I described a new species of guitarfish! It was sitting in a museum collection for 70 years until I examined it. Now that the publication was out, I wondered how I could spread the word about this new discovery?
I staged a photoshoot with my professional photographer friend where I took silly photos with one of the museum specimens of my new species, similar in style to a birth announcement. With a bit of apprehension, I then took to Twitter to post the photos.
My hope was to engage scientists and non-scientists alike and to tell my story of discovery to highlight the importance of museum collections and these understudied and endangered group of fishes- the guitarfishes.
How do you spark interest in something as mundane as a dead fish?
Use Pop culture/Social Media.
Make it relatable.
I believe that it is easier to get people to care and listen to something if they can be excited about it and connect with the content first. I think my love for these fishes is reflected in this photoshoot.
The response was overwhelming positive and turned out to be a great way to promote my publication and get people talking about a fish they wouldn't have heard of otherwise!
Links to Media Coverage:
Taxonomy and systematics (the field of naming new species and determining their relationships) has a rocky reputation. It has many internal conflicts and sometimes viewed as boring or low-impact by other scientists. It has also been historically dominated by old, white males.
But this is changing, and I think it’s important to show that taxonomy can also be fun and that this research is important; not only for conservation but for providing the basis for all other comparative studies. It can also be rigorous- my study had an extensive morphometric and statistical analyses, as well as a key for discrimination.
But ultimately, the purpose of my photoshoot was an attempt to spice things up and show a new face of taxonomy. The field is changing, and I hope its negative perception will too.