ScienceOnline’09: Interview with Miriam Goldstein

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline’09 back in January.
Today, I asked Miriam Goldstein of the Oyster’s Garter blog to answer a few questions.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?
I am a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. I write the ocean science blog the Oyster’s Garter which has recently undergone a strange metamorphosis into a twice-weekly science column at the Slate spinoff Double X.
I grew up in New Hampshire and majored in biology at Brown University. Before starting graduate school, I worked in environmental consulting, outdoor education, taxidermy sales, and condominium construction.
MiriamGoldstein pic.jpgWhat do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I want to somehow make a living as a science educator and communicator, like a Borscht Belt version of Dr. Tatiana . The world is crying out for a Yiddish-spouting biological oceanographer with a love for naughty invertebrate hijinks, right?
What is your Real Life job?
My graduate research is in marine debris. I’ll be leading an expedition to the North Pacific Gyre (sometimes called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”) this summer. We’re going to try to accurately measure the distribution of the tiny bits of plastic floating out in the middle of the ocean, and get a sense of how they might be affecting the animals at the base of the food chain. There will definitely be an expedition blog and Twitter, too!
What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
I think the web is perfect for building community. While I started blogging to share my love of the spineless and slimy, I’ve found that a network of interested people can make your voice a lot louder. I’m interested in leveraging that for conservation. We’ve had some successes in the past, such as by debunking the iron fertilization company Planktos’ ridiculous claims that they were saving the ocean by throwing iron in it.
Of course, the trick in online communication is reaching people who don’t already agree with you. I’m trying to use my Double X column to reach people who don’t necessarily care about the ocean or environmental issues.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?
I’m SIO’s resident cheerleader for online outreach. I think online outreach is a powerful tool for getting a broad audience to remote places, like the middle of the ocean. It’s also great for building community, which you need to do if you work in conservation. After Science Online ’09 I gave a rousing presentation on the glory of blogging to my fellow students, though I’m not sure that I’ve convinced anyone!
I’m trying to explicitly incorporate blogging into my own research. I’m very excited about the potential for really awesome blogging on our upcoming marine debris cruise. And I have a pipe dream of creating a multimedia thesis chapter, but my committee probably won’t let me.
I have started running into the downside of blogging and social networking, which is that it takes time to do it well, and time can be pretty limited in graduate school. I had to put the main Oyster’s Garter blog on hold for the summer because organizing this cruise is so time consuming. I also discovered that I don’t have time to follow social networks much – it’s just too much media to read.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
It all started with an office job and a Metafilter addiction. I started by occasionally reading Pharyngula and Bitch PhD . Then I got hooked on ocean blogging (pun fully intended) with Deep Sea News, Blogfish, and Malaria, Bedbugs, SeaLice, and Sunsets. I wanted to be part of that community, so I started my own blog.
I came to the Conference explicitly to meet my ocean blogging buddies as well as the landlocked yet fabulous DN Lee. At the Conference, I did discover some wonderful new bloggers, particularly Glendon Mellow of the Flying Trilobite, Daniel Brown of Biochemicalsoul, and Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds.
What is it about life out on the ocean and singing, anyway?
The United States oceanographic fleet is alcohol-free, so while at sea we compensate by singing about grog instead of drinking it. ARRRR!
Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
I particularly enjoyed learning about specific tools and techniques that incorporate online learning into the classroom. The “How the Facebook Generation Does It” session was absolutely fantastic. I have already given two presentations based on what I learned at Science Online, one to fellow scientists and one to teachers.
It was so nice to finally meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Thanks for the opportunity, and I really hope I can attend!
See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.


4 responses to “ScienceOnline’09: Interview with Miriam Goldstein

  1. Not only is Miriam a brilliant science blogger (salty too!) but she’s an accomplished one. Watching her pile success upon success, I look forward to seeing what she’ll do next.
    Don’t get caught in the gyre!

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