Around the Pier: Shifting Baselines


Scripps Institution of Oceanography is adding some Hollywood flair to graduate student training to help the next generation of oceanographers communicate ocean and earth science issues to the public.

For the past two summers filmmaker Randy Olson has conducted an intensive video-making workshop with graduate students from Scripps’s Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. During the course, students pitch their ideas for 60-second, conservation-conscious public service announcements (PSAs). Students select the best ideas then film and edit them over two rigorous days of production. 

This year’s PSAs, created by both masters and doctoral students, address topics ranging from noise pollution in the sea to the inadvertent killing of sea turtles from tuna fishing. 

"Effective communication is an essential part of science today," said Jeremy Jackson, a Scripps geosciences professor who is one of the instructors of the summer graduate course and co-founder of the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project. "We are all seeing the incredible power of video communication through the Internet with websites like You Tube and Google Video. It's time for scientists to know how to use this mode of communication as well."

As a result of this science communications course, the PSAs of eight Scripps students are being showcased as part of the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project’s SB Flix Contest. The contest is a forum for amateur and up-and-coming filmmakers from all walks of life to have their voices heard by submitting 60-second videos about ocean and environmental conservation.

Shifting Baselines, a phrase that refers to the assertion that we are forgetting how nature used to look, is a partnership between ocean conservation advocates and Hollywood that was co-founded by Jackson, Olson, and movie producer Gale Anne Hurd in 2002. The project has since produced a series of widely aired television commercials, short films, and informative online slideshows. 

The SB Flix contest is the newest phase of the project, which has received generous support from a group of Scripps donors. The contest is sponsored by Patagonia, Disney Environmentality, and Seed Magazine and has six celebrity judges including actors Rainn Wilson of NBC's "The Office," Gregory Itzin of Fox’s "24," and Wendy McClendon-Covey of Comedy Central's, "Reno 911!."

The SB Flix Contest is accepting video submissions through March 1, 2007. To learn more, visit

— Shannon Casey



Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.