Rap it like you mean it. “This is chemical ecology — don’t you EVER forget!”

Ohhhhh yeeeeaaaahhhhh. Comin’ straight outta da 619 — home girls of tha San Diego Stiz-zate throwin’ down, gettin’ down, and goin’ down (under the boat, that is). They’re just three sistahs spittin’ out da beats on the Dictyol E.


In my book I quoted Dean Elizabeth Daley of the U.S.C. School of Cinematic Arts who put it to me this way – “Film is a language that we all know how to read from a very early age, but traditionally, only a few people have known how to “write” in the language of film. But with new technology that’s all changing — in the future, EVERYONE will know how to “write” in the language of film.”

She told me that in 1997. It’s about to be 14 years later and what she said is definitely true. What she didn’t know about back then, which has been a huge part of the process, was the advent of Youtube. That has truly made it possible for anyone and everyone to make their own videos and share them with the entire world.

I also wasn’t thinking in these terms in 1991 when I made a music video about the sex lives of barnacles which has had a long shelf life. In 2008 Dr. Jeremy Long, a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University contacted me to say a few nice words about the barnacle video, then offered up a couple of his ocean video musical creations, including the truly inspired, “You Can Have What Invert You Like.”

Jeremy told me his rap music videomaking inspiration stretches to back in elementary school, watching “Yo MTV Raps.” He would write down the lyrics, planning to be a rapper one day. And unlike Vanilla Ice, he was gonna be the real deal. He knew in high school he was getting closer to that dream when he wrote a rap with a friend about Oedipus Rex (all about being strapped with your moms and using Trojan condoms). Clearly the dream was morphing — like a phytoplankton cell in the midst of a crowd of copepods. Which, by the way, became the topic of his marine biological research.


Dr. Jeremy Long: He’s come a long way from rapping about Oedipus Rex and Trojan condoms. I think.


Many years later he did his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech with one of my old buddies, Dr. Mark Hay, working on chemical ecology. That led him to a postdoc at Northeastern University’s marine laboratory at Nahant where he found himself teaching courses. And then one day a fellow instructor had students make videos, some of which were raps. By then he had advanced his rapping to a level where he wasn’t about to be shown up (as we all know from the movie “8 Mile” there is a competitive element to rapping — EVEN when it’s a bunch of marine biologists). So he pulled an all-nighter, coming up with his splendid, “What Invert,” video (above), and the rest is pretty much marine biological rap history (as much as there is such a thing).

Now Jeremy is a professor at San Diego State University and has incorporated the making of marine ecology rap videos into a course he teaches. And above is the result – “Under the Boat.” Which is brilliant. Made by three undergraduates. How can you not love this stuff. It’s about creativity, yo. Without it, you can suck it.


So it really is. We can see it now in 6 years of Scripps student videos from the workshop I teach every August. They are getting better, and the students are entering the course with A LOT more experience in videomaking than they did in 2004.

And I’m getting more deeply involved in this juggernaut. Next month I’m headed to Tromso, Norway for two weeks to run one of my three day, intensive videomaking workshops with the folks at the Nordic Arctic Workshop. The participants are going to be grad students and postdoc — looking like the most cerebral group EVER! Which is certain to be fascinating. Also, Tromso is above the Arctic Circle, so for the first 5 days of my visit there will be zero sunlight. Yeeks.

Then in February, for the third time, I’ll be running a video critiquing workshop at the annual meeting of the American Society of Limnologists and Oceanographers in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February.

At the American Zoos Association annual conference in March we’ll be doing a two hour video pitching workshop where people will pitch their ideas for videos and we’ll deconstruct them. And lastly, we’ll be doing another videomaking workshop with undergraduates in April, this time with the good folks at University of Massachusetts, Lowell as part of a NASA-sponsored program.

All of which paints a clear picture — the future is arriving — science folks are learning video literacy. And they’re having an awesome time doing it!