A viral lesson in science communication

A researcher removes a plastic drinking straw from the nose of a sea turtle in a video that went viral and was embraced by the anti-straw movement.

When Texas A&M University marine biologist Christine Figgener uploaded a video of her team pulling a plastic drinking straw from the nose of an olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), the video went viral (it’s had more than 33 million views) and Figgener found herself at the center of the anti-straw movement. Last month, Time named her a 2018 Next Generation leader alongside celebrities like Ariana Grande. “All this has taught me that communicating beyond academia is worth trying, but it demands constant vigilance and caution,” she writes in an essay in Nature. “Many scientists shy away from the press — or from uploading videos that show emotion, especially anger and frustration,” she writes. “We fear the simplification and inaccuracies likely to be introduced into accounts of our research, which could cause us to lose credibility with peers and funders. Yet, these routes might be the most effective way of getting information to policymakers and citizens, and so promoting conservation.”

Read her essay here or watch the video below. (Warning: the video contains strong language.)