Videos highlighting research in physical oceanography, marine chemistry, and marine biology claim top prizes. Winners selected by over 30,000 middle school students for excellent communication of science
MELBOURNE, FL- What does a scientist look like? What does a scientist actually do? For some, the idea of science might conjure memories from high school physics or maybe someone in glasses and a lab coat. Recently, ocean scientists from around the US set out to show the public who they really are, the work they conduct, and why their research is important to scientists and non-scientists alike.
Using 3 minute videos, ocean scientists explored a piece of their own recently published research, highlighting its significance and purpose. To determine who was best at engaging and explaining these new discoveries, the Ocean 180 Video Challenge
looked to a group of potential future scientists: middle school students.
A team of nearly 31,000 middle school students from around the world joined forces last month to determine the winners of the Ocean 180 Video Challenge. Viewing each of the finalists, students were asked to evaluate the films for their clarity and message. They were also asked to consider which videos made them excited about the scientists’ research.
Alyson Tockstein led her students in the judging process at Talcott Mountain Academy in Avon, CT. “It showed them the variety of disciplines of study inside marine science,“ explained Alyson. “ It showed them the connections between technology and math and science in a way that they haven’t really been exposed to before.”
After 5 weeks of classroom viewing, deliberation, discussion and voting, the three winners emerged. The top film, Wavechasers and the Samoan Passage, was singled out for its educational value, creativity, and the excitement the scientists shared with students. Hundreds of classrooms participating commented on the top video’s ability to make them “more interested in science” and “excited by research”. One judging classroom explained the video grabbed their attention “by the mystery of something so significant and would be unknown if people were not researching it.”
How a microscopic team alters the course of carbon in the Atlantic Ocean, from Laurence Yeung of UCLA and Meg Rosenbaum of the California Institute of Technology took the second prize, while Bite Size: Bull shark predation of tarpon from Neil Hammerschlag of the University of Miami and Gareth Burghes of Lagomorph Films claimed third place honors. An honorable mention was awarded to Joseph Pawlik of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for his video abstract Sponges of the Caribbean: What ecological factors most affect them?
Each of the top three teams received a portion of the $6,000 cash prize, but many of the finalists saw value beyond the financial reward. Laurence Yeung explained “It was a chance to make a new video for an audience we hadn't targeted before, using a storytelling style we hadn't used before. It was an experiment.”
The importance of creating effective communication skills in science fields is steadily increasing and many national organizations, including the National Science Foundation, have emphasized the importance of scientists engaging the public and making their research accessible to non-scientists.
“Scientists receive extensive training in how to do science, but often lack training in how to share science with others –especially the people who support and fund the research,” said Richard Tankersley, Florida Tech professor of biological sciences and member of the Ocean 180 Steering Committee. “Ocean 180 is a wonderful opportunity for scientists to practice and hone their communication skills and broaden the impact and accessibility of their research.”
Finalists in the Ocean 180 Video Challenge had their videos viewed by thousands of classrooms around the world, exposing diverse and new audiences to their research. Students also provided scientists with feedback on how to improve their video storytelling and technical skills and ways to make science more relatable to the public.
For some middle school students, and budding scientists, sharing science might be the best part of Ocean 180. As one student judge explained, “It’s not very good to keep information that’s valuable to the world cooped up in a little box. You need to open the box and let everybody see it so they’re more aware of the environment and what’s in it.”