VIMS reveals what happens when a scientist walks into a bar

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Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are taking their research from the laboratory to the pub in a new public outreach event titled “A Scientist Walks Into A Bar…”

Created to foster casual conversations on relevant environmental topics, the event provides a relaxed atmosphere for the public to learn something new while enjoying dinner and drinks at a local eatery—Park Lane Tavern in Hampton.

VIMS Director of Outreach Susan Maples says, “As a research institution, it’s our responsibility to keep the public informed about the work we’re doing and why it’s so important. ‘A Scientist Walks Into A Bar’ gives us the opportunity to translate the work we do to the public, while giving them the opportunity to ask questions and become a more informed audience.”

The first in a series of three events scheduled for 2014 featured VIMS Environmental Toxicologist Dr. Drew Luellen, who discussed the parallels between his research and his work as a volunteer firefighter. Luellen gave a 15-minute talk, and then answered questions regarding the possible health effects of flame-retardants in our air, waterways, and bodies. The talk sparked some interesting discussion amongst the 20 attendees.

One attendee, Beverly Nunnally of Newport News, says, “Having such a knowledgeable speaker explain the topic and follow it up by opening the floor for discussion afterward was very informative. The presentation gave everyone ‘food for thought’, which resulted in a variety of questions, with each one providing more information, so I learned quite a bit. I’m really looking forward to the next event!”

Another attendee, Patricia VonOhlen of Newport News, says she attended the event to learn about the chemicals in the flame-retardants used in clothing and household items, and the adverse health effects they have on humans and other species. “I really liked the format of having a speaker give us an overview of an important topic, and then interacting with participants by answering questions,” she says. “I’m also happy to see VIMS hosting events in different locations, so we can attend events closer to home and reduce our carbon output by not having to drive far.”

The next event, slated for March 5th, will feature Molly Mitchell from the Wetlands Program at VIMS, who will kick-off the discussion by sharing some innovative ways other countries are dealing with sea-level rise, and what may be in our future here in Hampton Roads.

“In planning these events, we made sure to select issues that have real-world applications for the lives of those who choose to attend,” says Maples. “Participants should leave feeling like they learned something new on a topic that is relevant to them, while enjoying discussions with good company.”

During the final event on April 2nd, VIMS Professor Rob Hale will initiate the evening with a discussion exploring the journey of microplastic debris from toothpaste to toothed whales, and everywhere in between.

To learn more about “A Scientist Walks Into a Bar...,”and to register for the upcoming events, visit www.vims.edu/public/science_bar. To learn more about other public programs offered at VIMS, visit www.vims.edu/public.

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