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Lights, Camera, Science! Sea Grant Science in 15 Seconds

Promoting science on social media

By Katy O’Connell, Delaware Sea Grant

A 2015 study by Microsoft shows average human attention span at 8 seconds, less than that of a goldfish. 

Regardless of whether that is due to society’s turn to mobile devices or to the brevity of messages that are available on digital media, it challenges communicators and educators to consider new ways of delivering information. 

With this in mind, Delaware Sea Grant created a new digital video series, “15 Second Science,” which has rapidly gained attention on social media.

So, why 15 second science? “We particularly were interested in a way to deliver concise ‘bite-sized’ science that was shareable on different platforms (Twitter, YouTubeFacebook, Instagram, etc.) that had a low production commitment,” said Lisa Tossey, a former outreach specialist with Delaware Sea Grant who is now working towards her Ph.D. at the University of Delaware and assisting DESG through her assistantship. 

The 24 15 Second Science episodes that posted from May to mid-November 2015 have resulted in over 16,000 Facebook views and nearly 20,000 Twitter impressions. Four episodes have topped 1,000 Facebook views each, and five have had a reach of over 3,000.

The most popular episodes within the first six months of the series featured whelk egg cases, also known as Mermaid’s Purses, and cigarettes as a marine debris issue. The video clips are popular with coastal and inland audiences, including formal educators.  

“We’ve heard from teachers in Delaware, Virginia, and New York who are using our videos with their students both as a learning tool, and as a model for test-review activities,” said Chris Petrone, DESG’s Marine Education Specialist, and the face of 15 Second Science. 

At the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association (MAMEA) conference in Wilmington, NC, in November 2015, Petrone and Tossey offered a hands-on workshop for educators, during which participants joined in to plan, shoot, and produce an episode of 15 Second Science from start to finish. 

Video content is generated from timely topics, like the abundance of black sand that was evident on Delaware beaches after a strong northeaster, to special Halloween-themed videos about critters with spooky names, such as ghost crabs and skeleton shrimp. It also provides a new, innovative outreach tool for collaboration between DESG content specialists, educators and communicators, when those timely topics tie to research and extension themes. While Petrone hosts most segments, other guest hosts have appeared including local beach lifeguards and DESG funded researchers providing helpful information and tips on beach safety. 

“The simplicity of production allows us to be much more flexible when it comes to determining topics. We can produce clips that are more evergreen–basic critter facts, beachcombing finds, fish ID, etc.–and then insert other segments if something timely comes along–like a hurricane approaching the coast or an increase in rip currents at local beaches,” said Petrone.

Videos can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtag #15SecondScience. You can also find them as a playlist on the Delaware Sea Grant YouTube channel.


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