Featured Project: Force of Duck: Measuring explosive erection

Today’s featured project is a crowd favorite – Force of Duck by Diane Kelly and Patty Brennan.

Before we continue, go watch the video. Just, yeah, watch it.

Did you brain explode? Mine did.

In 2007, the internet was ablaze with duck genitals. Brennan’s paper, Coevolution of Male and Female Genital Morphology in Waterfowl in the open access PLoS One set off a firestorm that made it all the way to the New York Times.

Then, again, in 2009, Duck penises hit the internet like a Mack truck with the publication of Patty’s paper, Explosive eversion and functional morphology of the duck penis supports sexual conflict in waterfowl genitalia, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. All of which leading one commentator to opine recently “Not interested in duck sex? You’re a rarity on the Internet…”

So can I tell you that Jai and I laughed like giddy schoolchildren and jumped for joy when we saw that the next stage of duck penis research was going to be part of the #SciFund Challenge! Of course, this was after watching the video and repeatedly saying “OH! Oh no! Oh! Wow….”

The brilliance of Patty and Diane’s work is that it has taken an incredibly important question in evolutionary biology – sexual selection and the evolution of reproductive strategies – and put it into a context that people can’t help but take notice. It blends solid basic science with public appeal from the get-go. Hence, it is tailor made for something like #SciFund. And, tailor made for publicity about #SciFund – this is the other reason Jai and I were so happy. And indeed, the project has gotten #SciFund publicity as planned.

So not only is this project awesome for science in its own right, but it’s been helping to pull eyeballs in to #SciFund as a whole!

It helps that the project is clear, compelling, and has fantastic rewards for #ScuFunders (seriously – “Duck Force” mugs? Homemade cookies? Duck dinner? I wish I lived in Western Mass!). I also love that their video is tremendously understated. It both heightens the viewer’s investment in key moments of the storytelling, and keeps the project incredibly grounded. Overall, this project is a fantastic fusion of public outreach and science that provides some important lessons for future science crowdfunding.

So go and make yourself part of the Duck Force! For Science!

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