Women in STEM

While International Women’s Day has come and gone, we’re reposting this post from March to stick with the Women in STEM theme we’ve been sporting this week on Twitter. Enjoy!


Dr. Delores Etter

Dr. Delores Etter

We have a confession to make: the STEM Works team is comprised entirely of women. While we do collaborate with some wonderful male teachers for our CSI camps, the day-to-day management of our programs lacks a y chromosome. So, now that you know the truth, does that change your view of our work?


Social Media Communications Director Danielle Caldwell

The unfortunate truth is that women are often met with scrutiny when entering and pursuing careers in a variety of STEM fields. While we are lucky to live in a time in which a number of organizations are working to promote STEM careers to women and girls, the fact remains that females are still largely underrepresented in a variety of STEM fields. That’s why we thought we would celebrate upcoming International Women’s Day—taking place on March 8, 2014—with a special Women in STEM scavenger hunt.

Lindsey small

STEM Program Director Lindsey Groark

While we are a team of women, we are bummed to admit that in the past we have let International Women’s Day go largely unmarked. While we were peripherally familiar with the occasion, we weren’t totally clear on its robust history and thematic way of celebrating women on a global scale. Once we heard the theme for this year’s celebration, Inspiring Change, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to highlight notable women of STEM’s past and present. Whether you’re working with a class, a club, or even your own children, celebrate International Women’s Day with our Women in STEM scavenger hunt. And once you’ve finished learning about these inspirational women, be sure to visit our Women in STEM Hall of Fame page to discuss the women that personally inspire you!

(Note: the only pictures of the two other members of our team that we have are fake mugshots we use for our CSI camps, so we thought we’d wait till we obtained more flattering photos of them before publishing them on the site.)

Greener Future with Alternative Car Fuels

By Justina Tran

There’s no doubt that inflated gas prices have had a noticeable impact on our wallets, but the cost of refining and burning fossil fuels goes much further than our pocketbooks. Excess carbon emissions are a major detriment to our environment. Our indulgent fossil fuel usage has caused a buildup of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere, which has resulted in the disruption of ecosystems and the endangerment of innumerable forms of life. At the rate of our current fossil fuel consumption, future generations are at risk of living in a world plagued by severe, unpredictable weather patterns and the continued destruction of habitats.

So what kind of alternatives do we have to fuel our vehicles, without creating additional problems for our environment? Cars are seemingly our first pick for transportation, but gasoline is no longer the only source of available power. Innovations within the past decade have proven that there are now a number of options for those of us who don’t want to get from point A to point B at Mother Earth’s expense.

Shocking Savings with Electric Fuel

charging battery of an electric carDid you know that the total cost to fully charge an electric car is a mere $2 to $4? The average cost of one gallon of gas in America is currently $3.56, and it continues to rise! One single charge from conventional family-sized cars can last approximately 100 miles, although actual mileage per charge may vary depending on the size of the battery. For most drivers, 100 miles is more than enough to last a day. The length of time it takes to complete a charge, from 30 minutes to 14 hours, also differs according to the size of the battery. Average electric vehicle prices range from $20,000-35,000, with makes and models for every budget.

Gasoline’s Friendlier Cousin

Photo source: gigaom

Photo source: gigaom

We use natural gas in our daily lives to heat our stoves and warm our houses, but natural gas is also a clean alternative for fueling natural gas vehicles, or NGVs. Besides helping America free itself from dependence on foreign oil, natural gas is safer and cheaper than liquid gas. In a car accident, natural gas dissipates into the air. On the other hand, gasoline’s flammability makes it relatively less safe. Natural gas also has the benefit of being significantly easier on the wallet; fueling up with natural gas saves $1.50 to $2 less per gasoline gallon equivalent.

Leave No Footprints with Hydrogen

Hydrogen car conceptThe biggest issue with fossil fuels is the monstrous carbon trail that’s left behind after it’s burned. But what if dangerous car emissions became a thing of the past? With the introduction of hydrogen-powered vehicles onto the roads, what was once an ambitious concept is now a reality. Automakers like Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota have all made announcements to introduce hydrogen-powered cars to the U.S. by 2015, or earlier. In California, hydrogen-powered cars hit the market in June, in response to California legislators who are pushing car companies to produce cars with a smaller impact on the environment. With water vapor as the only chemical byproduct, the recent push for cleaner sources of car fuel may make hydrogen-powered cars the biggest threat to fossil fuel companies, and our safest bet for a greener Earth.

Now that you’ve read about some alternatives, how do you think you can modify your transportation habits?

Escape the Cubicle: Study STEM

Businesswoman reviewing paperwork at deskThere’s hardly a lack of evidence these days that desk jobs can be killers. Sitting at a desk all day can have adverse effects on health, productivity, and creativity. So if our work environments make large contributions to our health and success, how can we arm the next generation with tools to avoid the monotony of the 9-5 grind? The answer lies in four little letters: S-T-E-M.

Within the STEM community, there is a broad spectrum of potential jobs boasting offices in the most unexpected places. Whether on land or in the sea, STEM professionals have access to countless opportunities to explore and study the world. For a job description filled with challenge, excitement, and engagement, a STEM career may be a perfect fit.

Build Software on the Sea

cline_danelle1_underwater When thinking the term “software engineer,” many people conjure images of a professional hunched over a computer staring at algorithms or interfaces. You may know that a career in software engineering requires the ability to analyze problems from various angles and find multiple viable solutions. But did you also know that software engineers can work in a number of environments, including the sea? Just ask Danelle Cline, Software Engineer with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Whether out to sea to support her projects or sitting in a meeting room overlooking the ocean, her daily work environment is far from boring.

Software engineers work in a variety of fields—from aviation to medicine—and job growth is expected to increase by 30% within the next six years. The sizable salary is also a nice perk; software engineers in America make an average of $73,000 per year. Armed with a knack for problem solving, a creative spirit, and a curious mind, the software engineer can take his/her career almost anywhere.

Tour with Tornadoes

WurmanWorking as a meteorologist entails much more than predicting rainstorms and temperatures on the nightly news. As explained by Dr. Josh Wurman, Meteorologist and Storm Chaser, “a lot of my time is spent traveling, whether I am working on our own missions collecting data for tornadoes and hurricanes, or working on projects for other scientists.” The relative youth of this particular field of study means that opportunities for new research and experiments are varied and plentiful. Whether you want to chase storms or study climate change, there is a bright future for prospective meteorologists.

Boast an Office View of the Natural World

Coconut IslandSince biology is a blanket term for the study of all living organisms, a career as a biologist ensures widespread availability of diverse jobs and favorable fields of study. Whether you’re working to conserve endangered plants and animals in their natural habitats or researching gene expression and epigenetics from a lab on Gilligan’s Island, a career as a biologist oftentimes requires a great deal of contact with the natural world. With the continual meshing of scientific research and technology, a career in biology is a sure bet for innovation and job growth.


4 Reasons to Celebrate World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is June 8th. While roughly 40% of Americans live directly on our country’s shorelines, the rest of us are also dependent on the health of the world’s oceans. The oceans provide billions of people with sources of protein-rich and nutrient-rich foods, drive our climate and weather patterns, and contribute trillions of dollars to economies worldwide. Because the oceans play such a major role in the lives of, well, all walks of life on earth, World Oceans Day provides us an opportunity to express our appreciation for the seas.

But, just in case there are some of you out there that still need convincing that our oceans are important, here are some major ways that the oceans could change our lives as we know them:

Sea level rise contributes to climate change

Beach_erosion_(8427148836)The rise in sea levels, even by a seemingly small amount, has been linked to a number of catastrophic climate events. Beach erosion, flooding, habitat loss, later winters, and earlier springs can all be linked to a rise in sea level. It has been documented time and again that the burning of fossil fuels and an increase in carbon emissions contributes to sea-level rise.

How you can help

Reduce your carbon footprint by swapping one carbon emitting activity each week with a non-carbon emitting activity. Can you walk or ride your bike to a friend’s house instead of driving? Can you use public transportation for a trip to the bank or the store? Swapping just one trip per week will dramatically reduce the amount of carbon making its way into the atmosphere, not to mention it will cut down on the amount of air pollutants we breathe.

Overfishing could leave over a billion people searching for protein

Workers in the fisheriesOver a billion people worldwide are dependent on fish as their principal source of protein. Fish are considered the last wild food available to humans, and this resource was once considered infinite. However, today “the world’s fisheries seem to have reached their maximum potential, and given that three-quarters of all fish populations are fully exploited or overexploited, there will probably be no significant increases in total catches in the future.” If fish populations are no longer available for widespread consumption, many people around the world will see a dramatic decrease in their protein intake, causing a wide variety of health concerns.

How you can help

Make informed decisions when you purchase fish and seafood. Swap out one meal per month with a non-oceanic protein source, purchase your fish responsibly by finding a certified fishery or using the Seafood Watch pocket guide, and eat fish that are lower on the food chain.

Coral reefs are being bleached, and that’s bad

Bleaching coralWhen you think of coral reefs, we bet that vivid images of bright colors and thriving ecosystems probably come to mind. However, hot summers can contribute to what is called coral bleaching—literally, the bright colored coral turns to a washed out white. Since coral get their bright colors from algae living within their tissue, and since those algae can only withstand certain temperatures, the sun’s heat can cause a dire circumstance for coral and render them dead. Coral play a vital role in the health of our oceans—they play home to a wide variety of marine life, they bolster the economies of tourist-reliant areas, and they protect shorelines all across the globe. (P.S. This information from this article, and it’s a worthwhile read if you want to read the whole thing.)

How you can help

Much of the world’s coral bleaching is also linked to an increase in carbon emissions, so repeat the steps listed to help reduce sea level rise.

The Pacific Ocean plays home to a new island… of garbage

Image source: natgeoeducationblog

Image source: natgeoeducationblog

Literally. A giant collection of garbage deemed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has taken up residence in the Pacific Ocean. However, “the idea of a ‘garbage patch’ conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are usually made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics.” Now, this is bad for a number of reasons. In addition to being super ugly, this debris in our oceans kill many animals who eat the garbage, block sunlight from reaching plankton, and disrupt entire food webs.

How you can help

Reduce the amount of trash you produce, particularly trash coming from plastic items. Keep a refillable stainless steel water bottle that you can use instead of purchasing plastic water bottles. Bring your reusable bags to the grocery store instead of taking your items home in plastic bags. There are a number of ways to reduce your consumption of products, thereby reducing the amount of waste you contribute to our world’s oceans.

While some of these issues can seem terrifying and insurmountable, rest assured that there are a number of organizations seeking to make a positive impact on our seas. Groups like Oceana, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, and of course World Oceans Day are making tremendous contributions to our seas and the lives of those reliant on them. Celebrate this year’s World Oceans Day by making a small change to your behavior, educating yourself about the oceans, or supporting an organization you admire. And rather than allowing World Oceans Day to come and go, carry its legacy with you throughout the year to make a lasting impact on the future of our oceans.