If you are a scientist, and you have twitter, you are probably familiar with the “actuallivingscientist” hashtag that’s been going around the science community on social media. If not, do a search of #actuallivingscientist on twitter and you’ll see what we are talking about. Essentially, scientists from around the world are tweeting about who they are and what they do with this hashtag. You might be surprised by the number and diversity of scientists living near you!
Now this was a band wagon that I could jump on. On February 4th I sent this tweet out.
And yes while I had 23 retweets and 77 likes it had NO WHERE near the attention that some other scientists got. For instance check out the popularity of fellow U of R researcher Kelsey Marchand on her tweet.
Yes that’s right, 259 retweets and 1100 likes for these two grinning faces! (GO KELSEY!!). But just to clarify… fish were definitely still a hot topic in the #actuallivingscientist world.
So while I didn’t get thousands and thousands of retweets or followers from my tweet, I got something better. Hours after making my post, a 3rd grade teacher named Heather from R.E. Thompson Intermediate in Alabama reached out to me about skyping in with her students as an #actuallivingscientist.
Heather and I began exchanging emails and by the end of the day we had a skype meeting scheduled that Thursday! Heather informed me that her students in Alabama were interested in speaking to an actual living scientist about doing fisheries research in Saskatchewan, with particular interest in how we conducted our work in the winter on ice. While I was anxiously waiting to hear the little skype ring tone suddenly begin on my ipad, I thought about what I would see when I pushed “accept call”.
Just as I had hoped and imagined, when I clicked accept, my screen switched to a room FULL of kids beaming back at me. After initial introductions and excited hellos Heather began asking me questions about my research. After this the kids came up one by one to ask questions they had made up. I was amazed by the thought and time they had put into their questions. For example, they asked me about ice fishing, acoustic telemetry through the ice and whitefish biology. This meant that they had taken the time to check out my website/blog, and determine what my thesis was on. Heather confirmed that they had been studying up for this meeting all week. Not only did they ask me some very broad questions- they asked me very specific ones too such as “how many minnows should you take ice fishing”, “do you prefer a gas or hand auger”, and “how do acoustic tags not run out of battery power?”. The question that caused the most commotion was “how cold is it there?” To answer I panned the ipad to the window of my office so the kids could see the snowy wonderland that was the University of Regina at the time. They went nuts! I will admit I might have exaggerated how much snow we had… and how much ice is needed to drive on a lake… but the looks of astonishment on their faces was more than worth it!
Our conversation and the impact it had on me can’t be put into words.. But Heather put together this video recap of our skype conversation that does a better job demonstrating how valuable this type of communication was than I can! If you are a scientist or a teacher, consider sharing your research or reaching out to a scientist on social media to set up this kind of meeting. I haven’t smiled that hard in a long time.