What’s a whale fall?

Tonight we are diving 800 meters deep off the coast of San Diego to observe and sample a dead fin whale sunk on purpose over 3 years ago. This whale is called Rosebud and this. Is. Science!

What’s the big idea?


Art for the A

Hey there, Karen Romano Young here, guest writing on Sarah’s blog.

You already know me: I’m the artist who did the drawing of Hercules (the ROV submersible) in Sarah’s recent post about STEAM. You know, science, tech, engineering, ART, and math.  Lots of people casually omit the A and just call it STEM, as if anyone would have any idea what was going on in science, technology, engineering or math without some kind of art.

Any kind of art, in fact. Every kind of art. Photography. Videography. Diagrams. Drawings. Design. Colorful paintings, animations, collages. Sculpture. Cartoons. And writing. WRITING! Dramatizations. Music. And even dance. Just try showing what you’re doing in STEM without one or more of these.  Try learning any kind of STEM without them. Try teaching without them.  You can’t. Not possible. And why would you want to?

Imagine, instead, that you opened up completely to using art to convey STEM topics.  But wait, you say, I can’t draw. I can’t sing. I hate writing, it’s too hard. And I don’t care.  Don’t worry, you’re in luck. Because the world is awash in people who can do and do care. STEM topics light people like me up. Here’s why:

1. I know that the key to engagement is story and image. If I follow the most dry, dull, stupid-seeming subject far enough, I know that I’ll uncover some kind of tail or picture. I’ve learned to keep going until I do.  I’ve stopped jumping out of my chair and yelling hooray when I do — because I’m no longer surprised.

2. Yeah, but sometimes I have a job to do: a diagram to sketch, or a report to write, or a powerpoint to build. So I’ll just start, or try to start, even if I have to drag myself to the desk. I’ll begin — and then I’ll get stuck. I’ll write a couple points or steps or begin drawing, and I’ll realize that I have to stop, because I don’t know what I’m talking about or how something should look.

If you’re a scientist, you’ll recognize that moment. It’s the moment when you realize what you don’t know. You narrow down the question, focus your energy, and step off the edge from the known to the unknown.  You go and find out as much as you need to move forward, and continue until you find the next question.  And guess what — if you apply the arts to your science, you’re going to learn more about your topic and how to communicate it. Art starts with an A, but maybe getting an A starts with arts!

What if the secret to success — in STEM and any area of life — isn’t being perfect, but knowing where the problem lies?  As an artist who loves science, technology, engineering, and math — and finds them enormously inspiring — I find that all the fun is found in the warm friction of befuddlement.

So I’m puzzled by educators and scientists and others who draw the line at STEM, as if including the arts was like letting bats into your high school study hall.  But is it really a problem? Imagine what it might be like! Kids would look up in shock, noting the corners and edges of the room in a new way, envisioning the room as it might appear to the bats, and watching each other react. It might be illuminating. It might be refreshing. It might demand a solution. It might teach everybody something about themselves.

Then again, that’s just an image I dreamed up. It’s just some words I wrote. It’ll be easy for you to stop thinking about, won’t it?

Image credit in banner: Port Lobster, KRY

Jumping In

The E/V Nautilus is steaming away, bound for 20 km off the coast of San Diego for its first ROV dive site – the Del Mar methane seep.

After a busy day getting on board yesterday, receiving uniform parts, meeting the fellow members of the Corps of Exploration and sweating through making my bunk bed (a most comfortable mattress, but awkward to crawl around and tuck sheets onto), there was a little time left for cruising San Diego on foot. Oh, and I did my first live interaction with the Aquarium of the Pacific.!

My fellow SCFs are Karen Romano Young, an Artist at Sea and our Lead SCF who sailed last year as well. She is wonderfully organized and a wealth of knowledge from the smallest detail to the biggest big picture of our work here. Stephanie Toro, the third SCF is a teacher in Houston, TX right now and originally from Norfolk, VA. Stephanie wears many hats as a high school science teacher and faculty member and PhD candidate in Curriculum Instruction with an emphasis on science at University of Houston. The three of us sat in the studio (the room where our interactions usually take place from) and started drinking from a fire hose of information (lovingly referred to since the March SCF Workshop). Karen did an interaction with the Houson Museum of Natural Science and then asked if either of us wanted to jump in on the Aquarium of the Pacific chat 20 minutes later. I put my snazzy E/V Nautilus polo on and mic’ed up! It went pretty well, Karen and I each answered a few questions and it was great to get in the chair and feel the flow of a conversation between people of all ages excited about ocean exploration!

Interactions can take place any day, any time – the ideal day and time will line up with the production team in Rhode Island at the Inner Space Center so that “B-roll footage” can play with our voice narrating and the audience has something to look at such as images of animals or maps of where we’re going.

This morning we left the port of San Diego at 0900 and all 45 members of the Corps of Exploration sat atop the Monkey Deck as we cruised out of port and rounded the corner of Point Loma. Today will be several more safety meetings and a muster in which all hands will do a safety drill and bring their lifejacket and hat up to the main deck so the Captain can inspect and give general reminders. Our whiteboard in the studio has a colorfully written schedule to keep track of the busiest day of interactions yet (7 in one day) divided between Karen, Stephanie and I.

Lastly, my watch time is 8-12. This is ship time (currently Pacific Daylight Time), so I will be in the control van with 4-8 other Corps members when the ROVs are diving, both from 8am-12pm and 8pm-12am, and I will monitor our website’s chat box of incoming questions, narrate the activity going on for the screens the public are looking at and serve as a moderator between scientists, ROV pilots and engineers, video and data loggers and guests in the van to keep interesting dialogue going over the air for you fine people to listen in to.

I am STOKED to finally be on board. Please send me or the other SCFs your questions anytime you logon to www.NautilusLive.org and there is a green light over the chat box, we can see your questions and will be happy to integrate the answers into our discussions! The first dive begins this afternoon, make sure to sign up on Twitter or Facebook to receive dive alerts!

Art Walk

Art Walk

it's great to see some West Coast sunsets again

it’s great to see some West Coast sunsets again

USS Midway and

USS Midway and “Unconditional Surrender” statue

Sarah, Stephanie & Karen, SCFs 2015 California Borderlands leg

Sarah, Stephanie & Karen, SCFs 2015 California Borderlands leg

Balboa Park, San Diego

Balboa Park, San Diego

Balboa Park, San Diego

Balboa Park, San Diego

our cozy little SCF spot in the control van

our cozy little SCF spot in the control van

The Studio

The Studio

Artists at Sea – STEAM on!

There are many in-ship residency programs out there for scientists and teachers. Each year NOAA offers a Teacher at Sea program across several vessels in their fleet. Additionally, there are visiting scientist and researcher positions on board lots of ocean-going research and exploratory vessels.

E/V Nautilus has two very unique Science Communication Fellows on board right now as the vessel transits from Galapagos up to the Pacific/California coastline, using SONAR to map all along the way. I was fortunate to meet both of these women on board as Artists at Sea, this March when our cohort of Fellows met for the first time. I am in awe of these ladies and their respective artistic talents and the way they can interpret science, research and exploration in a whole new light.

With all my work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education outreach, I am happy to incorporate Art along the way, as a medium to discover and enhance the important subjects of interest. STEAM on!

Karen Romano Young and Rebecca Rutstein on board E/V Nautilus


galapagos_seamounts_2_smallGalapagos Seamount by R. Rutstein

Banner picture: Hercules (Phase 3) K. Romano Young