WSN logo with famous John Heine kelp art.

Whilst you all have been frolicking along the shores and diving in the sea, as is your way, I, Dr. Abalone, have been scouring the TVsphere for the perfect message for the youngsters of my favorite society, the Western Society of Naturalists. After extensive research I unleash upon you a slew of films so gripping, they win the piscatorial prize for perfection. Because only those that truly love the sea and live daily at its mercy, such as yourselves, can transcend self into a passion for protecting the planet .

Instead of belaboring the details of my long and arduous research in libraries around the world, I instead present a brief distillation of my presentation here along with clarifying notes (or you can just skip to the videos — I know you want to).

My Cute Daughter Steals the Show

In honor of our Mexican hosts and Spanish-speaking participants I asked my daughter Allie Tissot, to translate for me using her remarkable language ability. However, after just a few sentences it became readily apparent that she was embellishing my true words and adding significant extraneous content of her own. Stealing the show as it were. Despite my everlasting love for my daughter, I quickly dismissed her and plunged into the heart of my talk.

I Begin — Dr. Carr to the Rescue

The beginning of presentation: my Business Board

Wielding my Prezi sword, I cast my net amongst the crowd with an earnest intention of tackling that perpetual challenge of all scientific societies: the financial footing of our very existence! Quickly perceiving the lack of interest among the membership, who were passionately engaged in socializing and merrymaking, I masterfully pivoted to my backup plan of super-short but focused TV shows and music videos. The perfect attention grabber for today’s youthful membership.

Wielding the inspiring image of Dr. Carr embroidered in speedo in honor of our perpetual spiritual leader and hero, Jacques Cousteau, I charged ahead by revealing the only true way to capture their parochial interests: selfies! Their delightful laughter made me quickly realized it was a stroke of genius on my part to request these vain instruments beforehand. In essence, I showed WSN themselves.

My backup plan: humor with an embedded message of inspiration (and Dr. Carr).

Mantras & Memes

So, I questioned the milling crowd how the general populace views us marine biologists. No answer was bestowed upon me amidst the growing din so I cut to the chase: mantras and memes. Tragically, in our decadent society we ocean-loving creatures are seen merely through these devices perpetuated through social media. Let me enlighten you with some tragic tales.

I’m a marine biologist and have magical experiences with dolphins.

Actual quote from anonymous marine biology (freshman) undergraduate before enduring the crushing weight of years of chemistry, biology, math, and physics. She never saw a dolphin.

Mom. don’t worry. I Scuba dive with sharks everyday but I pet them and they like it.

Quote from rookie SCUBA diver just prior to being knocked unconscious in the crushing shorebreak. He never saw a shark, ever.

The truth is we are none of that (thank Neptune!), or at least not much. But memes, on the other hand, actually capture some of our compelling character. You know the drill: read it and weep (or laugh).

Marine biology meme found on social media

So let me set the record straight here. First, we will skip what marine biologists REALLY do. Our crushing workload wading through wads of worthless papers whilst welded to our computers is no basis for inspiration. Let’s move on. Second, as PROFESSORS at esteemed institutions of higher learning we damn well know what you young ins really do to relieve the crushing constraint of constant cerebration. For I survived that rite of passage eons ago (as did your advisors). Instead, let us focus on what we THINK we do. For our perpetual image of our persona is all that matters in this god forsaken society. (Note: forgo the other choices, except for Mom. She is God so do whatever she says).

To Save the Society I Transcend Truth

The descent into our inner truth (and three ways to make money)

Let’s us descend into the inner truth of those of us that sanctify their lives scampering along the shores and under the seas. Not only do we deserve the utmost respect in society through our relentless efforts to protect the sea from ruthless capitalists, like them we also deserve copious cash. Tons of it. Because once marine biologists are all rich and famous we can save the planet and live in joy and contentment with our early pleasures and…wait. Is that a contradiction? Anyway, here we go.

Create a Pay Channel

First, we must capture the cash through cable. Come on, we need moolah like everyone else. Give us a break! We’ll even have our own Game of Thrones. Take that HBO!

Descend into the Subtidal (Twilight) Zone

We must capitalize on the risks us professors take in seeking important insights under the surface. Truth be told, we really do leave our cave — I mean office — once and a while. But mostly we send forth our students to do all the sharky work. But hey, there’s a ton of them out there and they fill Dr. Carr’s inboxes eager to embark on any journey he create. Risks? Huh, not for us fearless leaders. Let’s visit our inner zone.

Create Captivating Commercials

Next plan. With the personalized risks we take we can capitalize on insurance for marine biologists. After all, it just another way to take advantage of protect the graduate student masses. Here’s an example, starring my lovely daughter (and my boots) based on the famous Geico Squirrels commercial. Buy MeiCo!

Branding: Family or Foe

The greedy victors in the fight for the Tequila in 2018 (all proceeds go to the student travel fund)

But what is WSN really? We need a brazenly bold brand to boost the Society. I mean WSN is a happy bunch and our annual get togethers involve copious lab reunions that perpetuate the happy fiction that we are all descended from the same marine ecology tree. Truth is, I have personally seen fierce battles amongst institutions and marine laboratories as their armies aggregate at the auction. We fight for bragging rights to give away our meager cash for a single bottle of the coveted tequila. I relished a sip of one small bottle many years ago and although it was slightly nourishing it wasn’t worth the $4,000 the poor students faculty poured out of their thin pockets.

Are We Family, Like the Brady Bunch?

Yes, we honor our heritage and our highly prestigious lineage. We are a happy family and are all related (but we do tussle in the literature as is our way).

Or are We Foe:
Like A Game of Tequila (Thrones)

We do battle for bragging rights to throw a few coins at our beleaguered students. But have we gone too far?

TV Shows: Let’s Do It!

Now, we have money pouring into our brilliantly branded pay channel and commercials. So we’re set to get rockin’. To do that we need to create some captivating TV shows. I mean we are natural actors throughout the year which demonstrate our immense talents. Just check out the actors below

I should add that some labs, through their intimate scampering with the seals have taken their life style to a new atavistic level and assumed the role of their beloved animals. Witness the heresy (but this could be good angle for a show!)

Science and Policy:
We Can Do Law & Order

Sure we scientists have law and we have order. But what’s better? Well, science and policy. What could be more fun than chasing down those nasty polluters and throwing them in jail? It’s all for the red, white, and blue.

Science Five’O:
Better Than Hawaii Five’O

Yes, Hawaii Five-O was a classic (I love the wave!) but wouldn’t it be better with underwater shots, science, and surfing? Book ’em Dano, I mean Hixon.

Sharks ‘n Tech
vs. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec is very cool show but Sharks ‘n Tech is better and way cooler, right? I mean who can beat sharks? Plus we have super hot tech in spades when we fight the fearful critters of the sea. Don’t hold them, they bite!

Surrealistic Quadrat

So how does my lab conduct science way, way up in mystical Humboldt County? I mean most folks think northern California is in San Francisco so we must be in a space warp. Yes, we have magic and we have doobies but we also have Grace Slick, or at least her music. Let’s go back to the summer of love.

Naturally cool

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you marine biologists, and members of WSN in particular, that we have an immense reservoir of untapped talent that can be used to perpetuate lovely perceptions of scientists in the social sphere (and make serious cash). But truth be told, we don’t need to exaggerate our esteemed status because, as is self-evident, we are naturally cool. If you need further evidence, let me show you.

Whilst browsing the multitude of memories submitted to me I was struck by how joyous every biologist appeared positioned among the magnificent settings of the natural ocean world we inhabit. I had an extemporaneous epiphany one evening: we don’t need to act because we are naturally awesome and super cool. Here, let the Society speak for itself.

Coda: How it All Ends

And it could end here with I, Dr. Abalone, having fulfilled my mission of entertaining the milling masses and grabbing their attention for a few milliseconds through engaging entertainment. And in surveying the eyes of the crowd I realized I was the only rational instrument standing between the modulation of the milling mass into a sea of throbbing bodies (i.e., the gala dance). But I would be remiss in my leadership duties as President of the the Society if I didn’t remind the membership of the arduous tasks before us, i.e. to save the planet. Thus, to motivate the society to forge ahead into our dark, and fiery future, I briefly recalled our spectacular history.

To remind all of our distinguished natural history, I boldly added that our esteemed predecessors were key in producing the very books we cling it when faced with the daunting complexity of the sea. Namely, Between Pacific Tides (Joel Hedgpeth), Light’s Manual (Ralph Smith), and Marine Algae of California (Izzy Abbott). All past WSN leaders like myself. That grabbed their attention so I thrust myself into my the heart of my poignant plea.

Our House is Burning!

Our warming planet.

I screamed out the radical but true phrase our children have shouted across the globe: Our House is Burning. Tragically, their words are becoming all too true in our rapidly deteriorating world and paint a painful portrait of our planet.

As an esteemed professor standing proudly among the ranks of my academic colleagues, I’ve have personally thought for much of my life that climate change was coming; a threat for the future we could see in our scientific models. But I now know that was a false belief. For climate change is here, NOW. And gosh folks, this is just the beginning as we charge into our relentless carbon-based future. I’m truly frightened for our beautiful planet (and I don’t frighten easily, I’m a surfer after all).

Witness the dying bleached coral reefs, or our disintegrating kelp beds, or the heat waves carpeting the oceans. Indeed, whilst preparing my address I endured power blackouts and the threat of wildfire sweeping across my beloved home state of California. These drastic conditions, resulting from dreadful drought and devil winds, are a consequence of our unrelenting global spew of greenhouse gases which oil companies cling to like rabbits with a carrot. Sadly, our great planet is crumbling before our very eyes and our esteemed — but blind politicians — do not see it. So we scientists need to make them aware of the world they purposely perpetuate with pollution. In that I bestow upon them the perfect piscatorial prize for perfidy: passivity. A rare perversion indeed.

As my videos have shown, we as marine biologists are perfectly positioned to play the part. For science is pure: we search for truth in nature. And right now nature is sending us an urgent message: she has a problem. As our spectacular photos have revealed, the Society does amazing research so we need to keep doing that. But some of us must step up and inform broader aspects of society of our findings. Others must advocate for change in policy & management with our politicians and anyone who will listen. We must show the world our cool tech and remind them of the awesome creatures in the sea that we protect with our very lives. We must flood social media (you youngsters are better at this then us elders) with posts, tweets, photos, and videos. We must show the world who we are and what is happening to the ocean we love. (I know, ok boomer). But this is serious!

We are WSN!

We can do it and already are! WSN is an awesome society. Sure, we site idly at meetings, but we are weaving our recent discoveries together. At our gatherings, like the ebb and flow of the sea, we form networks as new and old labs expand and contract, come together, mix, and develop a wave-like synergy. We play and have fun because we are a driven, passionate bunch. We are a close-knit family, but one that fights for the honor to empty our pockets for the poor students. We fight so youngsters can travel to our gatherings and perpetuate our long and distinguished history.

The key paradigm that is WSN is that it fosters deep friendships, ones forged through fierce shared battles with the sea, decades of creating amazing science, and the honor and respect we develop amongst each other in doing so. We are an amazing society. And now is the time for us to rise to the defining challenge of our generation. For WE ARE WSN!

But whatever we do in our pursuit of truth and tangles with the powers that be, we must always remember the defining axiom of honor perpetuated from a true legend and motivating hero to us all.

Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman.

Further pleasurable and informative reading and viewing from Dr. Abalone:

My “How to Become a Marine Biologist…” series:

More Dr. Abalone posts:

2 responses to “Dr. Abalone’s Address to the Western Society of Naturalists”

Leave a Reply