Featured project: Hey! Did you miss that fish?!

Jai Ranganathan

Today’s featured #SciFund Challenge project is Hey! Did you miss that fish?! by Jarrett Byrnes.

That’s right, Jarrett himself – famed #SciFund organizer – is up. And you know what? This project is awesome – and not just because I was the cameraman for part of the video.

science explosion
The day to day business of doing science is usually not this photo-worthy.

What I love about this project is that it communicates the day to day process of actually doing science. For scientists and the general public alike, what we mostly hear about science are the splashy conclusions that make the newspapers and the major scientific journals.  But what makes science special isn’t the big conclusions. It is the scientific method that gets you there. Unfortunately, we almost never hear about the day to day stuff that scientists actually do to produce scientific breakthroughs. Frankly, it is hard to make things like data analysis interesting.

kelp forest
A kelp forest off the coast of Monterey, California.

And that is what makes Hey! Did you miss that fish?! so neat. Jarrett’s project – particularly his video – communicates in a really fun way the day to day challenges of actually doing marine science. It turns out that one of the biggest challenges is just gathering data. As a marine biologist, Jarrett spends a lot of time scuba diving in underwater kelp forests off the coast of California. Jarrett collects data on the species found in these forests, which is really hard to do, since it is dark, cold, and hard to maneuver due to fast-moving currents. Every single data point is hard won and there is bound to be error in the measurements.

But exactly how much error? That’s what Jarrett  wants to find out for his #SciFund project. He wants to go back out to the kelp forests to specifically test how much error is in the mountain of measurements that he has already made. And if he can figure out the error, he’ll be able to calibrate his already-collected data to account for it.

You don’t hear much about the struggles of scientists with their statistics and error calculations, which is really too bad since it really is the heart of science. But that is exactly what Jarrett does in his #SciFund project and he makes it really fascinating. Do check out Hey! Did you miss that fish?!