All things polar

This is my latest offering at the American Museum of Natural History. Any resemblance to the talk given by Dr. Mermaid at the Mermaid Lagoon is purely coincidental. Okay, the topics might be similar, but this will be much more in-depth, and I expect that fewer audience members will be dressed as sea creatures.

In a special one-day offering, Dr. Debra Tillinger will lead an in-depth exploration of the science of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and how changes in these two critical areas of Earth indicate and catalyze the impacts of climate change. Participants will hear from guest speakers on the geology, biology, and cultures of these beautiful and fragile parts of the world. They will also engage in interactive discussions, take Museum hall tours, and enjoy a challenging game of geopolitics, SMARTIC, in which players must enact real-life solutions to the potential large-scale problems anticipated by the impact of climate change in the polar regions. Refreshments will be served.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under grant number MA-10-13-0200-13.

Apply here!

Mermaid Nostalgia

I was writing a bio for an upcoming talk I’m giving (8/23 – I’ll post details when I have them) and I was doing some self-googling for reference. I discovered a review of the very first Mermaid Lagoon and it warmed my cold fishy heart. I LOVE this summary:

The “mermaids” of the lagoon, that is, the performers and staff, presented a broad spectrum of entertainment.  The night’s opening act was Desert Sin, a non-traditional bellydance group in elaborate costume. The performance seemed to interpret the darker power of the sea, intense stares and rippling arms abounded.  Then came a fire-palm dance by burlesque performer Veronica VarlowKai Altair, Varlow’s sister and the MC for the night explained that mermaids are famous for seductive dance and song that lures men to their doom and that this particular one was intended for the BP executives.  Altair herself performed her mystical/tropical music with great warmth and enthusiasm later on that night.  Other entertainment included Cassandra of Lady Circus in a breathtaking glass-walking performance inspired by the Little Mermaid, and Ali Luminescent (Coney Island’s Mermaid of the Year in 2009) on trapeze.  To tickle more academic fancies, a doctor of oceanography gave a lecture both on the ramifications of the oil spill and Japanese dolphin fishing in full mermaid attire.  Among other prizes, love letters from Ms. Varlow and prints of the resident oceanographer’s photography were raffled off as further fundraising. (emphasis added)

That’s me, tickling your academic fancies and providing photos as raffle prizes. And I love the insistence that Kai and Veronica are sisters – which they are, just not biologically.

my origin story…

When I first became Dr. Mermaid, everyone who called me by that name knew where it came from. But now that I’m more of a mermaid-about-town, I realized that I need to explain things. Here’s a diagram that sums it up nicely:

venn_mermaidsIn 2010, I was completing my PhD in ocean and climate physics* and dealing with the stress by bellydancing all the time. I was also working with Kai Altair to create the first annual Mermaid Lagoon, our yearly fundraiser and homage to all things oceanic. It seemed to me that every moment of every day was spent doing physical oceanography, bellydance, or both. I knew that I was about to be upgraded to “doctor,” but didn’t want to lose my sense of self – or my sense of humor – in the title. Hence, Dr. Mermaid.

*I went to grad school at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, which is not a degree-granting institution. From Columbia’s perspective, I was in the earth science department, so that’s what my PhD says. But within Lamont, where everyone is some sort of earth scientist, I was in the division of ocean & climate physics. That’s the most descriptive term, so that’s what I generally use. But my major within the department was physical oceanography.