RSMAS Professor Lisa Beal Visits Cape Town School

IMG_9044RSMAS Professor Lisa Beal was in Cape Town, South Africa in Oct. 2012 for the AGU Chapman Conference on the Greater Agulhas System. The conference was the first of its kind on the African continent and the first conference wholly dedicated to the Agulhas System, which has recently been suggested to play an important role in global climate change (Beal et al., Nature, 2011).
While in Cape Town, she and NOAA scientist Dr. Meghan Cronin visited a science class at the Sophumelela Secondary School to talk about oceans role in the climate system and the Agulhas current that helps shape the regional climate in South Africa.

The Agulhas Current flows as a fast and narrow stream along the east coast of South Africa and is the western boundary current of the south Indian Ocean subtropical gyre. The Greater Agulhas System comprises the sources and influences of the Agulhas current, including its leakage of Indian Ocean waters into the Atlantic south of Africa.
The Chapman Conference was highly multi-disciplinary, including research into the fisheries and ecosystems, coupled ocean-atmosphere processes, water masses and dynamics, and past and future states – through paleoceanography and modeling – of the Greater Agulhas System.
Dr. Beal was one of four lead conveners of the conference, along with Will de Ruijter from University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, Arne Biastoch from GEOMAR Kiel in Germany, and Rainer Zahn from University of Barcelona in Spain.
Click here to read more about Dr. Beal’s research on the Agulhas current.
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DC 101: Where Science and Policy Meet

AMS Summer Policy Colloquium 2012 participants on a visit to Capital Hill in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the AMS Policy Program.

I had the opportunity to attend the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Summer Policy Colloquium from June 3-12, 2012 in Washington, DC. This event, cosponsored by the American Geophysical Union, provides participants with a 10-day crash course in policy, the US government, and how science fits into both. We were treated to a variety of outstanding speakers throughout the week who provided us with wonderful insight into the role of science in policy and government, and why we, as scientists and citizens, should be actively involved in the process.

It was clear after the second day that I knew pretty much nothing about how the government works, regardless of living in the US my whole life. I never realized all the staff and expertise that reside on the hill on a wide variety of issues that affect society (from clean energy to the economy). After attending this colloquium, I have gained a new appreciation and understanding for the policy process (and why some things may take awhile to get done). One of the most important lessons that I learned is that policy is a process. It begins with an idea of how something can be improved and ends with the implementation of that idea. And unlike how many scientists tend to view problems, point A to B is not necessarily a straight line or a cause and effect solution. Thus, it is important to be involved with the policy (in big and small ways) and help people understand why they should care about all the wonderful science being done throughout the world. If you can do that, you can make a difference.

Another lesson that I learned was that you should love what you do and be passionate about it. I loved hearing all the enthusiasm that the speakers and participants had towards their work. I enjoyed the energy that surrounded people who loved what they do and cared about society. One of my favorite thoughts was that DC is an area full of people who were told when they were children that they can make a difference.

I was fortunate during my 10-days to meet not only the speakers, but also an amazing group of fellow participants. In many of them I see the same passion for making a difference that many of the speakers held, which gives me hope about the future of science and policy. Scientists have an important role in policy, and wonderful events, like this colloquium, help that role be reestablished and flourish into the future. Overall, I had a wonderful experience and highly recommend others to attend the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium in the future!

Angela Colbert
Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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Note: This blog is a reflection on my personal opinions and do not represent the views of the speakers, participants, AMS Policy Program, or the AGU.

Communicating Science

Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. — Albert Einstein

Good scientific presentations can be exciting, inspiring and bring people together to work towards a common goal. Bad presentations can make people tired, angry, or bored, therefore they don’t pay attention and the message gets lost. We have all sat through at least one terrible scientific presentation that is filled with complicated slides and an alphabet soup of acronyms. They are just torturous… But there is hope! There is a new wave of scientists making an effort to add some clarity and excitement to scientific presentations.

Below is a list of tips I compiled after attending two communicating science workshops. These skills can be helpful in giving public presentations, in explaining your science to journalists, and even in writing grants. Enjoy!

Important things to keep in mind when giving a presentation:
• Know your audience –speak to their knowledge level
• Focus on the message –bring it back to why it matters to the broader audience
• Tell a story – your research includes mystery, compelling questions, characters, locations – your audience will care about the outcome
• Include personal anecdotes, passion, humor, analogies, metaphors
• Limit jargon, acronyms, complicated words/phrases
• Simple does not mean dumb, don’t talk down to your audience
• Make your presentations interactive if possible
• Look trustworthy, professional and believable
• Practice – know the material, don’t rush or go over time, be confident
• Ask someone to watch and evaluate your presentation
• Powerpoints:
o Powerpoints should enhance the material, not take over the presentation
o Be able to do your presentation without it, one day you may have to
o Support your presentation with visual imagery – photos, videos
o Don’t read your slides, make eye contact with the audience
o Keep your slides simple, clean, not cluttered – you want your audience to think, not to work

Tips for on-air interviews:
• Be prepared
• Have a few sound bites/talking points prepared before you arrive
• Suggest questions for the interviewer to ask you
• Ask for a do-over if the piece is taped
• Answer the questions you want, lead the interview to the right questions
• Learn from your mistakes

Tips for getting your research featured in news articles
• Squeeze info quickly into a short story.
• What’s the news? How do I explain it as simply as possible?
• Answer the phone – journalists work with very quick deadlines
• Scientific literacy isn’t a job requirement for science journalists so explain your science well to the media so they can put it in a story correctly

Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Florida Presentation Bootcamp

Communicating Science Workshops:

American Geophysical Union (AGU) Communicating Science Workshop
San Francisco, CA
December 4, 2011
Ellen Prager, PhD – Earth2Ocean, Inc.
Dan Vergano – USA Today
Molly Bentley – Big Picture Science
Dan Kahan – Yale Law School
Brian Malow – Science Comedian

Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Florida
Presentation Bootcamp

Miami, FL
January 9-10, 2012
Presenter: Rick Tankersley

Do you have any tips/tricks you would like to add? Leave them in the comments section below…

-Laura Bracken
Alumni & Outreach Manager
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RSMAS Science Highlights of 2011

RSMAS was a busy place for cutting-edge science this year. Here’s a look back at the top research studies that made headlines in 2011 and the latest science and education from Virginia Key and beyond.

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s study of one hammerhead shark’s lone journey to New Jersey made headlines in early 2011 as did Dr. Lisa Beal’s ongoing research on the Agulhas Current and its link to global change change.

Coral reefs made news this year, including from a newly published study by Dr. Diego Lirman that showed Florida’s reefs cannot endure a ‘cold snap’ and from a study of Papua New Guinea reefs by Dr. Chris Langdon that suggests ocean acidification may reduce reef diversity.


Before the year closed, Dr. Shimon Wdowinski presented a new study at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco that showed tropical cyclones could trigger earthquakes.

RSMAS scientists and student were part of many new and ongoing research expeditions. Researchers and students from RSMAS joined an international team on a six-month field campaign in the Indian Ocean, known as DYNAMO. They are studying how tropical weather brews over the region and moves eastward along the equator, with reverberating effects around the entire globe. Follow the ongoing work from the scientists.

Meanwhile, it was a busy end of the year for Lisa Beal and her research team who embarked on a month-long expedition to the waters off of South Africa to understand how one of the world’s strongest ocean currents – the Agulhas Current – is both affected by climate change and also has an effect on climate change.

On the academic side of RSMAS life, the Masters of Professional Science program was in full swing this year and the newly acquired Broad Key Research Station welcomed its first cohort of students to study the coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys. Finally, joint degrees in law and marine affairs was launched at UM to provide students with a unique educational opportunity to tackle environmental issues.

As 2011 comes to a close, RSMAS faculty, researchers and students are looking forward to another busy and exciting year in 2012 filled with new scientific discoveries and educational opportunities.

Tell us about your research plans for 2012.

AGU Fall Meeting 2011: A Look Back with Monica Arienzo

After spending hours in the laboratory collecting data and analyzing samples, the next step for scientists is to put it all together and share our results. The first week of December I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. This meeting brought together 20,000 scientists from around the world to share their most recent findings. People present their results by giving 15 minute talks or making a poster which highlights their research. My research focuses on stalagmites from caves in the Bahamas and I presented a poster in a session dedicated to cave research. This gave me an opportunity to talk with leading scientists in the field of cave research, share my findings and get feedback from other scientists. This feedback provides new insight and

Monica Arienzo at AGU

perspective to my data. Not only is the conference about getting feedback on my own work, but it’s also about learning what others are doing in the same field and in other areas of research. This provides an opportunity to learn and to be inspired to try new methods and approaches. Lastly, AGU is also about catching up with old friends and exchanging ideas with colleges. I was able to meet up with old research partners from a summer I spent in St. Croix, USVI, as well as some colleagues I collaborated with in Europe this past summer.

-Monica Arienzo
Graduate Student
Marine Geology and Geophysics
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RSMAS Reunion in San Francisco

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Annual Meeting runs from December 5 to December 9, 2011. Many Rosenstiel School faculty, staff, students, and alumni are in San Francisco sharing their research, learning from their peers, and networking. Half way through the week, they will take a break from the hustle and bustle of this busy meeting to socialize with each other.

On Wednesday, December 7, all faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends are invited to join Dean Roni Avissar and Alumni Manager Laura Bracken for cocktails and appetizers at the Bluestem Brasserie. These mini-reunions are a great way for RSMAS affiliates to stay up to date on the exciting things happening at the School. They will see plans for the new, state of the art, seawater building and learn about the new initiatives and the exciting research happening at RSMAS.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Laura Bracken at 610-306-1926 or

-Laura Bracken
Alumni Manager
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