China Thinks They May Have Found One Surviving Baiji Or Chinese River Dolphin

 Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

 

CHINA — In 2006, a survey conducted in December found a species of River Dolphin — known as the Baiji, or Chinese River Dolphin — to be functionally extinct.  When an animal is classified as such, this means that there’s only a handful of survivors left, and that the odds don’t look good for the species to make a comeback.  12 years after the survey, China thinks they may have found at least one surviving member.  That could mean that, possibly, there’s even more out there.

 

 

What’s a River Dolphin?

 

A River Dolphin is basically what it sounds like.  It’s a dolphin that survives in freshwater; it only lives in rivers.  This is not a formal classification of dolphin, but it’s an easy way to distinguish between the kinds of dolphins most people are aware of, and the four recognized species of river dolphins (with various numbers of subspecies).

 

There’s a few reasons why river dolphins aren’t as well known to the general public.  For starters, they don’t have a wide range.  There are only a few different species of river dolphin, and they are all restricted to small habitat areas.  

 

Another reason is that there are not many river dolphins in captivity.  The reasons for this range, but some of the problem has been that getting the animals to reproduce while in captivity has not proven to be successful. On top of this, in the 1950s to the 1970s, many Amazon River Dolphins were captured and sent away to be placed in captivity across the world, but out of the 100 that were sent, only 20 survived.  Currently, only three river dolphins are in captivity; one in Venezuela, one in Peru, and one in Germany.

 

 

Why Are They Endangered?

 

We only know for sure that some species of river dolphins are endangered and face extinction.  For example, the data for the Amazon River Dolphin is data deficient, or in other words, we don’t have enough information on the species to list it on the IUCN scale of endangerment. 

 

However, with that said, many species of River Dolphins are extremely vulnerable to habitat destruction, which helps lead to their endangerment.  Because they have such small habitat areas, when part of that habitat is taken over or destroyed, it can effect the entirety of the species.  

 

This is exactly what happened to the Baiji river dolphin.

 

Waste from the surrounding area of the Yangtze river, where the Baiji was once found, covered the water.  Ship traffic became a huge problem, as the Yangtze developed because of economic growth in China.  Noise pollution also played a role as the area of the Yangtze became more and more populated.  

 

The last verified sighting of the Baiji was in 2004, two years before they were declared ‘functionally extinct’.

 

So …if China Did Find a Baiji, What Does That Mean?

 

Unfortunately, we don’t quite have the answer to that question.  It would take a lot of work to get to a time where the Yangtze river is save enough for the Baiji to thrive.  “…Destructive fishing methods such as high-voltage electrofishing, floating gill netting, and muro-ami, a technique that uses encircling nets with pounding devices, should be strictly forbidden, and any violation should be punished to protect both the dolphins and their prey,”  Said Hua Yuanyu, a scientist who has been surveying and studying the species since the 80s.  

 

Basically, the Yangtze River would have to become a protected area via the government if there is any hope to save the Baiji.  

 

That said, Hua also said that the “reappearance of the baiji is another piece of evidence of the improved Yangtze ecology,” which by all means, is a very good sign for this particular animal.  Another glimmer of hope is that the Baiji “does not live in solitude,” and live in schools, according to Li Xinyuan, who is a Baiji dolphin enthusiast and was there when the photo of what they think is the Baiji was taken.  

 

On top of all of this, several fishermen have been confirmed to have seen the Baiji for themselves. 

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

Science Communication: Consider the Source

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Previously Published in 2017

 

SCIENCE COMMUNICATION -- We've all seen health products, mental health products, or other services claim that what they're doing is backed by real science.  Whether they're making wild claims about how much weight you're going to lose, or saying how much better they're going to make your life in general, they often times say that they're backed up by science.  Even dating websites claim they have science behind them.

 

These claims may do one of two things to you:

1) They may make you more skeptical about the product or service.

2) They may make you trust the product or service more than you might have originally.

 

Obviously, for the company trying to take your money, the latter option is more ideal.  But the average consumer needs to be more skeptical.  Just because some science is behind a product, that doesn't necessarily mean it's trustworthy.  You have to consider the source.  How do you go about considering the source of a scientific study, though?  How do you know what to look for?

 

Considering the Source: Where Did the Study Come From?

 

In 2017, Vox Media produced an article showing how companies like OceanSpray got away with saying that their cranberry juice could reduce urinary tract infections by 40%.  However, that study that OceanSpray boasted was co-funded by the company themselves.  On top of that, the study was co-authored by OceanSpray.  And the study and similar ones like it have had a lot of people fooled.  Doctors have gone as far as to suggest to their patients that they drink cranberry juice when suffering from an UTI.  The author of this article knows this from personal experience.

 

It wasn't as though the study was completely lying, either, which helped boost their supposed credibility.  Cranberries do have compounds that fight off bacteria, but you'd have to drink a LOT of cranberry juice to see any kind of result whatsoever. "People would have to continuously drink the juice twice a day in serving of 150 mL for an indefinite period of time."

 

When looking at a study, was it funded by the company promoting the product?  Was it authored by the company promoting the product?  Is the study helping promote the product at all?  All of these things should raise red flags when looking at a study.

 

Considering the Source: Is a Celebrity Talking About it?

 

The average person take celebrity opinions far too seriously.  Let's just admit that right off the bat.  This can be a huge problem, unfortunately.  It's lead to countless people attempting detox teas because Kylie Jenner posted them on instagram (and got massively paid to do it, too). Detox teas have unwanted side effects, and will mostly help you lose water weight more than anything else as they are a diuretic.  They're not the miracle weight loss product that celebrities and instagram influencers claim they are.

 

And the Kardashian-Jenner family aren't the only ones at fault here.  People like Gwyneth Paltrow have made a business surrounding products that supposedly have science backings.  However, Paltrow's website GOOP is being investigated for at least 51 deceptive health claims.  These claims hurt people on the regular, because if their favorite celebrity is doing it -- they should too!  It means it must work!  In reality, we have to remember that these people are not scientists and are getting paid to promote these products.

 

Considering the Source: Did you Find it on Social Media?

 

Social media is similar to the aforementioned celebrity point.  They may not be getting paid to promote these tweets, but they are getting the instant gratification of likes and retweets.  This was a an issue to Megan Lynch, a student of Economic Botany herself.  When I asked about what other ways we need to consider the source of scientific claims, she said she watched a lot of scientists retweet "spammy" tweets without questioning the fact that these tweets didn't have a source associated with them.  We're all susceptible to this kind of behavior, too, so we have to be aware of that and realize what we're doing before we do it.

 

Considering the Material: Peer Reviewed Articles

 

It's not just the sources of articles and "facts" we need to be wary of.  Even the articles we find we can trust the sources from have faults, flaws, and can be misleading.

 

Dr. Emma Yhnell brought this up to me when asked, saying "articles are often changed depending on reviewer comments".   And it's true.  On top of this, peer reviewed articles have other flaws such as the competition factor.  "Academic competition for funding, positions, publication space and credits has increased along with the growth of the number of researchers," Says a New Republic article written by Stefano Belietti.  "Science is a winner-take-all enterprise, where whoever makes the decisive discovery first gets all the fame and credit, whereas all the remaining researchers are forgotten. The competition can be fierce and the stakes high. In such a competitive environment, experiencing an erroneous rejection, or simply a delayed publication, might have huge costs to bear."

 

Because of the competition of science just to get into a journal, let alone have your study make it big, this can cause biases to be formed that could negatively effect the article.  Science should be neutral and unbiased, but it's not infallible by any means.

 

Considering the Material:  What was the Sample Size?

 

Is the article hiding important information from you?  Seeing how large the sample size was and how the variables were controlled is extremely important.  And a lot of times, the sample sizes to articles are small.  They're small enough that they can't really say for sure that the conclusions they came can be considered a scientific fact now.  But often times, despite this, that's how the conclusions from the research comes off, especially when being reported on by the mainstream media.  If the study doesn't even tell you how big a sample size was, or hides from you how the variables were controlled, that should be a warning sign for you to be more skeptical towards the study.

 

Science needs skepticism.  Without it, there would be no science at all really.  Without questioning things, finding sources, and doing your own research, you're blindly trusting in fallible humans.  And the bottom line is that we will realize that we made mistakes in our research, or made mistakes in promoting that research.  However, the more aware of it we are, and the more cautious we make ourselves, the more we can avoid promoting pseudoscience and faulty science as absolute fact.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

Help Us Donate to the Mars Generation!

 
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Last year, we did our best to help donate to the Mars Generation and to help them reach their goal of $20,000!  We were able to help them, and we raised almost $150 for them. 

 

This year, we want to raise 8x that.

 

 
 

The Mars Generation is a non-profit that helps kids get excited about STEM.  Started by Abigail Harrison, or as many know her, Astronaut Abby, in 2015, The Mars Generation has been helping children get into Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math ever since.  

 

This year, it's their 3rd Annual #TrainLikeaMartian challenge.  The challenge 'is a week of fun activities that brings awareness to the importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, space exploration, and physical fitness to students and adults around the world' according to their website.

 

Last year, FemSTEM got involved, and we want to get involved again.

 

We did some of the challenges ourselves, as well as started a fundraising page to help raise them up to their goal!

 

Here is our current fundraising page to help them out this year!

 

If you donate, all of the money goes directly to the Mars Generation -- we don't see any of it.  This is not sponsored by them in any way, shape or form, it's just a fun way to help our fellow STEM-lovers help others!

 

And -- if you donate $25 or more, you get entered into their daily prize drawings as well as their grand prize drawings.  You can learn more information about their prizes here.  On top of that, you'll get a handwritten thank you card from us no matter how much you donate (as long as you donate through our fundraiser here).  

 

What are you waiting for!!

 

DONATE NOW

 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



INTERVIEW: Cui Wang Ph.D: Microbiology Science Team For MARS

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A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Cui Wang, who works in the Global Food Safety Center for MARS in Beijing.

 


 

Q:  Hello, Cui!  Thank you so much for sitting down to answer some of these questions.  I know that our readers are going to find your job in STEM fascinating!  Food safety isn’t always something we talk about until there’s a dangerous bacterial breakout of some kind due to something wrong with our food.

So, to go along with that, my first question is: what sparked your interest in the science of food safety?

 

A:  In line with my original plan to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry, I started out conducting research to support the production of vaccines from fermentation at the beginning of graduate school. However, my interests changed after several serious food safety incidents were reported just after I had my first baby.  

 

I suddenly realized the importance and value of food safety and decided to adjust my career path to help ensure and secure the safety of safe and healthy food. I really hope that I can leverage my expertise to help reduce the risk of food safety issues in the future and this is what I’m working on  together with my fellow Associates at the Mars Global Food Safety Center.

 

I love food and I’m passionate about this space, which definitely helps! Conducting this meaningful work is my passion so I am constantly encouraged to go further.

 

Q:  What steps were taken in order for you to reach your PhD in Applied and Environmental Microbiology?

 

A: I took the opportunity to be a research assistant supporting projects in two national key labs while I was in university and this is where I discovered my interest in Applied and Environmental Biology (AEM) research. I began preparing applications for PhD programs in AEM, which meant taking the TOEFL, GRE tests and going through the interview process, etc. After successfully obtaining a place at Georgia State University, I spent the first two years attending training courses to learn new microbiological lab skills, and designing and writing the proposal for my PhD project based on my committees’ instructions and my interests.

 

At the same time, I was a teaching assistant supporting biology and microbiology courses for major and non-major college students. After passing the necessary exams, I became a senior PhD student and started my proposed project and also took part in other related projects. I trained several Masters and junior PhD students to become team members so that they could support different research projects in areas such as scale-up fermentation, molecular biology, protein purification, anti-fungal research and fruit ripening research. As part of this, I also communicated and collaborated with other senior PhD students, professors, and experts during seminars and conferences, and even through daily work. This helped to accelerate my development through brainstorming projects combined with coaching and mentoring. Of course, conducting experiments and spending a great deal of time in the lab were essential in demonstrating the hypothesis of my proposal. With solid data from these experiments, I passed my dissertation and finally received my PhD.

 

Q:  Can you briefly explain what a day at your job as a microbiology research scientist is like?

 

A:  At the Mars Global Food Safety Center, I conduct scientific research to generate insights and explore solutions for some of the biggest food safety challenges facing the industry today. For example, I am leading several research projects focused on controlling aflatoxins, one of the most potent, naturally occurring liver carcinogens that we know of today.

 

On our planet, 4.5 billion people consume food that contains aflatoxins every day. One of my projects aims to understand the correlation between the reuse of jute bags for ingredient storage (for example maize) and mycotoxin risk. 

 

I also aim to provide practical advice that could be easily adopted by farmers to help them reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination. To accomplish projects such as this, it is necessary to keep close communication with our global partners, whilst also being able to deliver our work in the lab. During the working day, I design technical plans to achieve the objectives of my projects, train the lab assistants and conduct experiments with them, analyze data, conduct trouble shooting and review the progress of projects. I also communicate food safety information with internal and external resources, and support other team members as a consultant.

 

 

Q:  Something I found interesting about your position is that I was told that it was non-competitive.  So, the information that you discover and research is shared across the world with different partners, so that we can all have access to this information on how to keep our food safer.  That’s a kind of science communication!  Do you find that this non-competitive atmosphere makes your position more enjoyable, and more engaging?  And do you ever learn anything from the partners you work with?

 

A: At the Mars Global Food Safety Center, being non-competitive means that we aim to share and communicate the results of our work in the public domain to help raise the bar for all. This creates a very positive environment for the food industry and the food supply chain, as well as for scientists to conduct their research. We believe that food safety is a basic human right, and we actively seek to work collaboratively with other entities to ensure safer food for all.

 

As a research scientist, in such an atmosphere, I have more space and resources to think, discover, and solve real problems and challenges in food safety. I can communicate and collaborate with other scientists or experts even from other companies or institutions, which makes my work more effective and engaging. In return, I experience great support and encouragement from my partners, and I believe that together we really can help provide more people with access to safe food.

 

Q:  I was told that you were also involved in other forms of science communication.  You work with the ‘China Children and Teenager’s Fund’, and help these kids learn more about food safety.  What does this job entail?  Do you find that your work in this position is fruitful in your area?  Why or why not?

 

A: As a mother of two young boys, I firmly believe that food safety education needs to start from an early age. This could provide life-long benefits to the next generation. I’m very glad that I was able to take part in this mission by providing consultation and expertise to the ‘China National Children’s Food Safety Guard Campaign’, organized by China Nutrition and Health Food Association (CHNFA) and China Children and Teenager Foundation (CCTF). The Mars Global Food Safety Center is a key sponsor and initiator of this collaboration. Through the project, we designed interactive learning toolkits, video and painting books with food safety information for the children. The materials have been rolled out to more than 8 provinces in China, covering tens of thousands of kids, which makes me feel very proud. 

 

Q:  What would you say the biggest challenge in your field is?  Anything in particular?

 

A:  Some of the biggest challenges in food safety come from the global nature of the food supply chain, which today creates many common touch points among industry, regulators, customers, and consumers. More than ever before, food and food ingredients are being shipped around the world.  A food safety issue or risk from one raw material, one company, or one region, can now quickly expand to be a global problem. For example, my research projects related to mycotoxin caused by the fungal contamination of grains such as corn, wheat, and rice, is a big concern for the supply chain globally. That’s why we are trying to work with our global partners in a more collaborative way than ever before. 

 

Q:  Do you have any advice for those looking into pursuing your field of STEM?

 

A:   Follow your real passion and get to know what your true area of interest is. Try to find a mentor or coach throughout your career and use him or her as a role model that can inspire and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.  And in your work life seek out sponsors, people that will look out for you, help plan your career path and work with you to help you realize your full potential. Lastly, do not forget to take a moment to enjoy your life and spend time with your family. 

 

  

*This post was not sponsored by Mars Inc.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



INTERVIEW: Valerie Maldonado Senior Engineer Process Developer for MARS

 
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A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Valerie Maldonado, Fruity Confections CBU Mars Wrigley Confectionery here in the US.

 


 

Q: Valerie, first of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions I had for you regarding your STEM job at MARS.


My first question, since your job focuses on the development of new candy, such as Starburst, I have to ask: What does candy have to do with STEM?

 

A: Making chocolate, candy, gum and mints is no different than cooking. Our role in Research & Development (R&D) is to ensure that we deliver high-quality products to millions of consumers all over the world. We have to apply science and engineering to guarantee that every product someone buys and tastes has the same great quality.

 

Q: What was it that first got you interested in STEM? And when did you know you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

 

A: When I was in the third grade, we had the opportunity to visit a gum and candy factory in my hometown of Caracas, Venezuela as part of a school trip. I was so excited about the opportunity that I made my mom volunteer as a chaperone so that she could come with me too. I still remember the smell of bubblegum when we drove near the factory. That’s when I started becoming interested in how candies are made. My curiosity, along with an interest in math and chemistry, inspired me to pursue my degree in Chemical Engineering.

 
 

 

Q: What steps did you have to take in order to reach your goals in STEM?

 

A: During my undergraduate program in college, I had to work hard to get
through some of my classes as engineering coursework can be quite demanding. Many people are intimidated by the STEM fields because they believe you have to be extremely smart to get through school. Trust me, you will meet very smart people who are scientists and engineers, but the reality is that for the rest of us it takes more discipline and hard work than anything else.


Once I started my career, I was usually the only woman engineer in my teams. I had to learn to be confident and to stand up for what I believe in. Being the only woman in the room can be very intimidating, especially when you first start out in the field – not only are you the only woman, but you’re usually the youngest person. Learning to be persistent has been the key for me in driving my career forward.

 

Q: What exactly does being an “engineering consultant” mean? And in your current position as a “Senior Engineer Process Developer”, can you summarize what you do on a day-to- day basis?

 

A: When I was an engineer consultant, I worked with a team of engineers from all fields (electrical, civil, mechanical and chemical) and construction managers to execute projects at different factories. I had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of industries as the company operated in many fields: my first project was an oil spill cleanup and from there I worked on projects in soap, ice cream and engine oil manufacturing. It was a great place to learn and use the technical skills I had gained from my engineering education.

In my current role as Senior Engineer, Process Development, I’m either in the office, factories, or our pilot plant in Chicago. While I am in the office, I am typically collaborating with different team members working on our future innovations. I have projects that are four years out, but I’m also working on initiatives that are currently getting close to launch.


I travel to our factories across the globe to test new processes and formulas as we work through product and process development. I enjoy going to our factories and working with our teams at the sites to bring the formulations we have tested at a small scale in our Chicago pilot plant to life at scale.

 

Q: What kind of technology and equipment goes into candy making?

 

A: There is a lot of technology that goes into making our products in a consistent manner for millions of consumers all over the world. For making fruity products such as Starburst and Skittles, technology helps us make the toffee base, remove moisture and shape the products into their final form. I have always been impressed by the packaging machines we use for wrapping gum, which can wrap thousands of pieces of gum in one minute and move at such highly efficient speed.

 

Q: When I was told about you, I was told that you’re “an advocate for
emphasizing that you don’t have to be a ‘certain way’ to work in a STEM field”. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

 

A: There are stereotypes that are attached to the people who pursue careers in the STEM field. Being interested in science hasn’t always been the “cool” thing to do. My sophomore year of college, I met a friend in one of my chemical engineering core classes who later told me he thought I was lost when I entered the classroom the first day. He had firm reasons to think so: women were the minority in engineering classrooms at that time and I am Latina. Throughout my career I’ve been asked if I’m in marketing or sales and people are usually surprised when I say I am an engineer. I strongly believe that regardless of the field you go into, you can be yourself and we should all embrace what is unique about us regardless of stereotypes.

 

Q: If you were to give advice to someone who wanted to work in this field, or a similar one, what would you tell them?

 

A: Studying STEM provides you with a very solid foundation for the rest of your life. I have many friends that have studied engineering who now work in other fields such as sales, marketing, supply chain, etc. and are thankful that
engineering prepared them with the problem solving and analytical skills that
allows them to excel in their careers. STEM fields set you up with a great deal of job possibilities—options that enable you to lead a great life with financial
independence.

  

*This post was not sponsored by Mars Inc.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



STEM GEMS: A Review of a Book about Women in STEM

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    When kids think of the modern scientist — who do they think of?  Usually, Bill Nye the Science Guy will come to mind (and why not? His catchy theme song has infected the minds of all American kids since 1993).  That …may be it.  Some kids may know of Stephen Hawking, Neil Degrasse Tyson, or Michio Kaku.  

 

    The pattern?  All of these modern day scientists have one thing in common: they are all men.

 

    Stephanie Espy set out to change that.

 

 
 

    Stephanie Espy is a Chemical Engineer and author who decided to shine a light on 44 of today’s modern women scientists.  “I have always been passionate about STEM,”  She writes on her website about why she wrote the book to begin with.  “and I’m equally passionate about getting more girls and young women excited about STEM too. I wrote this book with a mission: to help girls and young women to see their future selves as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, and to show them the many diverse options that exist in STEM.”

 

    With this book, she reached her goal and did it spectacularly.

 

    Out of graciousness, I was sent a copy of this book.  Because my life was so hectic, it took me a while to actually get around to reading it, but when I did — I had a hard time putting it down when real life called me to get some work done.  

 

    My first thought was: “Why is this not in every school library?”  

 

 

    These short biographies of these women in STEM give a fun look to their lives, their positions, and their passions.  However, not only did Espy provide 44 role models in STEM from all sorts of walks of life — she does something else for the readers, too. Past all of the bios is advice that Espy has written specifically for the girls who pick up this book.  Advice towards who to get started in STEM, and how to keep up with your goals in these fields.  Taking the stories from the 44 gems, and creating practical guidance from them.

 

    This books is excellently written on top of it all.  It kept my attention, and it taught me about these women effectively.  It’s bound to keep the attention of children in class, and it really should be required reading, or at least suggested reading for science classes.  It would also be an excellent choice for a book report.  

 

    I keep mentioning children reading this, but really, it’s fantastic for all ages.  The writing doesn’t talk down to the reader in the least, and everyone can learn something from it.  My guess is that most people who pick up this book haven’t heard of all of these women — if they’ve heard of any of them to begin with.

 

    Consider supporting Stephanie Espy in her efforts buy purchasing her book here.  You won’t be sorry you did it.  

 

*Mariah was given a copy of this book to read and review for free. This post is otherwise non-sponosered.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



Opinion: What We Can Take Away From the Instagram OP-ED

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Disclaimer: In the interest of not being hypocritical, FemSTEM will NOT link the article in question (though the title will be mentioned), nor mention the author by name.  That information has gone around enough within the science community, and we do not want to unintentionally promote attacking the article and, more importantly, the author in question.

 

A lot of anger, confusion, and debate was stirred up in the science community on March 15th, 2018 when Science Magazine published an article entitled: “Why I Don’t use Instagram for Science Outreach”.  While the title sounded as though it would be a thoughtful opinion piece on why Instagram may not be the best avenue for science communication, the article instead read as a bitter attack peace for many.

 

It’s easy to see why this article was read that way.  The article compared women and suggested that one method of science communication was more valuable to another’s.  It also had bitter sentences throughout the paragraphs.  

 

The author even admits to her bitterness in the article by saying: “Instead of cheering on Instagram’s dynamic and vibrant #scicomm women, I felt an increasing bitterness with each post I came across […] I realized that I am not bitter toward the authors of these posts […]  I am annoyed that the majority of the posts seem to celebrate a very narrow representation of femininity, my real bitterness comes from the systemic challenges that these posts are working to address …”

 

As of March 17th, both the author and Science Magazine came out with statements apologizing for the article, though the article can still be readily found.  

 

With that said, there are things we can learn from the article and the surrounding controversy; it just might not be what the article initially intended.

 

 

Don’t Pit Women Against One Another

 

 

As mentioned previously, the article directly compared two women.  It compared popular online science communicator Samantha Yammine to an unnamed professor the author knew in person.  

 

“I liken the many hours that Science Sam spends on her Instagram content to the volunteer work a female professor in my department put into organizing a summer program to introduce teens from underrepresented communities to biomedical engineering.” — Direct Quote from Article

 

As far as any reader can tell, these women have similar mindsets and goals — they just go about their science outreach in different ways.  Even if this was not the case — there is nothing healthy about comparing two people and their achievements.  

 

 
 

Dr. Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, said in an article for Psychology Today: “If we use others as a benchmark to evaluate ourselves, that creeping twinge of jealousy may undermine our ability to truly cherish the good things that come to others.”  

 

Carr then goes on to remind her readers: “Over time, things may even out, and a friend’s success may enable him or her to support and make opportunities for others (including you).”

 

We want to remember that, instead of bringing someone else down, we want to raise one another up.  In the long run, that will provide better, more positive, and longer lasting effects in the community.  We want to remember, too, that this is all of our community.  Tearing someone down, intentionally or not, disrupts the system of the entire collective.  This was clear in the reaction to the Instagram op-ed on Twitter.  It created anger.

 

It is important to note, though, that out of that anger did come some good.  Many fellow scientists and science communicators came to Yammine’s defense and support in the wake of the article. 

 

 

It’s Okay To Have an Opinion, but How You Present it is Extremely Important

 

It is, by no means, a bad thing to have a negative opinion on Instagram or social media in general.  It can be argued (and has been) that social media can be bad for the general state of human health.  Of course, however, everyone reacts to social media differently, and everyone interacts with social media differently.  

 

There is no fault with the author for not thinking that social media is not an effective or good way to go about science communication.  The fault lies with how it was presented.

 

Samantha Yammine was used as an example of science communication through social media from the very first sentence of the Science article.  Afterwards, Yammine was mentioned by her social media persona three more times in the short, 600-word article.  The entire time, Yammine seemed to be presented in a negative light.  

 

Because this article portrayed a negative opinion of a harmless activity, the usage of one example, and outright naming that example, read as an attack.  If the article was otherwise well-written and thought out, it was overcast by what came across as an attack.  

 

On another note, the article never had evidence that backed any of the author’s claims.  There are no links to studies or sources, and there was no research conducted to see if the act of science communication on Instagram could produce positive effects on the public.  It came across as completely baseless, and as a result, purely pessimistic and assaulting to those who enjoy and find good results from their social media usage. 

 

The world needs differing opinions, but those opinions must have structure and foundations, and they must be presented in a professional way.

 

 

We Can Learn From Our Faulty Judgment and From Other’s Errors

 

The reality is that a reputable online magazine should never have posted this piece.  The reality is that this op-ed never should have been penned the way it was.  To call it a ‘mistake’ may be being generous, as the article had been thought out by the author, and then read and edited several times by the employees of Science Magazine.

 

However,  with every negative experience can come a lesson.  That doesn’t make this okay — none of it was.  With that said, us — as the readers, the reviewers, and the critics — can use this to help ourselves become more aware of our own actions.  To use this as an example of what NOT to do.  To look at this and examine ourselves, our own motives, and use this to teach us how to lift someone up rather than to take them down.

 

Hopefully, Science Magazine will do as they say and will “examine [their] editorial process for these pieces moving forward” in a thoughtful and profound way.  We cannot count on that, however.  The only thing we can count on is how we react to situations like this, and how we move past this.

 

Samantha Yammine, who says she will be writing and submitting her rebuttal to an unknown magazine, has taken the entire situation in stride.  

 

 
 

 

Let’s all look at this as an opportunity to learn, and let the science community as a whole become stronger as a result.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 

A Science Communication Consultation and Training Company Is On the Rise — and Needs Your Support

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Science Communication is something that is a hot topic these days.  The communication to the public about science is extremely important, because everyone is effected by science in their daily lives.  Proper science communication can change how the public looks at the world, how the world governments decide to act on certain issues, and can help in bettering the wellbeing of humans, animals, and plant life.

 

 

However, science communication is not the easiest thing in the world.  Not by a long shot.  There’s miscommunication, the boasting of bad studies, and some scientists don’t know how to go about science communication to the public at all.  While all scientists are definetely not required to communicate their science to the public, a lot of them want to learn.

 

 

That’s where SCIENCE ART FUSION comes in. 

 

 

Science Art Fusion is a ‘science communication consultation company that aims to bridge the gap between science and the creative and performing arts’, says Founder RK Pendergrass.

 

 

Earlier in March, she began a GoFundMe campaign hoping to raise money so that Pendergrass can create online courses “that goes into the nitty-gritty of narrative structure and what makes some stories so universally appealing, and helps science communicators figure out the best ways to apply these narrative skills to their outreach efforts”

 

 

Pendergrass herself is a professional performer and creative writer with over ten years of experience in these fields.  She says that she wanted to help share her knowledge with the science community “after seeing the importance of narrative being brought up time and again at science conferences and in discussions about science communication”.  

 

 

Pendergrass truly believes that there’s value in this knowledge for the science community, and believes that this type of art can be very helpful in getting this very important communication across.

 

 

In the two weeks that SCIENCE ART FUSION’S campaign has been online, Pendergrass has thus earned over $1,500 towards her 20K goal.  As she notes, starting a company is incredibly expensive.  Between the LLC cost, the cost of equipment, the cost of a website, and more.  Her hope is to raise $3,500 a month in order to support the website and herself up until August.    She wants to help hire and support other science communicators as well in the future to help continue to “bridge the gap” between the communications and their respective audiences.

 

 

Interested in helping out?  You can check out the GoFundMe here, or email RK Pendergrass at prelaunch@scienceartfuision.com for more information!

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

Never Have Trouble Finding Places for Science on Your Vacation Again: Sci Sites!

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In January 2018, Dr. Lakshini Mendis launched a website for the purpose of inviting science to come along on your vacation.  While just about every large city in the United States, as well as across the world, typically has a science-related museum, or other science related activities to do while you’re visiting, sometimes they can be hard to find.

 

 

Dr. Lakshini Mendis is a trained neuroscientist, and now is a full-time science writer and editor herself.  After she gained her PhD, she traveled abroad a lot.  While she was abroad, she wanted to find these “STEM-related places” that she knew absolutely existed.  Finding them, though, was an entire adventure on its own.

 

 

Dr. Mendis found it to be a little frustrating and not very convenient that there wasn’t a place on the internet where you could go to see every science activity or public area in the location you were visiting.  Of course, you could Google things all day long, but the convenience just was not there. She wanted a “one-stop STEM related travel site”.  

 

 

VISIT THE SITE

 

 
 
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Sci-Sites.com is exactly that.  By noting where she has been on her science filled trips, and asking others where they have been, Dr. Mendis has created an easily-accessible space to fit her goal.  This site includes guest posts about these places, so that you’re not going in blind — as well as suggests science related spaces for every continent. No matter where you’re going on vacation, Dr. Mendis is making it so you have no excuse to not add science into the mixture.

 

 

Another wonderful thing about Dr. Mendis’ site is that it aids in visibility for not only STEM, and STEM-related public spaces, but also for the scientists and employees involved.  By allowing guest posts, scientists who have worked for specific museums and other STEM-related places can bring awareness to those said areas, as well as to the work that they do for that specific place. 

 

It’s another way, that’s totally different and completely unique to the current world of Science Communication, to get the science communication ball rolling.  It’s a great way to get the entire family involved with STEM and the people directly involved in STEM fields in a fun and relatable way.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Taylor Richardson Does it Again: $100,000 Raised For Girls to See A Wrinkle In Time

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This was edited on March 7th, 2017 at 9:07PM

 

In case you missed it, when Hidden Figures released in 2016, Taylor Richardson was the girl who raised over $20,000 so that 1000 girls could see the movie for free.  Her hope was to encourage girls to get into STEM by being able to watch the likes of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson on the big screen. 

 

 
 

    When A Wrinkle in Time was announced, a movie based on the hit middle-grade sci-fi from 1962, Taylor Richardson did the same thing.  Only this time, she raised $50,000 for girls to see the movie for free when it releases on March 9th, 2018.

 

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    Why was Taylor so enthused about girls seeing A Wrinkle in Time in theaters?  She explained on her GoFundMe page.

 

    “1. It shows young, black girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon,”   She begins.  2. It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film. A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in. 3. Most impressive and importantly, it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it.”

 

 
 

    Since the start of her campaign on November 13th, for Taylor everything has been a crazy and memorable ride.  Disney caught sight of her, and as a result, Taylor was able to attend the premiere.  She was able to meet the director of the film,  Ava DuVernay, actress Oprah Winfrey, and actor Chris Pine, among others.

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    Notable people who donated to her campaign included JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath.  “Thanks to the kindness of many of you and a very generous donation from JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath,”  Taylor wrote in an update on her GoFundMe. “I have exceeded my goal to send a 1000 girls 2 see the upcoming movie A Wrinkle In Time!”

 

 

    On top of that, aforementioned actor Chris Pine, who stars in the film as Dr. Alex Murray (the main character’s — Meg Murray’s — father), matched Taylor’s raised $25,000 — bringing Taylor’s efforts to her massive $50,000 to send girls to watch the movie, as well as help them purchase and read the original novel.  

 

 
 
 
 

    We applaud Taylor for her constant efforts and constant successes in bringing more and more girls into the world of STEM through positive media.

 

EDIT:  In an incredible update -- Oprah Winfrey, who stars in the movie as Mrs. Which, matched the $50,000 Taylor Richardson made -- giving Taylor's GoFundMe a over $100,000!  As of 9:00pm on March 7th, the GoFundMe total is $100,639!

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.