First of all, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you got started on TikTok?
I went to Western Washington University and graduated with a degree in biology in 2019. I mostly focused on marine biology, and got to do some fun research on harbor seals and snow algae during college. After graduating, I got a job at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. In this position I was able to combine science, art, and education, which I really enjoyed. It made me realize I love incorporating science communication with research. Science can be hard to understand, and it often isn’t communicated well, if at all.
I had already been using videography, photography, art, and social media to communicate science. Then one day this dead giant pacific octopus washed up on the beach where I was working. I made a TikTok video featuring the amazing creature and it got millions of views! Before then I was just using TikTok for fun, but I decided to keep it going with the marine biology content and people loved it. I changed my username to Nudibranch Nerd (@nudibranch_nerd). A nudibranch is the scientific term for sea slug, my favorite animal. It has been a great way to connect with people and use video to teach about marine science.
Why do you believe it’s important to have science communicators like yourself?
Science communication is important because it makes science accessible and understandable for those outside of the scientific community. As a scientist, I noticed a lot of the research we were doing was only being shared with other scientists and only being communicated through scientific papers which can be hard to read. The use of journalism, photography, graphic design, art, and video are great ways to communicate complex topics.
TikTok has been a great platform because it reaches so many people: kids, adults, students working towards their marine biology degrees, people in landlocked states, and even people in different countries. It can be used as a tool to teach about science, and also to give tips on how to become a scientist.
What about your TikToks do people love so much?
I think people love seeing things that they can go out and do. Some of my most popular videos are just exploring tidepools around Washington. I teach people about tide pool etiquette, how to safely touch animals, what the types of animals are, where to go, et cetera.
People really want to get out there and explore for themselves, which is great! I get a lot of comments from people saying they had no idea animals like this even existed. The animals get compared to aliens quite often.
Can you tell me about your favorite animal?
My favorite kinds of animals are sea slugs! Or nudibranchs. There are thousands of different species, and they come in the most amazing colors and patterns. There are so many different species that live in Washington. They are pretty small and hard to spot, so looking for them is like looking for treasure. Whenever I find one, I could watch it for hours. They are magnificent animals!
What are you most passionate about when it comes to science and marine biology?
I am most passionate about making research and marine science accessible, fun, and understandable. I love doing research and being out in the field, but it is so much more fulfilling knowing your work is being shared with others.