)

I’ve been a fan of Marie Forleo‘s for many years now, watching all the youtube videos she puts out, re-listening many of the episodes on her podcast, forever sending links to friends who absolutely need to hear something life changing she said and that I remembered in conversations with them. And the other day, I watched the episode “How to get rich without budgeting with David Bach“. There are so many gems in that episode that you absolutely have to go and watch it for yourself, but there is one thing that stuck with me, and that’s the advice to “live rich now”.

“Living rich” does not mean spending a lot of money (or even sometimes any money at all), it means consciously doing the kind of things that make you feel rich. In the interview, they talk about daily meditation as one example, and I immediately whipped out my journal to write up a list of what would make me feel rich.

Turns out, many of the things that make me feel rich are things that I have, both consciously and more accidentally, integrated into my life over the last years already, and that, to me, belong to my “lighthouse vision” of where I want to be when I “grow up”.

This is the lighthouse in Pilsum and I have really tried to come up with a “grass is always greener” thing to say about this, but I am still blanking on that. And it’s just that there are sheep on one side of the fence, and no sheep on the other anyway…

What does the “lighthouse vision” mean to me? It’s a goal of how I want to feel and who I want to be. I call it my lighthouse, because it’s such a nice image of what I actually want. I want to live close to the sea. I want to not live in a crowded space, but I still want my lighthouse to be inviting and engaging to people. In my lighthouse, I live on the top floor (with the amazing views, very good for blogging and writing books about the general theme of “adventures in oceanography and teaching”), while the ground floor is where I have seminar rooms and labs to work with people on things related to ocean and climate communications (conveniently located in a lighthouse, right? We can bring in samples or warm up after excursions to the beach or the sea). While I live in my lighthouse, close to my work and at the place where people come to work with me, I do a lot of my work by myself, or connecting to people (and the first person that comes to mind as someone I will always want work with is you, Elin :-)) in other places via long distance communications. Sometimes I travel to meet those people as well as new ones, but most of the time I am in the space where I work and live. But I don’t work many hours, or at least it won’t feel like it because blogging still feels like a hobby even when I will have professionalized it a bit. I spend a lot of time looking at the ocean, pondering my observations, day dreaming, and being with family and friends, enjoying the company and the coast together.

If you have seen my hand-drawn CV that I did two years ago, you might have noticed that I drew a lighthouse on it, somewhere in the future. I told myself that I wanted it as a symbol for being goal-oriented, but I think it was also because it is really what I have building my CV towards for several years now: to end up in my lighthouse. And I feel like I have, in a really amazing way.

I work in an amazing job that is stimulating and challenging and meaningful, that connects me to great people and gives me pretty much perfect independence. But I also only work 50% on that job, which means I have plenty of time for my passion projects related to ocean and climate communications (or I will have plenty of time again once the big event of the year is over, less than three weeks from now ;-)). And to live the lighthouse dream: To spend a lot of time with friends and family. To travel whenever and wherever I like but, more importantly, to return home to a place that I love, to swim in the sea or to go wave watching or on spontaneous adventures.

And I think having had the lighthouse vision over the last years has really helped me getting to this place where I feel so happy now. I have clearly seen the lighthouse, knowing that it’s a metaphor, but also using it to shape my thoughts on what I really want. And also trusting that I will reach it, because I know what the elements of the lighthouse are that are important to me, so I could shape my career and my life in a way to accommodate them, one by one, little by little. By making larger and smaller choices that led me to where I am: To live where I live, to look for a job that was compatible with what I wanted for my life rather than following the classical career path, to get a membership to the place where I go swimming in Kiel fjord and the other place where I go swimming when I am in Hamburg for work, to be very deliberate about spending more time with my family and godchildren and friends.

Of course, not every day is the perfect lighthouse dream day. But if you look at the two pictures above, you might be able to spot the lighthouse in both, and that’s what I feel like: I don’t have to physically live inside a lighthouse (and, to be honest, I am not too keen on all the stairs anyway!), but my lighthouse keeps shining through in my life, connecting me to who I really want to be. And I am really happy where I am at now — close enough to the lighthouse to feel calm and content almost every day. And thinking about what makes me feel that way is an important step to continue implementing the important things in my life, and eliminating the ones that aren’t.

I am writing this blog post because for many years, I didn’t feel calm or confident or content, neither on a pretty much daily basis nor even more days than not. For many years, I didn’t know where I wanted to go with my life, and that was draining and difficult. And then, when I first started seeing the lighthouse, I didn’t think it was realistic to get there. And I didn’t see how the dream was compatible with me being ambitious and goal oriented in my job and thinking I should be sticking to the career I had started building (and I got some terrible advice from career coaches who didn’t seem to believe that any career outside of academia in the strictest sense could be worthwhile and fulfilling). But once I realised what that lighthouse really meant to me, making the switch was neither difficult nor painful, on the contrary — each step towards the lighthouse felt right and somehow like a burden was being lifted off me. So now that I am in my lighthouse, I am hoping that telling this story might inspire others to start “living rich now”, and give them confidence in their power to choose their own paths, in finding out what their personal lighthouses are, and in taking steps towards it.

Spontaneous adventures are the best! Today involving a trip on a historic ship, some sight seeing on Kiel fjord and a bit of Lindy Hop

I’m lucky to have great friends like Alice, who was spontaneous enough to go on a mini cruise with me today (for which I was only given tickets when I was already on my way to meet her somewhere else). So we boarded the historic MS Stadt Kiel and the adventure began! (Note the Europe flag? Hope you’ve been voting already when you are reading this, otherwise stop reading and go vote! :-))

I had never been on the MS Stadt Kiel before, even though I’ve seen it many times. It’s lovely inside — historic charm and the smell of marine diesel. What more could you want on a gloomy grey Sunday? And a super nice crew of volunteers who run the ship!

Plus we got to see all my favourite spots, like the light house at Holtenau. You also see the pilot station right behind the light house, that’s where the pretty orange pilot ship lives that you see at least in every other of my blogposts ;-)

And the Kiel Canal locks at Kiel Holtenau; looking at them from Kiel fjord. I usually take my pictures either from the shore on the left close to where you see the tower, or from the bridge that you see in the background.

And then, as you do on historic cruises, there was Swing dancing with a dance crew who was performing for us and then even gave us the opportunity to join in, which, of course, Alice and I did. Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing exactly historical costumes, but hey! It was fun! Thanks, Christian! :-)

For privacy reasons as well as for fairness, I had to give everybody the same face that I am making on the picture ;-)

Yep, spontaneous adventures are the best :-)

Dirty drainage ditch or a natural flume for fluid dynamics fun? You decide!

At first glance, the picture above might not look too appealing. Dusty, almost stagnant water in a drainage ditch?

Ok, the dust might actually mainly be pollen, which makes it slightly better.

Oh, and it also provides us with insights about the flow in the channel! See, for example, how there seems to be a lot more flow in the channel going horizontally in the picture below than in the one that leads into that one? If the other one was carrying more water, there wouldn’t be a dirt streak going across its mouth, it would have deformed that streak in the direction of its flow.

Like all the stripes going across that horizontal channel: They are all deformed to show faster flow in the middle than to the sides, as we would expect for pipe flow, because there is more friction to the sides than in the middle.

See how the dirt collects on the left side of the picture? That’s because the flow then continues below surface level, so the surface films can’t easily go through the pipe with the flow. So we are collecting an archive of dust events here, almost like tree rings!

And these dirty smears on the far side of the channel? They are actually where blades of grass penetrate the water surface and thus modify the surface films. What you see as streaks are actually the wakes downstream of where the blades of grass break the surface!

The wriggly lines the grass draws into the surface film is caused by the grass being moved by the wind (Pity. It would be a lot more exciting if there was eddies in the water, causing these patterns. But unfortunately it’s really only the wind). But it does look pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Who would have known that looking into dirty drainage ditches would be so interesting?

Who can explain these foam stripes? No, it’s not Langmuir circulation

You see them a lot here on Kiel fjord when it’s windy, and this is what they looked like last Saturday: Foam stripes than run parallel to the coast for as long as the coast is a sea wall (or at least something fairly straight). What’s going on there?

I have seen them over and over again, and the most common explanation that people have is Langmuir circulation, which i don’t actually think it is (and I show you some evidence for why I don’t think they are Langmuir circulation in this blog post). The stripes we see here are nowhere near parallel to the wind direction. Last Saturday, they were pretty much perpendicular.

So I think there is just a surface convergence there, parallel to the coast, probably related to the typical wavelength. So the question should probably be: Why is there a convergence parallel to the coast independent of the wind direction? What do you think?

What’s the etiquette on a research ship? “Soft skill” learning outcomes on a student cruise

While student cruises usually have a lot of desired learning outcomes related to being able to use oceanographic instrumentation and knowledge of regional oceanography, ultimately one of their purposes is to equip students to function well as sea-going oceanographers, should they choose to take that direction. So in my opinion, it is very important that they don’t just learn about the science-y side of things, but that they also learn how to work with the research ship’s crew in a constructive way.

Etiquette on a research ship: A sailor’s perspective

I asked my favourite sailor what he thinks we should teach our students about how to behave on a research ship. Here are his top 3:

  1. Always be yourself. If you pretend to be someone you are not, people will find out soon enough anyway.
  2. Just ask. There are no stupid questions and sometimes having asked about something you are not sure about on a ship might end up being crucial for your safety.
  3. Be friendly. ’nuff said.

He says that’s all people need to know about how to behave at sea. While I kind of agree, those three rules are kind of … vague. So here are a couple of things that I have either noticed at sea myself, or heard my favourite sailor & his colleagues complain about during our recent student cruise, so this is stuff that I would explicitly address at some point during the course leading up to the next student cruise, so students go onboard feeling more confident that they know what to expect and how to behave.

Etiquette on a research ship: My compilation

Meal times

While meal times are often given as a one-hour time slot and you might think that means you can drop in at any time during that one-hour window, that’s not how things work on a ship. Usually, this one-hour window is meant as two 30min windows for people working on different watches. In between those two windows, the first group of people has to get out of the mess (not the mess mess, the room where food is served on a ship is called the mess), the tables have to be cleared completely, and food refilled. So to be polite towards the people making sure you get fed, it’s good advice to arrive on time for your feeding window and don’t linger too long after you are done eating, so they can get the room ready for the next group or finish off that meal to move on to other tasks. If people start wiping the tables, it’s a clear signal that you should find some other spot to lounge in. If, however, you have to be late for a meal due to work reasons, everybody will be happily accommodate you and make sure you leave happy and satisfied. Just don’t push it without a good reason.

Thank the cook & galley personnel

This should go without saying, but if someone puts a nice meal on the table in front of you, say thank you. If the food was delicious, let the cook know. “Takk for maten” is something that comes pretty much automatic out of every Norwegian’s mouth, but whatever your background, I think everyone should adopt it on a ship (and maybe also at home ;-)).

“No work clothes” means “no work clothes”

On ships, there are usually areas that you are supposed to not walk through, or hang out in, wearing work clothes. That’s because the ship is the crew’s home for long periods at a time (and also yours while you are at sea), and keeping a home nice and tidy is a big part of making it feel like home. And also it’s just mean to make the cleaning crews do extra work just because you couldn’t be bothered to change out of your fishy boots.

When you leave your cabin, leave the door open

Leaving the door to your cabin open when you are not in it makes it a lot easier for the crew to get their work done. They won’t knock on your door when it’s closed because they are respecting your privacy and your sleep, but they want to empty your trash, put new towels in your cabin, clean, etc.. The larger you make the time window for them to do that by just leaving your cabin door open, the less they have to organize their work day around catering towards you.

Be quiet on corridors, people are sleeping

You are not the only one going on watches (and even worse — just because you don’t go on watch doesn’t mean that other people are not), so be considerate of other people’s sleep. While it sucks to be tired as a scientist on a ship, other people have safety-relevant work to do (and also just live on the ship for many weeks at a time) so they should definitely be able to get the sleep they need.

Also consider whether you really have to go to your own comfy cabin and your own comfy toilet during your watch if you know people are sleeping in the cabins next to yours. Cabin doors are loud, vacuum toilets are really loud, but walls between cabins are more like paper than like actual walls. If you can avoid making unnecessary noises that might wake up other people by just going to a common restroom, you should probably consider doing that.

Respect people’s privacy

There is not a lot of spaces where you can hide on a ship to get your alone time when you need it. So do not enter other people’s cabins unless invited, and don’t go knocking on their doors unless there is a good reason. People will leave their doors open if they are open to communications, if the doors are closed it means you should leave people alone unless you really have a good reason.

Also the cabins are the only private spaces people get. If you wouldn’t go into someone’s bedroom in their house without explicit permission, why would you do it on a ship?

No matter how funny it is: don’t invade people’s privacy by entering their private space without being invited unless you know them very well and know that they are fine with it!

Access to all areas?

Usually, you are free to go pretty much wherever you like on a research ship (except, as I said above, into other people’s private spaces). If areas are off limit (like for example the engine room or spaces where food is stored and prepared), you will be told that. But it’s still good practice to ask whether it’s ok to hang out. For example, in heavy weather or very tight straights, people on the bridge might prefer to not having you hanging around and possibly obstructing their work. And while they will tell you that, just asking whether it’s ok to be there makes it less awkward for everybody involved. Same if you visit other scientists in their labs, or the crew in the trawl mess — sometimes it might not be immediately obvious to you that people are concentrating on their work, even though they might look like they are just chilling, and that you are getting in the way of that. Or even just getting in the way of people chilling when they need to do that.

Be on time for handover between watches

Even if you are told that your watch runs from midnight to six in the morning and from noon to six in the evening, that doesn’t mean you show up at midnight and noon sharp. It means that the other watch wants to be able to leave at midnight and noon sharp, so handover should have happened before that time. It’s good practice to show up at least 5 minutes before watch changes.

Be on time for stations

People not being ready to start working when the ship is on station is a pet peeve of mine. Ship time is very expensive, so spending it on waiting for someone who wanted to get a hot chocolate right when the ship is ready to take measurements (instead of looking at the screen that shows you the navigation data of the ship, including ETAs of stations etc and getting it while there still is plenty of time) is a very bad use of taxpayers’ money.

Also be aware that there are a lot of people waiting for you once the ship is in position to start measuring: The officers on the bridge, the deck crew possibly standing outside in cold, windy, rainy weather, your other scientist colleagues. Not very good for the general mood if they unnecessarily have to wait for you.

It’s cold and in the middle of the night for the crew, too

Just because they might not let you see it doesn’t mean you are the only one that is tired and cold and feels cranky. I guess this goes back to rule no 3: Always be friendly and considerate of the people around you…

Radio communication is safety relevant

Having fun with a radio is fun, but there are a lot of people working on the bridge or the deck that have to listen to everything you say on the radio. So if you try to be overly funny, you might end up annoying people, and worse, making it more difficult for them to do their job and keep you safe.

Don’t discuss safety issues

If the crew tells you to wear a life vest on top of your floatation suite (that is certified as being sufficient in itself) when going on a small boat trip, or a helmet when taking water samples, just wear it. In the end they are the ones that know better, and they are the ones responsible for your safety so even if they are, in your opinion, unnecessarily cautious, they are just doing your job making sure you are safe. So even if it seems unnecessary to you, if they tell you to do something, just do it.

If plans change, let people know early on (and maybe explain why)

Changing your plans might require a lot of work on the crew‘s part — putting together different instrumentation, rearranging equipment on deck, changing out winches, all kinds of stuff that you might not be aware of. So if you happen to change your plans, let them know as soon as possible so it creates the least amount of stress for them.

Also offer to explain the scientific reasons why you now think the new plan is better than the old one. In my experience, in general the crew is really curious about what they are helping you achieve (and what you really could not achieve on your own if they weren’t there to help!), and really appreciate if you let them in on what you are doing for what purpose. And also what the outcomes are!

Don’t make a cruise longer than it has to be

Even though it might be fun for you to extend your cruise for a couple of extra hours just because it’s so nice to be at sea and you feel like you payed for that day of ship time anyway, don’t change arrival times back in port on a short notice without a really good reason. The crew might have made plans with their family and friends whom they don’t see very often, that they will have to cancel. This is going to make a lot of people not very happy!

And this goes without saying: Don’t extend a cruise just to get the extra pay you get for every day you spend at sea. While I find it hard to imagine people actually do that, I have heard from so many different crew that they think a lot of scientists do that, that it’s hard to ignore the possibility that it actually happens, and quite often at that.

Etiquette on a research ship: Your take?

What do you think? Do you agree with the “rules” I put up above? Are there any more things students should be told about? What do you wish you had known about life onboard a research ship before you first went to sea?

Edit to include Twitter wisdom on etiquette at sea (08.02.2019):

Edited to include a comment by Jenny Ullgren on March 15, 2019:

“The only thing I might have wanted to add is that: after offering to help, sometimes you have to accept that the most helpful thing you can do in a certain situation is to stay out of the way. This ties in with what you already wrote in the “access to all areas” section. An example: as much as we all agree that documentation is important, if your ‘only’ role in a sitation is to take photos, then there might be times when you have to step back for the people who have an even more direct, hands-on job to do right there and then.
Intuitive for most people, but maybe not always.”

Communicating Climate Change — a book you should definitely know about!

In a presentation about science communication I gave on Monday, I recommended a couple of resources for scientists interested in science communication. For example the amazing climatevisuals.org for advice on which images to use to communicate about climate change (plus lots of images that even come with explanations for what purpose they work well, and why!). And of course my #scicommchall to get people inspired to try out a new micro scicomm format every month.

But here is an (open access!) book I wish I had known about then already but only came across two days after my presentation: “Communicating Climate Change” by A. K. Armstrong, M. E. Krasny, J. P. Schuldt (2018).

This is a book aimed at educators who want to communicate climate change in a literature-based and effective manner. It consists of four parts: A background, the psychology of climate change, communication, and stories from the field, which I will briefly review below (and you should definitely check out the real thing!). It’s nice and easy to read, and there are “bottom line for educators” at the end of each chapter as well as recaps at the end of each part, making it easy to get a quick overview even if you might not have the time to read the whole thing in detail.

Background

This part of the book begins with an introduction to climate change science, reporting state-of-the-art science on climate, greenhouse gases, evidence for climate change, and climate impacts. It then moves to how climate change can be addressed: by mitigating or adapting to its effects, how it is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how that can be achieved both on an individual level and by collective action. It ends with a “bottom line for educators” summary that stresses that climate change is real, that misinformation campaigns are an unfortunate reality, and that educators can contribute to solving the problem.

The next chapter then deals with what is known on attitudes and knowledge about climate change in different audiences internationally and at different ages, explaining that attitudes are actually a pretty bad predictor for behaviour, but nevertheless important to know about if you are an educator! For example, if you want teens to be concerned about climate change, a useful approach might be to involve their parents along with them, since what family and friends believe about climate change is very important to what an individual teenager believes, as is how often they discuss climate topics with their friends and family. Again, the “bottom line for educators” breaks this down into advice, for example to focus on different topics depending on how concerned about climate change a given audience already is, or to focus on areas in which a common ground between them and their audiences exists in order to generate a constructive and positive dialogue even though there might still be areas in which they do not agree with their audiences (which they should think about beforehand, hence the importance to know about the audience’s attitudes).

The next chapter suggests possible outcomes for climate change education — how do we know if a climate change communication activity was successful? — and stresses the importance of defining these goals in the first place. Outcomes can be defined on the level of individuals, of communities, of the environment, or of resilience of all of the above. For individuals, outcomes could for example be literacy (understanding essential principles, knowledge of how to assess scientifically credible information, ability to communicate, ability to make informed and responsible decisions) of climate change, or attitudes and emotions, the feeling of confidence that you can reach your goals, or environmentally friendly behaviour. For communities, outcomes could be positive development of youth, building of social capital (e.g. trust or positive action), the belief that the community can reach a goal together, or action taken together by the whole community. Focussing on the environment, an outcome could be adaptation to, or mitigation of, climate change.

The next chapter then presents three climate change vignettes — three examples of how different educators address different audiences in different settings — and a discussion of why they chose to design their activity a certain way and react to questions or comments the way they did.

The psychology of climate change

This part of the book presents psychology research on why knowledge about climate change is not sufficient to actually change behaviours.

Identity research especially is very helpful, as it explains how in order to feel like you are part of a group (something that we as humans are hard-wired to crave) we tend to conform with our group’s norms and values. We might be part of different groups at different times as well as simultaneously (for example our family as one and our colleagues as another, or inhabitant of a city, or student of oceanography), and contexts trigger specific identities that might even not be completely congruent with each other. When new information is presented, we interpret it in a way that does not threaten our identity in the context the information is presented in. Therefore, in order to not threaten anybody’s identity and making it impossible for them to take on our message, it is important to make sure that climate change is not communicated as something polarising or political, but rather choose to trigger identities that are inclusive, like for example “inhabitant of place x”, and focus on outcomes that benefit that community independent of what other identities might exist, by for example protecting a local beach.

Psychological distance is another lens through which climate change communication can be viewed. The more distant a problem seems, the less important it is perceived. Therefore focussing on local relevance rather than global, on places that are important to people, on communities they care about, might in some cases be helpful — although not always; the results of the research on this are not conclusive yet.

Then a few other relevant psychological research areas are discussed, like for example “terror management theory”. This leads to the recommendation to avoid “doom and gloom” presentations of climate change that might kick people into a defence mechanism of ignoring the topic to protect their emotional well-being in the moment, and to focus on hope and positive action instead. Then there is the “cognitive dissonance theory”, according to which we try to ignore information that conflicts with what we think we already know or threatens other goals we might have. The recommendation here is to give people ideas of easy things they can do to combat climate change to combat cognitive dissonance.

Communication

This part of the book presents three aspects of communicating climate change: How we frame it, which analogies and metaphors we use, and how we, as a messenger, can build trust.

“Framing” is about how a message is featured in a story line to help the audience interpret it in a certain way, by making certain aspects of it especially visible, for example economic aspects or tipping points. When thinking about framing a climate change message, it is important to think about audiences and their identities and to avoid wording that will trigger identities which make it difficult to accept the message. Depending on the desired outcomes, climate change communications could, for example, be framed for solutions, hope, or values. There are ways to build entire climate change communication programs around those frames, and there are several examples given for how this might be done.

The next chapter focusses on analogies and metaphors. For example, “osteoporosis of the sea” (which I had never heard in use before) has been found to be a successful metaphor for ocean acidification. However, as all metaphors, it only highlights similarities between issues and neglects to mention the dissimilarities which makes them tricky to use because it’s hard to make sure people don’t take a metaphor so far that it breaks down. In fact, to address this problem, the authors recommend to explicitly talk about where the analogy or metaphor will break down.

Establishing trust in the climate change messengers: This is tricky as people tend to trust other people that hold values similar to their own. Therefore it is helpful to think about the messenger and to use trusted middle persons. [There is are actually some very interesting work on trust out there, for example by Hendriks, Kienhues and Bromme (2015) that isn’t mentioned in the book, but that I’d be happy to summarise for you if anyone is interested!]

Stories from the field

The book ends with a part called “stories from the field” in which examples of different climate change communication activities, focussing on different goals, audiences, messenges and happening in very different settings, are given and the design choices that were made explained in detail. Also for each of the story, an example is given how the message is phrased in actual interaction with the target audience. All of this is super interesting to read because all the theory the book provided in the previous chapters is applied to real world cases, which makes it easy to see how they might be applied to your own climate change communication activities. Also these best practice examples are inspiring to see and give me a sense of hope.

To sum up: I really enjoyed reading this book! So much so that continuing reading it was more important than getting a good Instagram pic of my latte while writing this blogpost. I would really recommend anyone interested in climate change communication to check it out! When I finished my talk on Monday, on my second to last slide I put the African proverb along the lines of “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room”. I used this to talk about using messages of hope in climate change communication, and then also applied it to science communication — don’t think you are too small to make a difference there, either! And that’s a message that this book conveys really well, too, providing a good idea of what one could do and how one might go about it, and inspiring one — or at least me — to do so, too.

A #scicommbookforkids for #scicommchall

I hope by now you have heard about my pet project of the moment: #scicommchall! For #scicommchall, I give myself (and quite a few other people by now) monthly challenges related to trying out new science communication formats. And this month, we are doing science communication books for kids! (For more instructions, see #scicommchall’s post. And everybody is welcome to join!).

My book deals with learning to observe where the wind is coming from (English version at the end of this post, too).

I think it turned out quite nicely!

I did struggle a little with the very short format — only six pages inside the book, plus a cover — but quite liked the challenge of having to come to the point.

The flag on the cover, in case you were wondering, is that of my hometown Hamburg.

I hope this book is actually useful and fun for kids (I did include some kids’ humor, or at least I tried ;-))

And I know what I would include if I wasn’t too lazy to re-draw the images: A question about on which side of some kind of structure one would sit down if one wanted shelter from the wind. Bummer I forgot to include that!

Anyway, here is the download (German & English). Please let me know what you think, I’d love to get some feedback!

Click to download

5 years of blogging on “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching” today!

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!

Kitchen oceanography

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.

Maintaining curiosity

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!

Professional development

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!

Making of my new book! Part 3: Sketching

So now that I knew I wanted to do the book in water colours, and with fairly realistically-looking people in it, I started sketching out what I wanted individual images to look like. I had a couple of requirements:

  1. I only wanted to show Line from behind, so a) she wouldn’t be offended by how I painted her face, and b) I wouldn’t have to do paint her face ;-)
  2. Since I was going to scan the images in order to digitalize them to be able to finish and print the book, I wanted to be able to insert rectangular images (rather than weirdly shaped ones) to get clean borders where the scanned paper (which likely wouldn’t come out as completely white) meets the white of the printed pages
  3. I wanted the images to be square, so I could have the one or two sentences that should accompany each of them underneath

So here is the sketch of the first four images in the book. I am never quite sure whether in the fourth one one can actually recognize what is going on. And at this stage I really considered doing the whole book as sketches with a normal pen because I quite looked how it came out!


But sketches is not what I went with in the end… Stay tuned for more! :-)

Making of my new book! Part 2: Deciding on style and colors

When November came around, I needed to actually stop imagining the book I wanted to give to Line for Christmas, I had to start creating. But where to start?

I wanted Line to recognize herself despite me painting her only from the back (guess why? Yep, I did not want to have to do faces!). So I inquired with my sister about the color of Line’s rain clothes. Because on the day the pictures above were taken we did bring her rain pants, but didn’t put them on her…. And also we then were both in blue trousers and red jackets, and that seemed a little boring in a picture book that would be mainly blue anyway.

Turns out that she basically had rain clothes in all colors and I could just pick whatever outfit I wanted…

In my head, I had had a vision of all these beautiful water colour (ha! no pun intended) pictures that I wanted to include in the book. But turns out that the last time I did anything with water colours was in 2003 (yep, that was the date on the last picture on my water color pad), so the idea put me off a little because it seemed like a lot of work. On the other hand, I didn’t want to have black-and-white sketches only, because I wanted good depictions of the wave phenomena (because I wanted my goddaughter to enjoy reading the book, but also to learn about waves at the same time…). So I played around with water colours a little and it turned out to not be as bad as I had imagined…

Then, I decided that I would actually put some effort into getting the proportions right, so I used a picture taken of Line and me at an art exhibition earlier that year.

This lead to the ratios seen below:

But it’s still a long way from this to a finished book… So stay tuned! :-)