August 15, 2013 by Dr. G
[NOTE – If you are coming here for the first time from a #ScioClimate tweet, please take a quick moment to review the About page to learn why students are my target population for this blog (not that adults won’t enjoy reading my posts!).]
You would think that my ScienceOnline Climate, Day 1 (AM) post was a full day – but that was just the morning of Day 1! Next up – PM! The afternoon had two technical sessions and an evening reception, so let’s get started!
The first session I attended after lunch was called, “Making the Invisible Visible: Technology to Put Climate Where People Can See It.” A representative from Opower started by describing an interesting study. Graduate students marched into a neighborhood in California with door hangers that all had the same text, “Turn off the AC, Turn up your fan.” But the images and keyword across the top all varied – one had a dollar sign, one had the words “save the Earth,” and one had “citizenship.” Which sign triggered residents to lower their power consumption? None of them! It was the sign that had the word “neighborhoods” that saw those users have a decrease of 6% in their power usage (check out the TED video about this study). This turned in to a discussion of behavioral science and social norming – topics I do not typically hear about at geology conferences but can absolutely apply to my general education non-majors science courses. Turns out that maybe just hearing “the numbers” is not enough to motivate the general public to alter behaviors to help the environment – maybe a dash of psychology could help (seems like it wouldn’t hurt!).
I then attended a session called, “Working with Science Data from Around the Web.” I knew this would be a very technical session, focusing on an introduction to the software programming language R. I am hearing more and more about this program and how it can work with large data sets. I guess I could sum up this session as, “I came, I saw, and I was conquered.” I am very glad to have received this overview and introduction to R. Although this conference has been filled with topics and ideas that I can bring back to my classroom, it is just as important to realize a resource that will not be useful to my students. I respect the power of R, but I think using Google Spreadsheets and Google Earth will be fine for visualizing data in my introductory-level courses.
After the group came back together for a few short closing notes and an introduction to Bora Zivkovic, the editor at Scientific American blogs, who is also referred to as “the blogfather” (I’m not making this up). Then, we were all dismissed to the evening reception that had some fascinating entertainment.
Meet Daniel Crawford, and undergraduate student from the University of Minnesota. He composed a piece for his cello based on NASA surface temperature data. You must read the background story, and view the video – you will not think of data visualizations, or even what defines “music,” the same, I promise!
Alas, I did not make it to the final evening activity, thirstDC climate event. Looks like it was fun, and if the volume of tweets from this evening is anything like the volume of tweets from during the meeting, I should have no problem catching up on what I missed (I can’t stay up as late as I could back when I was a student)!