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About my “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching“

Welcome to my blog, where I mostly write about

  • Interesting ideas on learning and teaching: I write about my own ideas and experiences, but also about literature, conversations, conferences, … that touched me in some way and that I am currently thinking about
  • #KitchenOceanography are experiments that can be done with household items, and how to use them in teaching and science communication, and just for my own enjoyment (and most recently: in freediving!)
  • #WaveWatching is about hyper-local expeditions to connect theoretical concepts with the real world (here I show you lots of pictures from where I encounter water in my daily life, and I promise you’ll never look at water the same way as before!)

I started my blog in 2013 when I was a postdoctoral researcher in physical oceanography at the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, to have a place to document my #KitchenOceanography. But I kept blogging when I then went to Hamburg University of Technology as educational developer, to the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) for a stint in educational and science communication research, to GEO as a science communicator. Right now, I am an academic developer both at the Center for Engineering Education, Lund University, and at the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen. Through all the changes in my career and life, my blog stayed, and grew with me, documenting my “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”.

Learning and Teaching

For all of you who don’t fancy wading though wave watching and kitchen oceanography blog posts in search of those posts on teaching and learning in higher education (I usually summarise articles, podcast episodes or conversations I found useful, sometimes post new slides I create, or share methods that I saw, heard about, or tried myself), here is an overview!!

For a less overwhelming list, check out some of the tags, for example “recommended by CEE” (summaries of literature that me and/or my colleagues find recommendation-worthy), “recommended reading” (my personal recommendations), “teaching sustainability” (interesting literature for my collegial project course on teaching sustainability), and many others.

MPOWIR webinar on “career pathways combining education with oceanography”

For all of you who prefer reading a short-ish blogpost over listening to a nervous Mirjam on a recorded video call on “Career pathways combining education with oceanography“: Read the post below to learn my personal story on the prompt “Many oceanographers find educational activities a rewarding part of their career, where education can range from outreach activities aimed at the general public, to undergraduate and graduate teaching, to training in research through internships and graduate advising. Here three oceanographers describe their experiences working in a variety of educational pathways.” That is the talk I wish I had heard many years ago… (But go watch the recording for Kristi Burkholder and Meg Tivey’s awesome contributions, that are very different from mine! You can always stop watching when I come on ;-))

As you see on my introductory slide (above), I stated there that I was an “oceanographer — science educator — science communicator”. And I want to tell you a little story about what that means.

When I am asked about “what I am”, my first response is that I am a physical oceanographer. And that is true — that is what my identity is all about. If you search for my name on the internet, you find two main keywords: One is #KitchenOceanography and the other is #WaveWatching. Those are two hashtags that I use to describe two hobbies of mine: #KitchenOceanography is about creating hands-on experiments that we can use in teaching and outreach to help us understand the ocean and climate system. #WaveWatching is another hobby — wherever I am, when I see water, I see waves, I have to understand what caused the waves, and then I usually take a picture and post it on social media. So I am an oceanographer. But depending on the context, I might also say that I am a science educator or a science communicator, or any combination of those three, and all of those claims are also true.

I started out on my journey into oceanography by doing a Master’s (equivalent) degree in physical oceanography, and then a PhD. After my PhD I went abroad for my postdoc. My postdoctoral work got published in a Nature Geoscience article on which I was the first author, which was quite positively received and got me invited to speak in many places. Over the next several years, I was involved in several super interesting research campaigns with colleagues from my postdoc days, went on research cruises and to the Coriolis rotating platform in France (a 13-m diameter rotating swimming pool!) to conduct tank experiments. The research we did in France resulted in a Nature article that was published last year. And then in January this year, I started as an adjunct associate professor in the oceanography group at the institution where I did my postdoc.

That’s the classical career so far, when we look at it through the oceanography lens.

But we could also use a different lens. During my PhD, I studied for a Master’s of Higher Education, so I learned and reflected a lot on university teaching. During my postdoc, 25% of my time were dedicated to teaching, and I was lucky enough to be responsible for the “introduction to oceanography” lecture as well as for other courses that dealt with either laboratory experiments or training students on research ships. I additionally taught block courses at other universities. I really enjoyed that part of my job very much, so when I left my postdoc position, I took a position as educational developer. I was not working directly in oceanography then, but the study courses I was responsible for were on shipbuilding and coastal engineering, so close enough that I still felt connected to the ocean. From that service position, I moved on to a research position again, but this time in educational research. And I have been working free-lance on educational projects for many years now.

I already told you that I am currently an adjunct associate professor in the physical oceanography group, and that’s true. The focus of my work, however, is not physical oceanography research, but it’s on education. I am part of a large “Center for Excellence in Education”, and I do educational design and I advise a PhD student and Master students on educational research with questions related to how students at university learn about oceanography.

So that’s the second, the education, lens.

But there is a third one, and that’s the science communication lens. And to me, this is really what made my career my career. When I was teaching so much during my postdoc, I started writing a blog called “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”. At the time, that was really not a well thought-out project. I had been using a lot of hands-on experiments in my teaching, and I had been sharing pictures of those on my facebook, and I was getting a lot of positive feedback and good discussions from my network. But as it turns out, facebook is not a great tool to organize your own thoughts, and I couldn’t find pictures and related discussions as easily as I had hoped. So really to organize my own thoughts better, I started the blog. And the blog is what started me out on this third stand, the “science communication” part of my identity. For the last 7 or so years, I have blogged about my “Adventures in Teaching and Oceanography” — sometimes describing hands-on experiments that people can use in teaching and outreach, sometimes reflecting on literature on science education or communication that I had read, sometimes showing interesting phenomena I came across on the beach, or on puddles in the street.

The blog is what made it possible for me to transition from oceanography into education, and also from educational research into science communication, because I had built a written portfolio of activities in all these fields. And my blogging and social media were partly inspired by what I was doing in different jobs at the time, but they always stayed focussed on the “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”.

About 2.5 years ago, I decided that I would take a part-time position as science communicator to pay my rent, and spend the rest of my free time on the fun projects that had developed both as hobbies and as freelance projects along the way, but without the pressure of having to make a living off of them. So I am currently the program manager of a large science communication project, on a 50% position.

When you search the internet for me these days, however, what you see most prominently are those two hashtags, #KitchenOceanography and #WaveWatching, and that I am someone who works on improving ocean science communication in university teaching and outreach. That is how I see myself, and that’s the image I cultivate through my blog and my social media. Because of that, I have stayed visible to many people at the institution where I did my postdoc, had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects with them while I was working other jobs, and was eventually offered this adjunct associate position. I’ve also been contacted by many people who have hired me to do projects with them or invited me to speak — like today here for MPOWIR.

I want to wrap this up by sharing with you my vision of my ideal job. When I imagine an ideal day, I am doing all the things I am currently doing. I live close to the sea and close to my family (and even though I haven’t talked about that, that definitely influenced my decisions along the way). In the ideal day, I develop hands-on experiments to teach oceanography with, I blog, I talk to my colleagues about their teaching, I work with students, sometimes I lead workshops. I could frame my life right now as “I’m working 50% on a job that is marginally related, and 20% as this, and 30% as that”. But I don’t, because I have this bigger vision for what I want to do and who I am, and that has helped me find my way through many twists and turns to where I am at now.

And now all the small things I do as a hobby, or freelance, or for different employers in different places, contribute to the big picture of my career in both oceanography and education, as an oceanographer, working on engaging others in the wonders of physical oceanography! :)

Watch the webinar below (if you must ;-))

[photo] Picture of Mirjam smiling in the camera to show how happy it would make me if this showed up on Twitter

Exciting life update! Joining GFI as adj assoc prof! :-)

It’s been in the making for a while, but I am super excited to announce that I will be joining the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen as an adjunct associate professor!

Here is a video I filmed to introduce myself at the institute’s meeting today that I sadly couldn’t attend.

I am very excited to be working more closely with many super awesome colleagues — Elin, Kjersti, Tor to just name a few — and to have an excuse to be in Bergen more often!

If you want to celebrate with me, there are several options:

Option 1: Do some #KitchenOceanograpy!

From next Tuesday onwards, there will be a new kitchen oceanography experiment each and every day for 24 days (also in German and in Norwegian)! Follow along, take pictures, post them on social media, tag me and let’s talk about some exciting ocean physics!

Option 2: Go #WaveWatching and send me a #FriendlyWaves!

You know the drill: Enjoy some wave watching, take a pic, post it on social media, tag me, and let’s talk about what physics are behind the waves you saw! And about how awesome oceanography and water are ;-)

Pop-up beach walk

Strong west winds aren’t the best for traditional wave watching on the east coast, but we got beaches in places where we usually don’t have them! Pretty exciting, especially since I’m on a home office day (luckily the trains to work don’t run regularly because of the storm, so I got to squeeze in some beach time before work!).

Below, you see where the big storm drain runs into Kiel fjord. You might remember it, because it’s the one that the fluorescent dye tracer comes out of whenever the city’s heating systems leak. Except that usually there is a lot more water around here…

So this is a pretty unusual perspective!

Also walking underneath these bridges is usually not recommended.

But it’s pretty cool to see these familiar structures from a very different perspective!

Something I found super interesting about this picture is this little groove that has formed underneath the edge of the bridge. What it shows us is that it has rained a lot at a time when the water was already gone, because that’s how this groove got formed! if there was still water around when the rain ran off the bridge, a) any “impact” of drops would have been dampened a lot by hitting water and b) waves would have acted to remove the groove and shape the sea floor in whatever other way they liked. So fun to discover these things! A bit like playing detective :-D

Maybe rubber boots would have been more appropriate…

Definitely interesting perspectives from down here!

But: Breaking waves on the beach! That’s not something we see a lot around here!

And finally a better look at the obstacle these stilts are there to keep boats off of.

It’s definitely a very different experience to my usual walks along here!

And even some rock pooling today!

#DryTheory2JuicyReality featured in our university’s newspaper!

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks at #DryTheory2JuicyReality with our new rotating table, our seminar presentation last week, attending BOOT in Düsseldorf, and more, all in the name of science communication.

Super nice to see our efforts recognized in print: Our project was featured in the university newspaper! Read about us here in German and in English!

Click to read the article on the university’s website

Happy #CTDAppreciationDay!

For #CTDAppreciationDay, I am re-sharing a video that Sindre Skrede (find him on twitter or vimeo for many more exciting pictures and movies!) and I made in 2011 (!!).

I am still super proud of this work because I first narrated it in Norwegian (after only having lived in Norway for a couple of months and having started classes only after moving there! Scary stuff, but I did it!), and we only translated it to English afterwards. Also I think we did a great job there!

Burning soap bubbles

The other day I was thinking about fun experiments to do on a Birthday party for kids (won’t spoiler here whose kid that might be, and also, coincidentally, it was on Jenny’s Birthday! Happy Birthday, Jenny! :-)) and I realized I never posted the “burning soap bubbles”. Probably because I still can’t think of a good reason why it belongs on a blog on “adventures in teaching and oceanography”, but since I dug out the movies that my friend Dési made and narrated more than 2 years ago, and it’s fun to watch, (and also it’s much faster for me to google my blog for this experiment than to search for it on my phone if I ever need it again): here we go!

English short version of Dési’s narration: Take dish soap and mix it in water. Bubble lighter gas into the water to create bubbles. Take them up in your hand, bring a lighter close, and that’s it! It doesn’t get hot or anything, but it looks very impressive!

Networking event for online science communicators tomorrow!

Anticipation is rising, just one more sleep and then it’s finally here! The networking event for online science communicators that Alice (see her blog, twitter, Instagram — see, we are serious about online science communication!) and I are organizing here in Kiel!

Check it out here and make sure to register if you want to join us, the address given on the website is unfortunately not where we’ll be!