Lack of blogging (particularly on the food side) is a good indication that I’m working towards something pretty special in my scientific research.
During the last month I’ve been pushing my programming skills to the limit with my PhD research to get as much done as possible before jetting off from Cape Town to attend the biggest conference of my career so far, followed by a meeting with the European Space Agency in preparation for the launch of their new ocean colour satellite.
The ocean optics conference is held every two years. This year it is being held in Glasgow, which is where I’m writing to you from right now! Oral presentation and poster sessions will cover a huge range of topics within the field of optics in the global oceans, including: Remote sensing, shallow water, ecosystem models, high latitudes, phytoplankton, particles and environmental management. It promises to be a great conference, with workshops on processing and data management and various meetings taking place around the central event. I will be presenting both an oral presentation and a poster about my work so far – see my abstract here. I’ll also be attending a user meeting to discuss the fantastic instrument HICO – located on the international space station.
Following ocean optics, I’ll be jumping on another plane to Frascati, just outside of Rome, Italy to visit the European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) for the Sentinel-3 OLCI/SLSTR and MERIS/(A)ATSR workshop. After the loss of ENVISAT and the MERIS instrument aboard earlier this year, we’ve struggled to get good satellite coverage of my research region. Though we are now pursuing the use of hyperspectral data from HICO, we could really do with getting data regularly, as we did with ENVISAT/MERIS. The European Space Agency (ESA) will be launching a constellation of replacements for the ENVISAT satellite from next year. The workshop in Frascati will focus on one of these satellites (Sentinel 3) and one instrument in particular – the Ocean Land Colour Instrument (OLCI). I’ll be presenting a broad overview of our current and future research in South Africa and hopefully will learn a lot on both the technical side of the launch plans and from other researchers hoping to use the data.
Follow me on twitter – @HayleyEversKing for day to day updates about both ocean optics (I’ll be encouraging others to tweet under the hashtag #oceanoptics2012) and the ESA workshop. I’ll be doing some follow up posts on thoughts and overviews of some talks when I get back to Cape Town!
I realised today that it’s been ages since I blogged a recipe. However I also found two really great recipes that I wrote a little while ago, whilst we were in the middle of the Wild Runner Cape Winter Trail Series. The series consists of 4 races in various beautiful settings around Cape Town. The first race, at the Paul Cluver wine estate was my first ever race and I really enjoyed it. The following 3 were also good, though a long lasting cold dampened my enjoyment, I was very pleased to receive my first ever medal at the end!
Anyway, here are two cheap and simple dishes suitable for runners on a budget.
Winter cous cous
Student life is full of pressure work and financial so I’m always trying to come up with cheap, healthy but filling recipes – particularly for lunches, which we are so bad at missing during our desk bound weeks at work. We both love cous cous and the little box goes pretty far, particularly when supplemented with any variety of bits and pieces from the house and garden. This is a particularly delicious recipe, which makes the most of some warming Moroccan/Indian and Israeli flavours for a delicious lunch suitable all year round.
Serves two – feel free to add more or less of the ingredients to taste!
1 cup cous cous (plus enough water to make it – check your packet)
1 can of mixed pulses (kidney beans/chickpeas etc)
Cucumber (thinly sliced)
Handful of fresh mint and parsley (roughly chopped)
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp coriander (ground)
1 tsp cumin (ground)
1 tsp fenugreek (ground)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (ground)
Make up the cous cous according to packet instructions. Lightly mix the spices through the cous cous, then add the lemon, fresh herbs, cucumber and pulses. Serve topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds (great tossed in a little soy sauce) or in a wholewheat pitta with fresh salad leaves and a dollop of greek yoghurt.
Glazed root veg pasta
Continuing our budget/health kick, I came up with this recipe to use up some lovely sweet potatoes and carrots and make a delicious, meatless meal.
250g spinach tagliatelle (you could use plain, but the delightful color really adds something to the dish)
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
2 medium sized carrots
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
10 or so sage leaves
Parsley to garnish
Peel the potatoes and carrots and then continue to make slices using the potato peeler. Drain these well in a colander. Add the butter and oil to a large pan (wok worked well for me). Once the butter has melted, add the carrot and sweet potato slices and toss well to coat with the oil/butter. Fry for 5 minutes then add the sage, balsamic and honey. Continue cooking until the sweet potatoes are just soft and the carrots still have some bite. Cook the pasta for 7 mins or so in boiling salted water until al dente or however you prefer. Drain the pasta and add to the wok. Gently toss the pasta with the vegetables and serve with some chopped parsley and a nice glass of white wine (Riesling works well).
With environmental and health concerns rising in the last few decades, science (and the work of those who work within it) has been thrust in to the media spotlight more and more often.
Whilst those of us who work within the scientific arena are aware of the methods used and can understand and interpret the uncertainties associated with results, within the media realm, things are not always so clear. I think it’s important for science and society to interact more, many of us go in to science because of our search for knowledge but I think it’s legitimate to ask why we’re funding science if not to offer some information on public concerns. I’d like to see more scientists engaging with the public. Their work deserves recognition, I know how much hard work and diligence often goes in to it and it seems more and more that the public wants to engage in debates around the issues to which science contributes information.
I get a lot out of the science communication I’m involved in. Sharing the things you are passionate about with interested people is just about the most rewarding thing I think you can do. I guess I wouldn’t be writing this blog if that wasn’t the case! But it’s not without difficulty. When the quantifiable uncertainty of science mixes in to moral and ethical decision making, the clear(ish) waters of scientific debate can get muddied by personal views and it takes a lot of care for messages and meaningful discussion not to be lost.
Anyway, the inspiration for this mini-post was a couple of things.
First a beautiful example of how to share research in an inspirational way. Check out this video from Lauren De Vos about False Bay.
Second, this very interesting piece by Wendee Holtcamp entitled “Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between Denial and Debate”, which summarises and discusses some of my feelings about science communication very nicely. I particularly identified with this quote from Naomi Oreskes – professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego:
““I’m here with the very depressing conclusion that knowledge isn’t power”
When you’re in the business of furthering knowledge and passionate about it, the way that hard earned insight can be dismissed by people who don’t like it’s implications can be pretty depressing. It’s not easy for everyone for draw boundaries between where science ends and ethical decision making begins. The article goes on to discuss ways this can be addressed to inspire mutually beneficial engagement for both parties with great advice from Atmospheric scientist, Katharine Hayhoe:
“offer a positive message about what we can do right as opposed to a negative message about all the things we’ve done wrong…refrain from alarmism…give concrete examples of ways to take action…It’s better to connect than to dismiss, and to encourage than to shame.”
I hope that science communication will continue to be a big part of my future, regardless of the focus of my work. I can’t imagine we’re going to run out of science to discuss or problems to solve any time soon.
I’m sorry for sporadic posting, I’ve recently been finishing off a book chapter and I’m about to head off to Zanzibar to teach on an EAMNet/WIOMSA sponsored Operational Oceanography course for a week. It’s been a fair amount of work (for those of you who think I’m just swanning off to have fun in the tropics) but I’m sure I will get a lot out of sharing my science with new colleagues from around Africa. Expect a post about my experiences soon!