Tag Archives: scifund

#SciFund Rd 3 with Jennifer Hellman http://rkthb.co/11886

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Jennifer Hellman. Her research looks at the social networking behavior of African cichlids.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

I’m a second year graduate student at The Ohio State University. I’m originally from Philadelphia, and I did my undergraduate at Messiah College. I took a year off before graduate school to work with kids and to travel, but I came to graduate school last year and I love it. I love being paid to do research and teach, and working in an environment where everyone is here to learn. Because of that, I would love to be able to work as a faculty member at a university eventually.

How did you get involved in your research project?

I came to graduate school knowing that I wanted to do fish behavior, but I didn’t know much more than that. I actually got into social networking by reading some of primate literature for a class. The article talked about how certain individuals in the group are responsible for maintaining group stability, and when you remove those individuals, the group gets really aggressive. Later, I was reading some articles about intergroup movement in colonies, and it just struck me that social networking is probably really important in this species too. Since some individuals have many more opportunities to interact with their peers than others, that probably has pretty significant effects on the decisions that they make.

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

I think that sociality in general is fascinating and relevant. So many different species, from ants to humans, have evolved extremely complex social systems. Exploring the benefits of social networking can help us compare social systems between species and help us understand why they are so different. Why do ants live in huge colonies with one queen and many helpers, versus fish that cooperatively breed, versus primates that raise their offspring in groups? In all of these types of organisms, their social system is key to their survival and without it, they would not be successful in their environment.

Exploring social networking is one of the best ways to understand social systems.  It tells us a lot about species: how they find mates, how they maintain social stability, and which individuals are most important in a group. It helps us understand how evolutionary pressures have caused species to adapt a certain way of living, and we can use this information for many things, such as improving conservation plans, anticipating how species will react to disturbances, and tracking the spread of diseases.

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

I’ve had to learn how to SCUBA dive for this trip. The first practice dive that we took as a research group, I was using someone else’s equipment and so my BCD (the vest that controls your buoyancy) was too big and the weights around my waist were too heavy. I spent about twenty minutes bobbing up and down between the surface and the bottom of the lake before I got out and fixed it. It was not my best practice dive!

Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?

The purpose of SciFund is two-fold. First and most importantly, I want people to understand how science applies to their lives. There are all types of research happening that people don’t know about and may not care about. I hope that SciFund can at least show people what type of research is out there, and make people interested in it. I think a lot of people see science as this unapproachable and hard-to-understand topic, but it’s not if it is presented in an understandable way. Second, I want to raise money to help fund my field season to Africa. My research is much more suited for field work than laboratory work (because of space constraints in the lab), but it’s expensive to travel to Africa and I need some help!

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

The most difficult was definitely the video. I also had to sit outside in 30 degree weather filming without a coat for about an hour, and then couldn’t use the footage because of all the background noise. I’ve never done a video before (ironically, my brother was a film and sound production major), and I’m just lucky that there are programs out there that can help anyone make a movie. The best part was figuring out how to explain my project to the more general population, because it gave me the opportunity to really think about how it is so related to what we see in human society, even though they are ‘just’ fish. 

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

Something random… okay, well a ‘Philly cheesesteak’ is not actually a Philly cheesesteak unless you are in Philly. You can call it a cheesesteak, but they are definitely not the same and not as good. Anyone from Philly will tell you that!

Oh how I loathe the Philadelphian ego 😉 If what Jennifer says is true, then I’ll take it a step further and say only a handful of people in Philly know how to make a cheesesteak, and that’s because they are the inventors of it. So suck it! And go Knicks, Yankees, Giants, and Rangers!

…ahem…

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.

#SciFund Rd 3 with Amy Truitt http://rkthb.co/11903

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Amy Truitt. Her research aims to study how butterfly STDs impact reproduction for conservation efforts.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

My name is Amy Truitt, I grew up in Spokane, Wa. but have lived in Portland, OR for 11 years. As a kid I was always outside, fishing, playing, collecting bugs, but I was really passionate about playing sports. I never saw myself as an academic. I graduated high school with a 1.8 gpa! Now that I am older I have found a nice balance to satisfy my passion for athletics and my passion to follow my intellectual curiosity. I see myself as a professor in the next 10 years. I love to share my excitement for science. Somehow, I will also find time to coach young triathletes.

How did you get involved in your research project?

My research project found me, or picked me. I am part of a marine ecology lab and fate has brought me to researching symbiotic bacteria and the effects they have on conservation strategies. I generally start my talks by saying “I am not sure how I got here, but I am very happy to be here!”

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

I believe that conservation strategies are extremely important but they so often operate without full knowledge of the biology of the endangered species. Conservation strategies could be more successful and sustainable if we are developing them with more information on the species-specific biology of the imperiled animal. We specifically need to garner more information on the very important symbiotic relationships insect pollinators have with bacteria.  I am working with pollinators, and without pollinators we won’t have food to eat in the coming generations. I hope that others will find this project to be as exciting and as important as I do!

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

I went to Costa Rica this past summer to become familiar with tropical butterfly species and the butterfly farm and breeders I will be working with. Paola, the woman who invited me down there, is also a triathlete. She signed us up to swim an open ocean nautical mile competition. Her boyfriend also signed up to compete. The first thing that scared me was that we had to put down our blood type on the registration form. I immediately thought SHARKS! On the drive to Jaco Bay we drove over a bridge that flows into the bay. Paola and I got out of the car and looked over the bridge to count….27 crocodiles!!!! That scared the crap out of me! They teased me and teased me! The entire swim all I could think of was those crocodiles! I finished the swim and am still here to tell you about it! They send me text message pictures of sharks and crocodiles all the time!

Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?

I have been searching for unique opportunities to get my science funded. A friend of mine brought SciFund to my attention and I thought I would give it a try!

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

The most difficult aspect of building my SciFund proposal was that the time frame was the same as another NSF proposal, so that it made it challenging to prioritize the two proposals. My favorite part is just being able to tell the story in my voice. My nerdy and excited voice.

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

I am slightly OCD, as are most scientists, but I have this weird thing…I have a lot of athletic shoes (and other shoes too) and they are ALL lined up perfectly in my closet. It is probably one of the (many) things I am teased most about! Plus I love the color of my pants to match my shoe laces!

Amy your random story is peculiar to others, but I understand you! I too have a lot of shoes and they used to be lined up perfectly (but now I have less space so they are organized on a rack). While I don’t match my pants to my shoelaces, I match my shirt to my socks and my shoes to be complementary colors to that.

Thanks Amy for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.

#SciFund Rd 3 with Ben Titus http://rkthb.co/11919

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.
Today I present Ben Titus. His research looks to analyze the genetics of distant shrimp and sea anemone populations.
Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.
I am a first year PhD student at Ohio State studying the co-evolution and population genetics of Caribbean sea anemones and their shrimp symbionts. I’m originally from Bowling Green, OH and I completed my BSc from Otterbein University and my MSc from Auburn University. My long-term career goal is to land a faculty position and continue my research.
How did you get involved in your research project?

I got involved studying coral reefs as an undergrad, and that ultimately helped me get into a Master’s program at Auburn University. At AU my adviser studied sea anemone ecology in the Caribbean and Red Sea. After a lot of field work I realized the questions I was most interested in could be answered with molecular techniques. That led me to my current adviser Meg Daly at Ohio State where I have blended parts of my Master’s research into a new research direction.

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

Coral reefs are some of the most beautiful ecosystems on the planet and are some of the most diverse as well. Most of the biodiversity on reefs are small poorly understood invertebrates that may play an important role in ecosystem function. The sea anemones and shrimps I study act as cleaning stations for reef fish, and are vital for keeping them healthy. Funding my project will continue to shed light on this poorly understood symbiosis!

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

One of the shrimps I study is a red snapping shrimp that defends its anemone host from predators. When collecting data on these animals you tend to poke around with your pencil to see how many shrimp are hosting with the anemone. After one dive where the snapping shrimp snapped the lead of my pencil I quickly learned I needed to bring mechanical pencils with me underwater.

Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?

I’ve always enjoyed communicating my research to a public audience and this provided a forum to do so PLUS raise research money for collecting trips. It was a no brainer.

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

I’ve become so used to scientific writing and using all the jargon that comes along with it. Writing something for the general public, still communicating what you plan to do, while not dumbing it down too much and insulting everyone’s intelligence was the hardest.

It was also my favorite part because now I feel like I have solidified my thought process to a point to where I can communicate with anyone

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a person watching them throw a baseball…

Thanks Ben for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about his project and contribute here.

#SciFund Rd 3 with Katy Williams http://rkthb.co/11861

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Katy Williams. Her research combines the biological study of the brown hyaena with the sociology of human-hyaena interaction.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

My name is Katy Williams and I am a PhD student from Durham University, UK. I have moved around a lot and lived in different countries when growing up but essentially I am British and American with a bit of a South African twang once in a while. I love using the South African ‘now now’ and ‘just now’ which confuses anyone who isn’t from southern Africa. I lived in Zimbabwe for two years where I worked on lion and cheetah conservation projects and I am currently living in South Africa. I love Africa, carnivore research, and working with people. I can see myself staying in Africa and continuing with research or becoming a field guide.

How did you get involved in your research project?

I was hired by the Durham University Primate and Predator Project as the Field Team Leader. In this position I have been leading primate behavioural research, trapping and collaring leopards, working with Earthwatch Institute volunteers, collecting leopard and hyaena scats, and camera trapping. I am very lucky to be supported by the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr Russell Hill, who helped me to start my PhD research on the elusive brown hyaenas and their relations with people in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa.

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

Hyaenas have such a bad reputation and are killed by farmers who believe that they are killing their livestock. However there is so little known about brown hyaenas, especially in mountainous environments, and about how people perceive and interact with them. I am excited to work with communities to get to the root of the problem and to find new ways to think and talk about stereotyped problem animals. This research uses biological research to learn more about the species, and uses social science research to discover the human impact on hyaenas. With this information I hope to turn things around for hyaenas and people living in proximity with them.

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

In order to trap large carnivores we use calf foetuses as bait. We hang them from trees and encourage the carnivore to walk towards them at which point they get caught in a foot trap. The foetuses are often rotting and have maggots on them. Sometimes they burst all over you. It is grim. One of my research assistants was walking by a trap site in the day when the trap was not set and he heard this growling noise coming from the trap area. He looked over and there was a honey badger on its hind legs hugging the foetus as hard as he could and growling to protect it. He wasn’t going to let it go!

Why did you decide to participate in the SciFund Challenge?

My husband who loves technology and science heard about the SciFund Challenge and signed me up. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but as the emails came in with instructions on what to do next I followed them, and, ta-da, at the end of the day I had a film made and a project launched. Easy! It’s been a really interesting learning process for me and it’s a really innovative way to gain funding for science.

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

The most difficult aspect and my favourite aspect of the process was making the film! I honestly had no clue how to do it. I was having a bit of a meltdown about not knowing how to make a film and so I went to the pub. That’s the solution to most problems in the UK! At the pub I randomly started talking to this amazing guy who is a filmmaker and he said he would help me. It was lots of fun working with him. We filmed at his house and had to work around hammering coming from next door and the sound of trains going by but we got there in the end.

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

I ate live octopus and lived to tell the tale. You can feel the suckers sticking to the top of your mouth and it wiggling around as you try to chew it. That was in South Korea where I also ate dog. When you travel sometimes you just have to roll with it.

And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here. Thanks Katy for sharing your science!

#SciFund Rd 3 with Amrita Neelakantan http://rkthb.co/11901

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Amrita Neelakantan. Her research looks at the affects of habitat change on animals.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

I’m from India and read all the books on natural history Gerald Durrell wrote one summer after which I decided to be a conservationist. I’ve been slowly mapping my way to work in beautiful tropical forests since then – in Ecuador, Kenya, Madagascar and back home.

How did you get involved in your research project?

When asked to think of and approach supervisors for my dissertation project I met a bunch of wonderful people who collectively pointed me in the direction of secondary growth valuations – I’ve been hooked ever since. My first project in Ecuador was also in a beautiful cloud forest which I walked for 3 months, day and night, fueling my addiction to see these places remain.

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

My project allows me to follow a childhood dream and be an explorer in the wilderness where even after all these years there’s stuff new to science! Also I’ve worked with reptiles and frogs for 4 years now making it impossible to not care what happens to them and their forests.

Tropical forests are the lungs of our planet, the houses of our rain to feed freshwater stock, controllers of weather patterns, homes to rich and ancient cultures and beings. A forest is worth colossally more than the economic value of standing timber. This is why people should fund my research, because I’m increasing our knowledge of these values and challenging our current valuations of forests.

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

On my 21st birthday, I was conducting my first independent research project and I spent the day thus:

I got up to machete a path I would walk for the next 3 months. I walked through a bush to find my hair swarming with bees and at the next level spot, I emptied my drinking water on my head to get rid of them knowing I’d spend the next 4 hours dehydrating in the humid afternoon forest. I chopped an epiphyte (a plant that grows on a tree) to find a snake fell on me who, although was not venomous, emitted an oily residue (that remained on my skin for a while) that makes you throw up (so the snake then escapes).

I returned back to the research station to make a special lunch of corn and meat stew which turned out to be like stones + leather and wholly un-edible. Then I started the evening survey in the pouring rain and got lost in lacerating 6ft tall discarded pasture, and fell into a hole (I have no idea why a pasture would have a freshly dug person sized hole). After climbing out of the hole I find my walkie-talkie doesn’t work in rain and on the other side of the hill. I also realized I had been walking in circles because there is flattened grass ahead of me.

Walking off any recognizable path uphill to find the nearest road I routed back to the research station having to abandon my night survey altogether. My field assistant returned an hour later covered in mud as he had made it to his survey site and proceeded
to lunge after every frog he saw on his walk in the night on a hill in a forest. He made me tea and we had biscuits just before midnight. I’ve never had a more exciting birthday before that or since.

Why did you decide to participate in the SciFund Challenge?

Because it is SO exciting to be able to tell people about research and involve them in research that I am passionate about. It’s FUN! and makes these funds
very meaningful.

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

The video was the most difficult and my favourite. I have never made one before and although mine is largely a slideshow with a voice over it took many tries and a lot of friends to finally get near what I wanted to say and show.

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

“Strawberry ice-cream tastes of pink. The colour of death is blood.” (This is a quote from a friend of mine – A Sammie)

Thanks for sharing your science Amrita! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.

#Crowdfunding Science with Ethan Perlstein http://rkthb.co/11106

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Ethan Perlstein. His project launched before the start of the #SciFund Challenge, but because he is an advocate of open science and crowdfunding science, and because #SciFund-ers believe in “the more, the merrier” I decided to share his science and help push his project which so far as amassed over $15,000! His research aims to understand how amphetamine’s interact with brain cells.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

I’m originally from South Florida. I got my first taste of lab research in high school, when I interned at a local biotech company after school. I went to Columbia for college and graduated in 2001. That same year, I started graduate school at Harvard in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. I began my independent postdoctoral position at Princeton in the Fall of 2007. My appointment comes to an end on Jan 1, and I don’t have a traditional academic position lined up. I’m not sure where I’ll wind up but I will be doing science, by hook or by crook.

How did you get involved in your research project?

I became interested in psychopharmacology toward the end of grad school. In my thesis work, I examined the genetic basis of cellular drug responses in the humble brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. I noticed that a number of psychoactive drugs, e.g., antidepressants, have biological activity in yeast cells, and I found these observations both puzzling and intriguing. So when I started my independent position at Princeton, I set out to determine the molecular basis of the biological activity of psychoactive drugs in yeast. Our work has shown that the cell membrane is an evolutionarily conserved target of psychoactive drugs.

In an attempt to parlay our results from yeast to mice (and ultimately to people), I decided to collaborate with a psychopharmacologist at Columbia Med School named Dave Sulzer. The Sulzer lab has been studying the mechanism of action of amphetamines, including methamphetamine, for over two decades. Along with Danny Korostyshevsky, the project’s lead experimentalist, we will determine where radioactive amphetamines accumulate in mouse brain cells at the molecular level.

Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?

Millions of people take amphetamines every day, and yet we don’t really understand how they work. Knowing exactly where and how fast psychoactive drugs accumulate inside brain cells is the first step in reinvigorating stagnant pharmaceutical R&D pipelines for brain diseases and addictions.

I think members of the public should fund our project because we need more “Small Science” in this country, both to stay competitive and to address real gaps in our basic scientific understanding. By Small Science I mean focused, shovel-ready projects carried out by collaborative teams over months rather than years, and involving 1/10 of the amounts traditionally disbursed by government agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

We also want to do something different with the way basic research is done. In contrast to most basic biomedical research that is done behind closed doors or never even sees the light of day, we offer an “open covenant” based on three components: 1) an open budget, so the public can see how we’re spending their money; 2) data sharing on the Web in real-time, so we are leaving behind a digital paper trail that the public can monitor; 3) proactive engagement with public and other scientists, so the fruits of our research can be understood in plain English.

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

My evolutionary approach to understanding how psychoactive drugs actually work is a great icebreaker at any party. When I tell people that my lab gives antidepressants to yeast cells, the most popular reply is, “Do yeast get depressed?” Usually, really interesting conversations ensue because I’m having these discussions with non-scientists who don’t know anything about pharmacology other than what they hear in the popular press.

Why did you decide to crowdfund your project? Why did you launch independently instead of with the SciFund Challenge

My Princeton lab shut down on September 1, but my appointment runs through the end of the year. As I said earlier, I don’t have a professorship lined up, like many of my peers who have been battered by a hyper-competitive academic job market. When I learned about SciFund Challenge earlier this year I immediately thought, what a wonderful idea! But many of the scientists involved in SciFund are of an ecology bent, and are raising sums of money that unfortunately don’t go very far in the biomedical sciences. Given my time constraint, I needed to launch our project before Round 3 of SciFund launched last week. But I’m watching it with great interest and I’m happy to give advice about what’s worked for us to any active SciFunder who’d ask!

You’ve raised over $15,000 so far! What’s been the most critical component to gain so much support?

Hands down, it’s all about the marketing. Some people in the sciences consider that a dirty word, but I think basic research projects can be promoted responsibly while recognizing that some topics are more popular or understandable than others. I aggressively sought out members of the online and mainstream science journalism establishment, and it paid off, though there have been many no replies and rejections along the way. And I was fortunate through my social network to get introductions to science writers and bloggers by mutual friends.

Over half of our donors are people I don’t know, so our media strategy has been an essential ingredient of our success so far.

What was the most difficult aspect of building your Rockethub proposal? What was your favorite?

The most difficult part was crafting a proposal that could appeal to both experts and non-experts in science, but also to both scientists and non-scientists. I think our 3-minute project video by the talented LA-based creative team including videographer Ryan Griffin, voiceover artist Veronica Amaya, and composer Jon Steinmeier, did an excellent job of balancing our message and scientific content. Without their video I don’t think we’d be in the position we are today, with less than a week to go till our grassroots campaign ends.

Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.

It will take some time for crowdfunding to mature as a funding mechanism for basic scientific research. In order to raise over $10,000, and from there to approach the sums distributed by traditional grants, science projects will need to attracts hundreds and eventually thousands of donors, most of whom will necessarily be strangers. I think many scientists are uncomfortable with self-promotion, not to mention the idea of asking people for money. There are personality and temperamental differences between people sure, but I think a lot of it simply has to do with practice and finding your scientific voice.

When I was in high school interning at a local biotech company, it was 1996-1997, right around the time when scientific articles started to include this newfangled innovation called email for corresponding authors. I would read papers and then email the authors with questions. I must have sent over hundred of these emails over the course of a year. Most of the time I got no reply or a cursory reply. But in one instance I got an enthusiastic response from a scientist named Ron Germain who invited me to work in his lab at the NIH as a summer intern, which I did for 3 summers. Without that research experience, and the experience of reaching out to lots of strangers, I may not have ended up where I am today.

One of the reasons I reached out to Ethan with this interview (besides helping promote his Rockethub campaign) was to highlight another open scientist in the field. The fact that both of our career arcs are pretty similar (do open research, crowdfund it, publish it) are nearly identical was icing. Hopefully my model can help him. I’ve been openly documenting my SciFund expenditures, research, results, etc here.

Also I hope that others can learn from his experience and my own. He needed funds sooner and opted to go his own route. I chose to participate in the SciFund Challenge. Together, I hope we convince others to follow a more open approach to research. While SciFund is a great start, to me it is simply not enough. Science literacy is important, but can only take you so far. To me a full open project will bring you the rest of the way.

Thanks Ethan for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about his project and contribute here.

#SciFund Rd 3 with Brianna Blaud http://rkthb.co/11912

#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.

Today I present Brianna Blaud. Her research looks at the reproduction mechanism of the Black Abalone.

Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.

My name is Brianna Blaud and I’m a Master’s student at the University of Washington studying black abalone reproduction.  I’m from Seattle, and although this will always be home, I love to travel and experience new places and things.  I would love the opportunity to continue research studying black abalone in California after I earn my Master’s degree.

How did you get involved in your research project?
Although my love for marine biology began at a young age, I didn’t discover my passion for research until my first solo research project as an undergraduate at UW (University of Washington).  After I earned my BS degree at UW, I worked as a fish biologist at NOAA, helping to protect endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound.  It was a rewarding job, and I loved my work, but I found myself missing the research I was always reading about, so I headed back to school.  I fell into my project with black abalone, and find that the more I learn about this hardy species, the more I admire them!
Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?
Conservation biology has always stood out to me because of it’s relevance and need in our ever-changing environment.  Black abalone are a huge part of California history.  They are both culturally and commercially significant.  The disease, withering syndrome, could have meant the extinction of the species, however the black abalone are still fighting to hold on and are even recovering in some areas.  I want to find out why some areas are still struggling to maintain a handful of individuals while other areas are quadrupling in size each year.  By funding my research, I’m hoping to extend the successful strategy across California, so instead of pockets of recovery, we could see a region-wide comeback.

Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?

After a series of mishaps in the field, trying to get the details of each experimental run hammered out, the feeling when the first successful run went perfectly smoothly was indescribable.  It’s not really a story with funny anecdotes, but I guess it’s my favorite feeling that came from working on my research project.  The moment when everything comes together, makes sense, and works.
Editor’s note: This is a feeling all researchers can relate to. There is no greater feeling to me then the first successful run after many tries of failure. I’ve had this experience myself.
Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?
Funding struggles have sadly become a reality for many researchers and graduate students.  When I started my project with black abalone, I lost a significant portion of my money.  I had to get a part time job to support myself outside of school and have struggled to find financial aid for my experiments.  After presenting my preliminary results at a conference, someone suggested I look at RocketHub as a tool to find donations, and a couple days later I received an email suggesting I join SciFund.  It was fate!

What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?

The most difficult aspect of building my SciFund proposal was working on the video.  I had a lot of creative ideas that I felt I couldn’t use because of copyright issues, and have never created a video before.  It was a fun learning process though, and a tool I will definitely use in the future!  My favorite aspect of this project just involved joining the SciFund group and community.  SciFund has helped me fall in love with my project all over again.  I went through a rough patch this summer where I was feeling uninspired and unmotivated.  I was struggling with having lost funding, writing became a chore instead of a tool to organize my thoughts and express myself, and people asking about what I do became an annoyance with a cut-and-paste answer.  SciFund inspired me to start a blog to communicate my project in greater detail to friends, family, and marine biology lovers (blackabaloneblog.wordpress.com), and somewhere along the way, I started to get really excited again.  I look forward to posting new blogs, am constantly looking for material to blog about, and share my project with everyone I see!
Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue. 
Something random – Although fish spawn billions and billions of eggs in the ocean, only 1 in 1,000,000 survive to adulthood
Something funny – Handy guide to modern science: if it’s green or wriggles, it’s biology; if it stinks, it’s chemistry; if it doesn’t work, it’s physics
Something borrowed – Sailors seriously overestimated the size of the kraken
Something blue – A blue whales heart is the size of a Mini Cooper, their tongue weighs as much as an elephant, they produce sounds louder than a jet engine, and their spout is higher than a 3-story building.
What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing your science Brianna! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.