Per Holothuroidea Ad Astra: Interview with Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum took the science blogging world by storm last year when she guest-blogged on The Intersection while Chris Mooney was traveling. When he came back, he had to face the outcries of his commenters, begging him to keep Sheril permanently as a co-blogger, which he gladly accepted. If you attended the Science Blogging Conference last week, you saw Sheril speak at the panel on Framing Science.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your background? What is your Real Life job?

Hi Bora, Thanks for inviting me to A Blog Around The Clock!

I work at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Before I landed there, I was a Sea Grant Fellow for Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) where I advised on ocean, energy, and environmental policy. In grad school I studied marine biology and policy at the University of Maine where I studied the reproductive biology, population dynamics, and associated socioeconomics of the sea cucumber. I also spent a few years as a radio personality. These days I host The Intersection with Chris Mooney and contribute to Correlations for Wired Science. The coolest thing I'm involved in now is ScienceDebate2008 and I'm proud A Blog Around The Clock is part of the growing blogger coalition supporting the initiative. Chris and I are on the steering committee along with all sorts of interesting folks. It's pretty amazing.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up?

I haven't decided yet. And I'm not sure I'll ever be done growing up for that matter.

You started blogging relatively recently, yet immediately became a scienceblogging star. How did that happen?

Well I'm not sure I'd call myself a 'scienceblogging star', but I'll take the compliment. I began blogging after November 7, 2006 because I promised my students I'd begin writing if the Dems took the House and Senate. When Chris and I were introduced, we immediately recognized we were kindred spirits and while I'm not a practicing Bokononist, I'm certain we share a karass. Chris has been a tremendous mentor and friend throughout this adventure in blogging and taught me a great deal over the past year. I think readers may enjoy our blog in part because it's obvious we have a lot of fun collaborating and exchanging ideas.

i-15ff096281a9f82860e0445971643382-Sheril interview pic.jpgYou have been one of the movers and shakers behind the Science Debate 2008. Can you tell my readers more about it?

Of course! ScienceDebate2008 is a collective nonpartisan Call from everyone to make science and technology a priority in the national dialog. From human health to climate change to the genome, science impacts our lives in a myriad of ways. A debate wouldn't be a pop quiz, but rather an opportunity to find out where the candidates stand on arguably the most significant issues we will face as a nation and global community. Our co-chairs are Vern Ehlers and Rush Holt--scientist congressmen across party lines. Cool, eh? The initiative was started by my friend Matthew Chapman - Darwin's great great grandson and screenwriter on films like Runaway Jury. We're a volunteer motley crew of writers, scientists, and leaders in business, religion, congress, and beyond. Everyone is encouraged to get involved. I'm very proud to be part of this effort and it's also been incredibly fun! Readers can expect more exciting news on ScienceDebate2008 over the coming weeks ;)

Can you explain what Saving Species initiative is all about?

Sure. My friend and colleague Stuart Pimm began a wonderful nonprofit called SavingSpecies.org which reforests habitat in developing countries in places we call hotspots--where there is the greatest biodiversity, generally in the tropics. In short, he's selling carbon, but what makes this different from the 'feel good' carbon offset programs is it's completely transparent and real - translation: it does something tangible. It's one of very few such efforts I believe in wholeheartedly and the land also supports a tremendous number of endangered species so the benefit is twofold. All the details are on the website and there's a 60 second PSA that gives you the general idea. Here in the blogosphere, we're about to begin a large scale effort to raise funds for Saving Species. It's a wonderful opportunity for all the folks who often write in saying they want to 'do' something, but don't know how. Here's a way to take action in a very visible and real way!

What are your plans for the future (at least what you are willing to disclose) in your life and work?

Writing. Music. Art. Working toward better conservation in practice. Changing perceptions and expectations. Encouraging young people to pursue science and think independently. I'm enjoying where I am now and not quite making a plan. I really like not knowing what's next... it keeps life interesting!

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

I discovered science blogs through Chris. It opened my eyes to a new world of new media! Blogging has been an amazing experience because I'm challenged everyday to learn and grow and think and turn ideas upside down and reexamine what I thought I knew. From there and back again, a blogger's tale. My favorite blogs include A Blog Around The Clock, Gene Expression, Evolgen, Shifting Baselines, Zooillogix, and so many more! I love the science blogs that offer interesting information and manage to make me laugh in the process. At the conference I discovered Jonathan Gitlin's Nobel Intent.

Is there anything that happened at the Conference - a session, something someone said or did, a new friendship - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

I made several inspiring new friends involved in all sorts of interesting projects and have some ideas for exciting collaborations...

It was so nice seeing you at the Conference and thank you for the interview.

Bora, you're incredible! Blogging aside, I'm so happy we're pals! Thanks for inviting me to visit A Blog Around The Clock!

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Check out all the interviews in this series.

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Very much enjoyed reading your interesting interview with Sheril.
I was not aware of SavingSpecies.org, and I found that information especially worthwhile.
I'm already involved with Sciencedebate2008, and look forward to it...

Sheril's the hotness! Thanks BZ