Chiefs of the reefs: thanks and farewell CORAL WEEK curators

We kicked off May at RealScientists with a special event – CORAL WEEK! Four superb curators joined us each for a couple of days, starting with Dr Jessica Carilli (@jess_carilli), Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts. We were prepared of course, for some spectacular underwater scenery and Jess did not disappoint.

But not all marine sciencing is done underwater!

Next up was Amanda Clarke (@MarineManna) PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Amanda shared with us the beauty and importance of sea grasses.

And that *other* famous research vessel

Then it was Marjorie Linares, PhD student Marjorie Linares (@CurlyHairDevil), from Sydney University.

Marjorie showed up some quite lovely protists

And then some not so lovely coral mucous…

The final coral week curator was Carly Kenkel (@DrCarlsHorn) PostdoctoralFellow at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. Carly explained some of the intricacies of coral bleaching and the responses of different corals to stress.

And we learned about how cool coral reproduction is!

We asked all four of our coral week curators to reflect on their time at RealScientists, and their responses are below.

In general terms, how did you find your week as a curator?

[Amanda] It was an amazing experience. Truly amazing. I love science education and this just made me more determined. THANK YOU
[Marjorie] I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a lot of fun. I really wanted my time to be useful to the people following. I wanted to make sure I could educate the general public (and other scientists) about not only my work on Chromera velia, but also what is really happening with coral bleaching around the world. I was surprised by how little people knew, and weirdly enough how MUCH others knew. The followers are a real smorgasbord of intereseting people. I had a lot of fun, but also realise that if you want it to be meaningful, science communication takes a lot of work and preparation, even if it’s just tweeting about your day to day routine. I was only curating for 2 days and it was a challenge to stick 4 years for PhD work into 2 days, but I somehow managed. Overall, I enjoyed it!
[Jess] Fun! I only had 2 days so felt like I needed to get a lot in, but it was a fun experience overall.
[Carly] I had a great time. I really enjoy public outreach, so the chance to talk to and teach a broad audience about something that I love was truly fantastic.

It can be a shock talking to so many. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

[A] It was a little daunting at first but I found a balance. It was time consuming but that was expected and part of the experience!
[M] Yes. Very daunting. Early on in my twitter life, I usually felt like I was just talking out into the void. Tweeting for the sake of tweeting. So I tend to refrain from menial daily occurrence tweets in my personal account. I gave it a shot on @realscientists asking about coffee (flat whites in the US) and got A LOT of replies. I realised that to engage people, breaking the ice with something easy and relatable works great- and tweet about coffee! I tried my best to answer all questions and I’m sorry if I forgot some!
[J] Not really – actually fewer people interacted than I anticipated, so it was fine.
[C] No, I really enjoyed when people asked questions. Nothing sucks more than ending a talk and having zero hands raised. I think some of that same feeling applied to my curatorship. When people asked questions I felt like they were getting what I was saying.

What were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?

[A] The highlights for me were having an extended conversation with a scientist from the USA who asked her boss to give me a job! Those are the kinds of connections I was hoping to make. Future employment and collaboration prospects! I got “trolled” only once, and he got taken care of before I could think of a witty retort.

[M]One of the highlights was when I tweeted out a trivia question: Without googling, what was Darwin’s first monograph?
Considering that the theme of the week was corals, I thought people would catch on straight away. But they really went all over the place. So many people replied “barnacle” that I was pretty sure I was being trolled (I’m still not 100% sure I wasn’t!). It made me laugh. Also, bringing in people to identify a horseshoe shaped plastid in fluorescence microscopy images of algae (#HorseshoeOrNot?) was fun. I also really enjoyed interacting and learning from the other curators of the week! It was like a weird version of a book/journal club. I don’t have any lowlights really, other than the casual internet troll.

[J] Highlights were seeing people RT with positive commentary. Lowlights were 2 climate-deniers attacking grant money going to “glamorous” science. In future if I had more time I’d love to touch on how unglamorous coral reef science actually is… 🙂

[C] The “assisted evolution” rapid fire back and forth with one particular follower – SPYvsY – he/she had really excellent questions. Other followers said they were enjoying our Q&A session. There were a few strange unrelated comments I wasn’t sure how to respond to, so I just ignored them.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

[A] I didn’t have time to tweet all of the things I had planned (sorry about that).
[M] I tried to set up an experiment to show live, however as with anything in science, it didn’t work out on the day so I had to show photos from the previous times I had done the same experiment.
[J] I did hope to talk more about the nitty-gritty of doing science, but didn’t get a chance
[C] No, I fit everything from my plan in the time I had, in retrospect, I wish I had a more detailed plan. I think I could have covered a bit more information than what I did.

Did you have a plan? If so, did you stick to it?

[A] I did have a plan! I made notes and everything. I got a little jumbled now and then, due to excitement but mostly I stuck to it.
[M]I had a vague outline about what I wanted to talk about and I stuck to it. At times it digressed a bit but it was the natural course of the discussions happening live.
[J] A bit of one, and yes mostly stuck to it
[C] I did. But as I said above, I think I needed more content to start with. I wasn’t sure how much I could cover and I based my estimates on past curators.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

[A] Have a plan! Make it light. People love photographs. I think my photographs got the most attention!!
[M] Have a general plan. Don’t stress out about having to tweet all the time. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Engage with the people! Have fun.
[J] Photos seemed to be appreciated
[C] Having a plan was definitely helpful. It allowed me to focus on responding to questions, rather than worrying what I was going to tweet about next.

What other people or accounts should people follow if they enjoyed your tweets this week?

[A] Manna Clarke (Scientist) on Facebook, MarineManna on instagram, mannamarine on tumblr
[M] @CurlyHairDevil, @jess_carilli, @DrCarlsHorn, @MarineManna, @CoralCoE, @CoralReefWatch, and my favorite hashtag: #protists
[J] @echinoblog is a favorite for great underwater imagery, too many other ocean-sci folk I can’t even begin!
[C] For people interested in research around reefs on the GBR @aims_gov_au and @SeaSim_AIMS are good sites to follow. For marine park conservation and management @gbrmarinepark is the best bet.

Thanks once again Amanda, Jess and Carly from all of us here at RealScientists HQ. If you missed anything from coral week, the tweets are all collated at the following link.

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