Prairie Research Institute offers summer internships

In collaboration with the Graduate College’s Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), PRI is offering hands-on summer internships that will enable undergraduate students from populations underrepresented in graduate study at Illinois to explore careers in applied science. This opportunity is open to students at any U.S. undergraduate institution. 

During the eight-week summer program, interns will be immersed in hands-on field and lab projects led by scientists from INHS, ISWS, and ISTC. Interns will also participate in professional and career development activities and will learn about the pathway to graduate study.

Each summer intern will receive a $4,000 stipend, funds to cover travel to and from Urbana-Champaign, and on-campus housing and meals, plus supplies for workshops and symposiums.

There are opportunities in atmospheric science and climate; biology, ecology, and environmental science; sustainable energy; and water supply and safety. To see all of the internship options and to apply, visit https://go.illinois.edu/PRI-interns

The deadline to apply is Fri., March 3, 2023. 

How to build a better bike-share program

Read the full story at Grist.

When corporate owners ditched New Orleans’s bike share, the community stepped up to rebuild it with a focus on equity.

You’ve heard of mentorship in science, but what about sponsorship?

Read the full story in Nature.

Senior academics need to understand how the two differ and how sponsorship can promote diversity in research.

From open access to openly accessible

Read the full story at Research Information.

For an increasing number of publishers and societies, how to thrive in an open access world has become a critical strategy discussion in recent years. Change is now inevitable, and the benefits are more widely understood, with the pandemic making clear the real-world impact that rapid and open dissemination of research can make.

Part of the solution to this changing world for Wiley was to introduce Wiley Partner Solutions at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. A manifestation of what we see in industry trends, it enables the publishers and scholarly societies we work with to grow connections between researchers and the organisations that serve them, and ensures that all research findings are widely available and reusable.

Yet thriving in an open access world goes beyond making research available to as many people as possible or making sure to address FAIR data principles. It is imperative that we now also consider how to ensure that research is as accessible as possible.

New paper offers best practices for LGBTQ+ field scientists and mentors

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

People from marginalized gender and sexual identities can have safer experiences participating in ecological field research when leaders incorporate better field safety protocols and advocate for systemic changes, according to a new paper authored by scientists from Earlham College, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and other institutions.

The paper, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, offers best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion based on evidence-based strategies currently in use by the authors. The paper also underscores the role of systematic inclusion in attracting and retaining a qualified, richly diverse workforce.

Finding diverse sources for science stories

Read the full post at The Open Notebook.

Here, we compile detailed and specific resources and strategies that reporters can use to make that goal a reality, drawing on the wealth of information available from many U.S.-based organizations and scientists. Strategies for finding diverse sources can include drawing on publicly available scientist databases, social media accounts and hashtags, affinity organizations in STEM, sources, colleagues, public information officers, expert-referral services, and online discussion groups. We also suggest ways for editors to support reporters’ efforts to include more diverse sources, including by creating a newsroom culture that welcomes collaborative discussion about diversity (in sourcing and other respects), by setting and tracking goals, and by encouraging and concretely supporting reporters’ sourcing efforts.

What if Indigenous women ran controlled burns?

Read the full story at High Country News.

The Karuk Tribe’s first-of-its-kind training seeks to extinguish hypermasculinity in firefighting culture.

“Where do I even start?” Recommendations for faculty diversifying syllabi in ecology, evolution, and the life sciences

Perrin-Stowe, T. I. N., Horner, M., Coon, J. J., Lynch, L. R., de Flamingh, A., Alexander, N. B., Golebie, E., Swartz, T. M., Bader, A. C., & Halsey, S. J. (2023). “Where do I even start?” Recommendations for faculty diversifying syllabi in ecology, evolution, and the life sciences. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e9719. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9719 [open access]

Abstract: Diversifying curricula is of increasing interest in higher education, including in ecology and evolution and allied fields. Yet, many educators may not know where to start. Here we provide a framework for meeting standard curriculum goals while enacting anti-racist and anti-colonial syllabi that is grounded in the development of a sustainable network of educators. In addition to highlighting this professional learning process and sharing the list of resources our group has developed, we provide suggestions to help educators highlight contributions of minoritized groups, explore multiple ways of knowing, and perform critical assessments of foundational views of life and environmental science fields. We further discuss the key classroom dynamics that affect the success of such anti-racist and anti-colonial initiatives. The retention and success of minoritized students in ecology and evolution depends on whether we address injustices in our fields. Our hope is that our fellow educators will use this paper to catalyze their own efforts to diversify their courses.

Zero waste and job creation go hand in hand, activists say

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Zero waste jobs are opportunities to support workers in overburdened communities, according to the National Zero Waste Conference, but they must prioritize circularity and environmental justice.

Beware of ‘Shark Week’: Scientists watched 202 episodes and found them filled with junk science, misinformation and white male ‘experts’ named Mike

Hammerhead sharks schooling near Costa Rica’s Cocos Island. John Voo/Flickr, CC BY

by David Shiffman, Arizona State University

The Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week is the longest-running cable television series in history, filling screens with sharky content every summer since 1988. It causes one of the largest temporary increases in U.S. viewers’ attention to any science or conservation topic.

It’s also the largest stage in marine biology, giving scientists who appear on it access to an audience of millions. Being featured by high-profile media outlets can help researchers attract attention and funding that can help super-charge their careers.

Unfortunately, Shark Week is also a missed opportunity. As scientists and conservationists have long argued, it is a major source of misinformation and nonsense about sharks, the scientists who study them, and how people can help protect endangered species from extinction.

I am a marine biologist who recently worked with five colleagues to scientifically analyze the content of Shark Week episodes. We tracked down copies of 202 episodes, watched them all and coded their content based on more than 15 variables, including locations, which experts were interviewed, which shark species were mentioned, what scientific research tools were used, whether the episodes mentioned shark conservation and how sharks were portrayed.

Even as longtime Shark Week critics, we were staggered by our findings. The episodes that we reviewed were full of incorrect information and provided a wildly misleading picture of the field of shark research. Some episodes glorified wildlife harassment, and many missed countless chances to teach a massive audience about shark conservation.

Sharks are apex predators that are key to maintaining healthy ecosystems, but a 2020 study that surveyed 371 coral reefs found that 20% had no sharks present.

Spotlight real solutions

First, some facts. Sharks and their relatives, such as rays and skates, are among the most threatened vertebrate animals on Earth. About one-third of all known species are at risk of extinction, thanks mainly to overfishing.

Many policy solutions, such as setting fishing quotas, creating protected species lists and delineating no-fishing zones, are enacted nationally or internationally. But there also are countless situations in which increased public attention can help move the conservation needle. For instance, consumers can avoid buying seafood produced using unsustainable fishing methods that may accidentally catch sharks.

Conversely, focusing on the wrong problems does not lead to useful solutions. As one example, enacting a ban on shark fin sales in the U.S. would have little effect on global shark deaths, since the U.S. is only involved in about 1% of the global fin trade, and could undermine sustainable U.S. shark fisheries.

A shark caught in a fishing net dangles over the side of a boat with a crew member reaching out.
A crew member aboard a commercial fishing boat off the coast of Maine tries to cut a shark loose from a gillnet. Sharks often are caught accidentally by fishermen pursuing other species. Mailee Osten-Tan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Discovery Channel claims that by attracting massive audiences, Shark Week helps educate the public about shark conservation. But most of the shows we reviewed didn’t mention conservation at all, beyond vague statements that sharks need help, without describing the threats they face or how to address them.

Out of 202 episodes that we examined, just six contained any actionable tips. Half of those simply advised against eating shark fin soup, a traditional Asian delicacy. Demand for shark fin soup can contribute to the gruesome practice of “finning” – cutting fins off live sharks and throwing the mutilated fish overboard to die. But finning is not the biggest threat to sharks, and most U.S.-based Shark Week viewers don’t eat shark fin soup.

Spotlighting divers, not research

When we analyzed episodes by the type of scientific research they featured, the most frequent answer was “no scientific research at all,” followed by what we charitably called “other.” This category included nonsense like building a submarine that looks like a shark, or a “high tech” custom shark cage to observe some aspect of shark behavior. These episodes focused on alleged risk to the scuba divers shown on camera, especially when the devices inevitably failed, but failed to address any research questions.

Such framing is not representative of actual shark research, which uses methods ranging from tracking tagged sharks via satellite to genetic and paleontological studies conducted entirely in labs. Such work may not be as exciting on camera as divers surrounded by schooling sharks, but it generates much more useful data.

Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, describes findings from his lab’s analysis of shark genetics.

Who’s on camera

We also were troubled by the “experts” interviewed on many Shark Week shows. The most-featured source, underwater photographer Andy Casagrande, is an award-winning cameraman, and episodes when he stays behind the camera can be great. But given the chance to speak, he regularly claims the mantle of science while making dubious assertions – for example, that shark diving while taking LSD is a great way to learn about these animals – or presents well-known shark behaviors as new discoveries that he made, while misrepresenting what those behaviors mean.

Nor does Shark Week accurately represent experts in this field. One issue is ethnicity: Three of the five most-featured locations on Shark Week are Mexico, South Africa and the Bahamas, but we could count on one hand the number of non-white scientists who we saw featured in shows about their own countries. It was far more common for Discovery to fly a white male halfway around the world than to feature a local scientist.

Moreover, while more than half of U.S. shark scientists are female, you wouldn’t know this from watching Shark Week. Among people who we saw featured in more than one episode, there were more white male non-scientists named Mike than women of any profession or name.

In contrast, the Discovery Channel’s chief competitor, National Geographic, is partnering with the professional organization Minorities in Shark Sciences to feature diverse experts on its shows.

More substance and better representation

How could Shark Week improve? Our paper makes several recommendations, and we recently participated in a workshop, highlighting diverse voices in our field from all over the world, that focused on improving representation of scientists in shark-focused media

First, we believe that not every documentary needs to be a dry, boring science lecture, but that the information shared on marine biology’s biggest stage should be factually correct and useful. Gimmicky concepts like Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid of Sharks 2” – an endurance contest with entrants wearing masks, fins and snorkels, but no clothes – show that people will watch anything with sharks in it. So why not try to make something good?

We also suggest that more scientists seek out media training so they can take advantage of opportunities like Shark Week without being taken advantage of. Similarly, it would be great to have a “Yelp”-like service that scientists could use to rate their experiences with media companies. Producers who want to feature appropriately diverse scientists can turn to databases like 500 Women Scientists and Diversify EEB.

For a decade, concerned scientists and conservationists have reached out to the Discovery Channel about our concerns with Shark Week. As our article recounts, Discovery has pledged in the past to present programming during Shark Week that puts more emphasis on science and less on entertainment – and some episodes have shown improvement.

But our findings show that many Shark Week depictions of sharks are still problematic, pseudoscientific, nonsensical or unhelpful. We hope that our analysis will motivate the network to use its massive audience to help sharks and elevate the scientists who study them.

Editor’s note: The Conversation US contacted Warner Brothers Discovery by phone and email for comment on the study described in this article. The network did not immediately respond or offer comment.

David Shiffman, Post-Doctoral and Research Scholar in Marine Biology, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.