For some reason the winter quarter always seems to rocket by. This year has been no exception, thanks in part to a shipment of some awesome fish for filming, continuing micro-CT projects, and recruitment events in my graduate group. However, a number of events I have participated in over the last couple weekends have been adding to the busyness in a very rewarding way. I decided to write a blanket blog about my activities, in part to increase awareness about the organizations I am involved with, and also as a benchmark for myself. It has taken a while, but I feel like I finally found some outreach events that I truly enjoy in the Davis-Sacramento area.
Davis Science Collective: The science collective is a partnership between UC Davis graduate students in the sciences, the Yolo county library, and the public. The main goal is to promote scientific literacy and enthusiasm through interactive events in the Davis community. We kicked things off this year by tabling at the Davis public library on January 26. A number of students from my program and I pulled our favorite science books from the collection (both adult and kids sections) and displayed them at the front entrance, discussing scientific reading with library patrons and encouraging them to include a science book in their stack of rentals that day. Over a dozen books were checked out from our table, ranging from topics in astrophysics to neurobiology to a kids book all about seal biology. This is a reincarnation of what was the Big Read: Open Access Science book club, which–while it did encourage the public to read a scientific book–did not generate the interaction and cross-group discussion as we had hoped. This first tabling event was a big success based on the number of people who stopped to talk with us and take out books.
Invited lecture for the Sacramento Aquarium Society: On February 1st I gave a public talk for the Sacramento Aquarium Society about my graduate research. I spent about half the talk discussing who syngnathiform fishes are and what makes them special from a morphological, ecological, and evolutionary perspective, including my research on their unusual feeding mechanisms. I then switched gears to talking about my recent field work in the Philippines collecting syngnathiform tissues for a molecular phylogeny. This part was the most fun since I got to share some of my favorite goPro footage from my dives. I hope all talks are like this, since I had a lot of fun, and I was super impressed by the insightful questions that my audience asked during and after.
UC Davis Museum Biodiversity Day: On February 8th, I participated in the annual Museum Biodiversity Day. Like last year, I managed the fish collections exhibit for the Museum of Fish and Wildlife. During the week leading up to the event, I pulled some of my favorite fish from the museum’s research and teaching collections, focusing on California fishes–but with some oddballs thrown in (like an American paddlefish!). On the 8th, the specimens are removed from their jars so that the public can touch and investigate the fish up close. The hands-on aspect of my exhibit is always a big hit with kids who are often surprised by how fish feel–like how squishy a torpedo ray’s electric organs are or how hard the armor of seahorses and pipefish are. No, not all fish are slimy or scaly! In truth, I have way too much fun at this event because I basically get to nerd out about cool fish with hundreds of families all day. However, the event is truly a great way to show the public the usefulness of museum collections for both teaching and research.