Climate Simulation

Climate scientists sometimes say that the problem with the world is that it’s only been run once.

With a climate model, you can run one simulation after another. If it’s a good climate model, it’ll give you a useful idea of what the world will look like if we try some different options. Our climate system will respond to things using less coal or planting more trees.

But how much? And how long might it take? And what else do you need to consider? That’s why you need a climate model, and you need to be able to do a lot of math very quickly. Some nice folks at MIT have developed such a model, called EN-ROADS.

This model can be run in a web browser, which means I can run an entire climate workshop from my house. Which I did.

Yup, that’s a climate model, and that’s my dining room.

We had fun! We got to talk as a group about how climate is full of feedback loops and unintended consequences. We saw that while there isn’t a silver bullet for mitigating climate change, there may be silver buckshot. We talked about some more conventional solutions and some that depend on technological breakthroughs. Our group included people who hadn’t thought much about climate change before, and it also included Stephen Apkon and Marcina Hale, who were producers on the film Fantastic Fungi (cool neighbors are a co-benefit of upstate life). So we were able to use the climate simulator as a point of departure for a larger conversation, while still being grounded in actual science.

Yes, you can go in yourself and decide the details of the changes you want to make. This participant already had a lot of expertise around natural gas, so we started there.

I’m excited to bring this workshop to more groups! There’s a game version, a longer version, a shorter version, etc. I’m hoping to bring it to some non-traditional venues as well as community groups and classroom settings. If you’d like me to come run a workshop for you, let me know.

The hanging-out-afterward part did take a while.
All photos (and the paining in the background there) by Richie Miller.

In Which Dr. Mermaid Returns to Informal Science Education.

Let’s talk about climate change. Not because we’re so clever and have all the answers, but because ignoring it hasn’t worked out all that well. It’s wonderful to have this conversation in the classroom, but it needs to be everywhere else, too. And it can’t only be for people who did well in science class.

Where else can you talk about climate change?

Clubs are a great choice, especially if it’s the House of Yes and you get to share a stage with your favorite drag queen, Madame Vivienne.

Yes, she’s a narluga. (Video by Kurt Ritta, I think).

This performance was part of the annual-esque Mermaid Lagoon, which I co-produce with mermaids extraordinaire Kai Altair and Ali Luminescent. They are both world-famous performers; I am an oceanographer. We make it work.


Bathtubs at weird art events are also a great option. Nobody takes themselves too seriously when they’re listening to a mermaid in a bathtub accompanied by Bioluminescence on the ukulele.

Photo by Richie Miller

Festivals are a great place to talk about climate change, because the crowd is generally interested and open to learning new things. In 2014, I got to participate in TEDxBlackRockCity and give a talk on El Niño and how it relates to climate change.

My one-sentence biography: I gave a TED Talk on El Niño at Burning Man.

My very first Dr. Mermaid performance was at a much smaller festival back in 2012. I’ve taught workshops on natural history, climate change, and oceanography at various festivals throughout the US since then, and I hope to teach more.


Immersive Education

I enjoy doing immersive education, but recently I’ve discovered that I can teach others to do their own science teaching. This is so much more fun.

Thanks to Zorilla Monsoon for the video and some emergency mermaid transport.

That’s Heather Mo’Witz and Amy Hope singing about how to stimulate coral. They’re not just fun and sexy and adorable; if you listen to the lyrics they wrote, they’re all scientifically sound. Of course, this was part of the Mermaid Lagoon at House of Yes, because who else would let us do this sort of thing?

The Immersive Education Team (2019)

These brilliant, creative, wonderful people took some ocean and climate related talking points and turned them into immersive education.

Nobody minds talking to a lobster about ocean conservation, or hearing what a bleached coral is going through. Everyone is interested in what the raver jellyfish has to say.

From the left: Amber Holland (as a lovely lobster), Heather Mo’Witz (as a healthy coral), me (Dr. Mermaid, Pris Stratton (as an imposing yet accessible jellyfish, and Amy Hope (as a bleached coral who hopes to recover soon). Photo by Victoria Golos.