Thursday, February 2, 2012

Visiting Arabia: Life When You're Little

I recently returned from a three-week visit to Saudi Arabia, where I had been invited to give a talk at my alma mater, the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology.  The two-act scientific performance, entitled "Life When You're Little: The overlooked world of marine invertebrates," aimed to invite viewers into a world of nature appreciation via energetic dramatization of the lives of little local creatures from their own campus' beaches.  Costumes, live creatures, vivid photos and videos, and scientific storytelling complemented a characterization of the local marine habitats, for the benefit of all who would find themselves longing to explore by the end of the talk.

Lucky for me, KAUST graciously provided an HD video technician to record my talk, or rather, show.  I should receive that file soon, which I will attempt to upload.  Many of my friends and colleagues were in attendance, so there are at least some photos to share:

My show was part of KAUST's 2012 Winter Enrichment Program, which attempts to broaden the graduate learning experience with numerous lectures and workshops outside a student's field of study.  As I needed time in country to finish some costumes, build a set, find live animals, and rehearse, it already needed to be a long trip.  But I also wanted to explore the Red Sea while I was visiting, to have more inspiring nature experiences that lead me to more great stories and insights.  So when logistical issues delayed my talk by four days, my Red Sea exploration time was reduced to 1 day of diving.  KAUST gladly agreed to extend my trip for another week in exchange for an abridged encore of my show at the on-campus high school.  It was a fantastic encore; it was clear by the number of eyes following me while in costume and the number of questions afterwards that I had inspired many minds, and that is such a great feeling.

Getting a closer look at Chelidonura flavolobata
After the high school show, I had a week of free time.  I love all of my friends in Saudi Arabia, and without their lent homes, dive gear, vehicles, and patience I could not have done this trip.  But I had a limited time to consort with the sea and my brand new underwater camera, and thus I set off to explore.  In five days, I went on 12 scuba dives and took hundreds of pictures.  If it is my energy, passion, and stories that people love, then I was out collecting fuel for that love.  Now that I am back in the USA, I will use that fuel here to tell the stories I was too tired or busy to share while on my short trip.  I hope my friends will feel better reading the inspired Arabian nature narratives I can now carefully record here.  So, keep checking for more stories in this "Visiting Arabia" series of posts.  My next topic?  Ethical slug hunting, my evolving culture of zoological discovery, featuring the opisthobranchs found on my January 2012 visit.  Until then, cheers!

1 comment:

  1. looking forward to reading more....and keep including the pictures.