Tag Archives: Beach

Dance + Science = Fun + Learning

I realize my post title is not longer true once you rearrange the equation, but you get my point.  Science really can be fun and easy when you add an unexpected twist like dance or other forms of art.  That’s sort of the idea behind the “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest organized by Gonzo Labs.  Having just finished a dissertation and being a dancer, I really wanted to enter this competition, so I gathered up as many people as I could and made it happen.

One important theme of the dance work that I am involved in is the idea that anyone can dance at any age and even that limited physical ability shouldn’t limit you from expressing yourself through movement.  Given that idea, I didn’t restrict my cast to only dancers.  I ended up with a cast and crew of about 30 men and women ranging from 5 to 80+ years old, some dancers and some not.  The key to success in this situation is that I chose a dance form that anyone can learn quickly, in this case, it was improvisational modern dance.  Simple, repeated movements through space performed en mass are sometimes quite mesmerizing and anyone can do it and look good.

The group also had varying experience with science concepts.  A handful in the crowd have PhDs in a scientific field, some of them work with scientists, some are artists or accountants or philanthropists, and some are kindergarteners.  However, with the exception of me, no one understood my dissertation chapter nearly as well as I did, so everyone needed a science lesson.

Learning how to do the improvisation and the rules behind the movements didn’t take long – maybe 20 minutes.  And all together, the whole filming took less than 3 hours.  The preparation on my part was significantly more than that, but that’s the case with any dance performance.

In the end, I think everyone learned quite a bit both about art and science.  And it was fun!  It was amazing to work with such a diverse group of people on this kind of project.  I am in complete awe of their patience with the process, their willingness to give their time, and of their open hearts in general.  I’d like to do this again some time, but we’ll need to come up with a new science concept to dance.

Here is my entry for the competition (I already know about the typos):

Click here for my research YouTube channel.


Graphic Art: Tide

It’s conference season for us geography academics, so I needed a new background for a slide presentation.  Most of you probably call it a “Powerpoint presentation”, but I use LibreOffice which has it’s own name for its presentation software, but who calls it by (or even can remember) what they call it.  But I’m getting off topic already.  So the point is that I made a new background.

I start with a Google Image search for words related to the topic I’m interested in.  I often use words like “beach” and “art”.  Eventually, I find something that is inspirational, like a photo or another drawing.  Using ideas or elements from the search results, I start doodling in Inkscape.  That’s how these things get made.

Here’s more of my graphic art: Graphic Art


Beach Plant Competition Diagram

Nothing’s better than a diagram for an explanation, as far as I’m concerned.  This is a diagram I drew for a talk about beach plants (shocking, I know!) for the BEACH Ecology Coalition meeting last year.  It explains where we expect plants to compete with each other.  Again, this was made with Inkscape, my favorite vector illustration software.


KAP Flight over Pacifica State Beach, CA | publiclaboratory.org

This weekend I took a field trip with some friends to Pacifica State Beach in Pacifica, CA, to try out the Skyhook 30 Kite in high winds.  At about 30 mph, it lifts the SLR camera and the rig with no problems.  Check out my research note at the Public Lab website:

KAP Flight over Pacifica State Beach, CA | publiclaboratory.org.


Aerial Photography: Dogs!!!

Two dogs try to catch (and presumably eat) my kite and drogue tail.

Of all the hazards you can imagine associated with trying to fly a kite with a camera attached, you probably never thought about dogs.  Yes, dogs.

Flying my kite aerial photography rig over a beach for the first time, a beach that just happens to be called Dog Beach in San Diego, I was confronted with two sporty dogs who found the kite and it’s black drogue tail to be so completely irresistible that they were jumping off the low dunes in an attempt to grab the offending items.  This was all well and good, because I was certain they were never going to be able to get the kite and tail flying 20 feet or so above the ground, until they saw the camera housing which was floundering just a few feet above the ground.  There wasn’t quite enough wind to keep the heavy SLR in the air.

For a few moments, I imagined the camera torn to shreds or my hands bitten as I reeled in line trying to keep the camera off the ground and out of reach.  Fortunately, the dogs’ owner was a very responsible dog owner and was able to get the dogs away from the camera.  I’m not being sarcastic.  He really was quick to try to fix the situation.  I don’t blame the dogs.  Kites are an exciting thing.  And I am very grateful to the owner – he was clearly a caring owner who prides himself on having well trained dogs.  Kites apparently though trump training when you’re a dog.

The camera snapped this shot of one of the dogs who wanted to eat the camera. Mmm... camera.


Aerial Photography: Dog Beach

Last summer I made a trip to San Diego for research and packed my kite aerial photography rig.  I ended up getting some shots over Dog Beach, which turned out to be fairly difficult since the wind was not cooperating.  To get the camera high enough to take usable photos, we ended up putting the kite in the air and then walking down the beach to add enough lift to raise the camera into the air.  The scene you see here captured a homeless man’s campsite situated in the dunes.  There were a few of them there, although no one was at them when the kite was taking photos.


Aerial Photography: Coal Oil Point Reserve

Recently presented with the opportunity to submit a photograph to an ecological photo contest on campus, I’ve been working on cleaning up some of my recent balloon and kite aerial photography flights.  This photo was taken with my hot air balloon rig, which is now retired due to safety concerns, a few years ago at Sands Beach at Coal Oil Point Reserve near Santa Barbara.  The site is one of the University of California’s Natural Reserves.  I’ve stitched a bunch of photos together using Hugin, then cropped the scene down to a rectangle so it would be more pleasing to the audience.  The jagged edges of the stitched scene would probably be confusing to many unfamiliar with the process.  The black squares in the image are targets that I made to help georeference the scene, something that has proven to be more difficult than most GIS analysts would suspect.