Science Book Club: My Family and Other Animals

Let’s celebrate summer with our third installment of the STS Book Club! This time, it’s a novel of the young adult variety. Perfect for picking up during breaks from staring at your computer screen or en route to your field sites!

c16bfa35dae8b847c0625f56de95e77eI don’t know about everyone else, but I could not be more excited and ready for #AcademicSummer 2016. Quals (take three!) are once more (SUCCESSFULLY) behind me and now I can finally relax into my favorite time of year. My advisor and his co-PI were gracious enough to fund my research for the summer (most Statistics students teach or grade for their funding) and I have left my days of classes, grading, and studying behind for coding and, to be real, actually living my life. I chose to write about this book, My Family and Other Animals, because it was such a lovely find last summer when I was living and studying in Seattle. I found this book in the mini library at Zeitgeist Coffee and was able to read it in spurts during transit and downtime. I love the idea of books that belong to The People and I’m hoping to pass along the interest in this one especially since I’ve taken so long to finish it.

Gerald “Gerry” Durrell in addition to being an author was a naturalist, zookeeper, and conservationist. Our kinda guy, right? Much of his fascination with all things natural was developed during his childhood living with his family on the Greek island of Corfu and it is here that his focuses his stories in My Family and Other Animals. Later, after working in zoos, aquariums, and on wildlife expeditions, he founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Park on the Channel Island of Jersey. Durrell Wicorfu20redldlife Park was the first zoo to house only endangered breeding species, and has been one of the pioneers in the field of captive breeding. His book provides a delightful peek into the beginnings of this impressive career and lifelong love for conservation. Continue reading “Science Book Club: My Family and Other Animals”

Share a Science Documentary Day

Science documentaries. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that you love them. You’ve watched both iterations of Cosmos; you’ve joined Stephan Hawkings on an exploration of the universe; you’ve learned about the rovers, landers, orbiters, and space stations exploring our solar system; you’ve experience Sr. David full-on gushing over a hedgehog. If I were to write a blog post trying to convince you to check out some of Sweet Tea Science’s favorite science documentaries, you would scoff because you are so on top of that. And that’s awesome! Seriously, let’s take a moment to appreciate our collective thirst for knowledge!

However, let’s not get so ahead of ourselves that we forget to share this excitement, enthusiasm, and thirst with others!

I have been inspired by a lovely evening out with my partner and his friend. We had been enjoying a few beers, and we got on the subject of education, intelligence, science, space and…well, you know how conversations can go. We eventually got on the subject of exploring our solar system and trying to understand the creation of the universe. Now, keep in mind that I love these kinds of conversations and could go on and on for a while. My comments are often prefaced with “I saw once in a documentary that…[insert science here]”. I was shocked to find that the friend had never heard of some of what we were discussing. It wasn’t that he didn’t have an interest in the topics, quite the opposite! He tried to write it off as us just being inherently smarter than him, but honestly, it was just a product of being an avid science documentary watcher. The knowledge is out there, I just Netflixed my way to it! I want others to know that they can too!

I am beginning to realize that there exists a set of people out there that are interested in exploring the sciences, but they don’t believe in themselves or don’t know what avenues to explore to help with their intellectual endeavors. This is where we come in. I’m going to assume that the majority of readers are here because they are totally into science. If we all independently hosts screenings of science documentaries and invite lots of our friends that might not normally choose such a film, then think of all of the science converts! I propose we
take this opportunity to organize. I nominate September 17th, 2014 as the first annual Share a Science Documentary Day!

This is a project that will require the help and support of the online scientific community. Science Side, I’m looking at you!

Your STS Homework:

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1. Share your favorite science documentary. You may do this in the comments here, on our Tumblr, or on your own social media outlet of choice! Be sure and tag us, @SweetTeaScience, so we can reblog/post/tweet you. Feel free to use the tag #SciDocuDay2014!

2. Host a Science Documentary Viewing on September 17th, 2014. Invite friends now and get people excited!

3. After your viewing don’t forget to try and start a dialogue. Talk about what you just learned and encourage others to share their impressions.  (Editor’s note: I think this would be a great time to talk about how to pick a documentary that isn’t bunk and how to be a skeptical consumer of information.  I mean, I love me some Netflix docus, but I’ve also quit some half way because…bunk.)

4. If you’d like, write up a little something about your event. What did you watch; did people enjoy it; would you host a similar movie night again, etc. We’d love to hear back and post your feedback on our blog or Tumblr!

Best of luck to everyone choosing a film to watch. Here might be a good place to start. We’ll keep you updated via tumblr about our own plans and movies that we choose to watch at our respective events! If you have any suggestions we’d love to hear them.

Top 5 Science Podcasts

Screen capture from my list of podcasts!

I’ve been out of the academic atmosphere for over a year now. Sometimes I just really miss getting my learn on. Academia pretty much ruled my entire life before I graduated with my MS degree (and it’s about to take back over!), so you would think I’d enjoy a well deserved break from, well…thinking. But no, I missed it terribly and have found becoming an avid podcast listener to be one of my more enjoyable hobbies. I love that I have a nice little list of podcasts queued up on my phone, so whenever I find myself with an extra 20 minutes or so I can just hit play. There’s no decision making, which is really nice for someone as indecisive as I am.

While I’m sure the internet has many sites for finding podcasts, iTunes is a great starting place. Their podcasts are collected, organized, and ranked, making it easy to browse categories of your interest and subscribe to those you’d like to have pushed to your device. Again, I always listen on my phone, but you can choose where to store your podcasts. I download a few episodes at a time when I’m around wi-fi so I don’t have to use up any cellular data. If you aren’t able to listen in this manner (maybe you don’t have a compatible phone/device) there are a few alternatives. Android users can use the Podkicker app. You can listen through iTunes on your PC. You could listen through a podcast website, such as Podcast Alley, from any computer. Several podcasts even have their own websites where you can listen.

I have loads to listen to currently.

I originally listened most of the time in the car. I often had 30 minute drives to/from schools when I substitute taught or between going to tutor the kiddos. However, now that I am about to settle down in Penn State sans car, there are plenty of other times I have been able to squeeze in a listen. People who conduct research often have simple, yet time consuming tasks to accomplish. Try listening to podcast or two while processing those samples or running those tests. I know a few runners that enjoy listening to podcasts while they go for a jog. Really, most times you are listening to music you could switch to an informative podcast instead*! If you’re really trying to get your learn on in a shorter amount of time, you can always listen to podcasts on 1.5x speed and enjoy a slightly faster, more hilarious experience.

When I first started storing podcasts on my phone I got very overwhelmed by all the options and episodes and those mocking red bubbles with the number of new episodes available! I actually ended up deleting and unsubscribing from everything for a while. I was spreading myself too thin. I can’t catch, errr, listen to ‘em all (editor’s note: Meridith’s geek girl side is one of my favorite things about her!). After this period of initial frustration, I went back and resubscribed to only a few podcasts, this time being much more selective. I also only focused on finding recent episodes that related to my interests. Then, I download these specific episodes so they are ready when I am!

Top Natural Science Podcasts on iTunes

You want a few suggestions? Here are some of mine and Rachel’s favorite podcasts.

 Sweet Tea, Science’s Favorite Science Podcasts

    1. Science Friday [Tumblr, website, Twitter]
    2. The Naked Scientists [website, Twitter]
    3. The family of “How Stuff Works” Podcasts (esp. Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class, which often has science history episodes!)
    4. Star Talk [Tumblr, website, Twitter]
    5. RadioLab [Tumblr, website, Twitter]

     Bonus: New podcast BBC World Service Elements


    Tell us your tale! Are you on the Podcast Bandwagon? Have any favorite ones (science or otherwise) that you’d like to recommend? Just checked out one of our recommendations and loved/hated it? Let us know in the comments!

     *I just turned off my music and turned on SciFri. Listening to my own advice!