Trying to be pitch perfect with a quick turnaround by Lisa Tossey

Deadline: one week. Due to an embargo that was lifting the following week we had a handful of days to plan, shoot, produce, and get approval on a video package. The package would accompany a cool research story that touches on the neurobiology of those who have perfect pitch, or the ability to accurately identify a musical note without any other reference point.

The story’s writer, Beth, came up with a script for a one minute highlight video, which I tweaked and storyboarded. She also scheduled a photo and video shoot with the lead researcher and a UD student rumored to have perfect pitch. I shot them the next day and handed over the storyboard and footage to our digital creative specialist, Paul. I then collected other assets for him and started working on storyboarding a separate interactive Instagram Story with an art director, Jeff. As he produced that, I snipped out some of the footage I captured to show how someone is tested for perfect pitch and produced two versions - one for use on Twitter and a second to go on YouTube as a breakout video to support the main one.

We came right down to the wire, but got everything up within a few hours of the lifting of the embargo, thanks to incredible teamwork throughout. Are there some things we would have done differently if we had a longer timeline? Sure. But we’re pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish in a few days!

Here is the main video that accompanied the story.

University of Delaware neuroscientist Keith Schneider and collaborators from York University in Toronto, Ontario, have found a fascinating distinction in the brains of those who have perfect pitch.

This is the breakout video to show the test in progress. We were all holding our breath at the start of it because although we were told the student has perfect pitch, this researcher hadn’t tested him. As you can see, we needn’t had worried, however it was a huge relief when that piece fell in place.

Are you curious about how someone is tested for perfect pitch, or the ability to accurately identify a musical note without any other reference point? Watch University of Delaware junior David Krall be tested by neuroscientist Keith Schneider.

We also used this video on Twitter, where it gained a lot of engagement!

We took a different approach with the Instagram Story and made it interactive, using Instagram’s tap to advance feature to allow viewers to “test” their ability to identify notes. I hope that this, combined with the clean graphics and interesting stats will engage viewers enough to swipe up to view the story at the end. We’ll see!

Read more about this research on perfect pitch here on UDaily > 

Getting to the root of a story by Lisa Tossey

Nematodes are usually bad news for gardens. But not always - as I just learned doing this piece on how they are tiny superheroes in one aspect of agriculture. These wriggly microscopic worms can actually be used as a tool in fighting larger corn rootworms, which are currently a major scourge of the Corn Belt here in the U.S.

The challenge for this video is that I shot it - both the interview and the b-roll - before seeing the written story it would accompany, so I did my best to try to imagine all the visuals I might need to illustrate the science. This was backwards from the usual approach, so I was pretty pleased in the way it ended up coming together.

I also worked with senior art director Jeff Chase again to illustrate what happens in this epic battle beneath the soil’s surface. The result is this short explainer video that we added as a card to the main story.

Read more about this research in this UDaily article >>

From the storyboard to the screen by Lisa Tossey

Planning is key for videos - especially when it comes to animated sequences. I enjoyed helping to write this script and storyboard it, then watch it come to life under the graphic magic of my colleague, Jeff Chase.

A few shots of my planning sketches on the script, followed by the final video.


Learn more about this $23 million grant here >

A link between farting termites and cleaner energy? by Lisa Tossey

I have to say, that got my attention…

In reality, it is microbes doing the “farting” - specifically methane-producing microbes who live within the gut of termites. And since these microbes also help termites digest wood, researchers are looking at how they might be put to work “mining” vast reserves of coal that are otherwise difficult to access, since coal is basically compressed wood. By having these deep diving microbes convert coal directly to methane, or natural gas, its energy can be captured and utilized in a cleaner burning form to serve growing energy needs as greener alternative energies come on line.

I worked with Jeff Chase, senior art director at University of Delaware’s Office of Communications and Marketing, to produce this series of videos on the topic to accompany an article by Tracey Bryant. These pieces were designed to work in concert with each other if viewers wanted to dive deeper into the topic and are linked by cards. The wood to coal explainer was also designed to stand alone as educational piece.

A huge shout-out to Jeff for his beautiful graphic work on this!

UPDATE Jan. 16: Cool to see this was picked up by Newsweek!

Termites may hold the key to transforming coal - a big polluting chunk of the global energy supply - into cleaner energy for the world, according to Universi...

#MAMEA18 in Portsmouth, Va. by Lisa Tossey

I always enjoy the annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association (MAMEA) - it’s full of useful sessions as well as a fun weekend to catch up with my peers in the region and see what they have been doing in their own institutions and organizations. This year was especially cool, as I was elected as president-elect for the organization, which means I get to oversee next year’s conference. I have some fun ideas!

I presented a session on the use of VR/AR/MR (virtual, augmented, and mixed realities) in science communication and education and had some enthusiastic participants who also tried out some of the apps and headsets at the close of the session. Here is the Prezi I used during the presentation, as well as links to many examples, resources, and gear.

Spinning Science in 360° - MAMEA 2018 Conference

Direct Prezi link for sharing >

And here’s a Google Doc of all the links below for download >

I’m always happy to answer questions!

Examples & Resources for Communicating Science

Virtual Reality (VR)

360 Video

Augmented Reality (AR)

Mixed Reality

Cameras & Apps

Google Cardboard Camera

FOV 360 camera app (Apple iOS only)

Panorama 360. Camera

Insta360 camera line

Ricoh Theta camera line

GoPro Fusion camera (Note: I haven’t used this one personally & have heard mixed opinions on it)

Others I’ve tried & have not been thrilled with compared to the first two: Nikon KeyMission, 360Fly

Viewers & Platforms

Google Cardboard viewer app

Smartphone-based viewers:

Standalone headsets:


Thinglink - Sign up for their e-news, as they may have another Black Friday sale!

Google Tour Creator

Both YouTube & Vimeo now support 360 video

My Examples

DE Sea Grant on RoundMe


#SUKAYAKSDelmarva by Lisa Tossey

Twenty-one days kayaking and camping around the Delmarva peninsula - not a bad way to start the summer! I was fortunate to spend June assisting with a summer semester course doing just that with the writer Tom Horton and students from Salisbury University. I am currently compiling and editing footage from the journey, but here are a few of the social media posts I made during the trip. 

One year since diving deep... by Lisa Tossey

Hard to believe it's already been a year since I traveled down, down, down to the East Pacific Rise aboard the DSV Alvin! 

One of my favorite images from our research cruise aboard the R/V Atlantis, Photo by Luis Lamar

"Driving" Alvin along the seafloor, 2500 meters deep - unsure if my auto insurance covers this... Photo by PI George Luther

A porthole view on the sea floor.

All I wanted to see down there was an octopus ... wish granted!

OCEANDOTCOMM 2018 by Lisa Tossey


I'm still processing the whirlwind that was this unique event, but that's the one word that comes to mind when I start reflecting on the experience. What was OCEANDOTCOMM exactly? It was a diverse gathering of writers, photographers, educators, podcasters, artists, storytellers, poets, and producers who all share a love of science - marine science in particular.

WHEREAS, Lisa Tossey is deemed to be of sound mind and body; and

WHEREAS, Lisa Tossey is considered by peers to be of the utmost creative character and willing to generously give of this creativity; and

WHEREAS, Lisa Tossey is possessed of vital expertise in social media, science communication, and various other abilities—potentially of the supernatural variety; and

WHEREAS, Lisa Tossey agrees to further join a league of like skilled persons contributing to the greater good;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Craig R. McClain, Executive Director of LUMCON, with the strong support of the selection committee, two alligators, and a resident pelican, do hereby proclaim that Lisa Tossey is

— My official invite

We were all gathered on the Gulf Coast by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) for four days to "tell a story like one has never been told before."  Once there, we were given a theme - "Coastal Optimism" - provided with an incredible array of experts and experiences, and encouraged to collaborate and create. And that we did. An amazing mix of 27 projects (and counting) were launched within those four days - some were completed, some are works-in-progress, and some are longer term, but the variety blew me away. I'm looking forward to sharing many of them soon via social media once they're finalized! 

I'm still working through a lot of the footage and audio I collected while down there, but here's a peek at the start of two of the projects I worked on:

The first was a collaborative effort with Jason Robertshaw (Mote Marine Laboratory), Lali DeRosier (K12 science teacher), and Alexander Havens (Alaska SeaLife Center). We worked together to create a BreakoutEDU game for LUMCON's education team to use. Breakout EDU is an immersive learning games platform that lets educators turn a classroom into an "escape room" and facilitate games where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open the locked box. 

We completed a beta version of the game that we were able to test with three groups at OCEANDOTCOMM, which worked well. We are now fine-tuning it and aligning it to education standards before sharing it publically on the BreakoutEDU platform. 

Here are a few pieces and glimpses of the game. This video shows the opening sequence, a few "hint" videos we created, and several time lapse sequences of our development and testing process: 

These are a few graphic pieces I created and designed for the game - a fact sheet that is used to open one of the locks and a token that is used throughout:

I also started an educational 360, immersive tour to test some features of an Insta360 camera and the ThingLink platform. This final 360 tour will focus on several "defense systems" of the Louisiana coast, including levees, marshes, and barrier islands. The brief tour below served as a test for various types of file embeds, linking scenes together, and voiceover insertion. Stay tuned for more! 

This post was created from OCEANDOTCOMM and supported by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).

From the Tide Pool to the Stars by Lisa Tossey

I was thrilled to be invited to the 2018 AGU Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Ore., to take part in a new event - a pop-up art show to help raise awareness of STEAM (science-technology-engineering-art-math) initiatives and art-science collaborations on the high seas. 

The show, titled "From the Tide Pool to the Stars," featured artwork and photography created during research cruises, as well as video pieces, including the highlights video I pulled together from our deep-sea cruise last spring. 

I also had several photos from that cruise featured. View all the work here on the companion Ocean | Science | Art website

Students shine on research cruise by Lisa Tossey

I'm still processing all the amazing experiences I had on the R/V Atlantis last month, diving on the East Pacific Rise in DSV Alvin. I am currently finalizing a highlights video for the cruise that will showcase some of the amazing sights we saw 2500 meters under the sea, but one of the favorite parts of my work out there were the student pieces. 

I chatted with a couple of the undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a postdoc, about their expectations before making their first dive in DSV Alvin, and then again afterwards to hear about their experience. They expressed their thoughts so clearly and with such enthusiasm it was hard not to get stoked with them! Here's Ph.D. candidate Kristin Yoshimura speaking about her dive. The other videos can be seen on the trip blog or the college's Facebook page

The ship's crew and staff also remarked on the quality of the students we had with us - they were all fantastic and did University of Delaware proud!

Test run with the GoPro Karma grip by Lisa Tossey

I was a carrying a new tool on our research cruise aboard the R/V Atlantis - GoPro's handheld stabilizer, the Karma grip. We had a few days at sea as we were underway from Costa Rica to our station at 9 North along the East Pacific Rise, so I decided to put it to the test by carrying it completely through the ship to provide a quick video tour.

I'm impressed by the results, which you can see below. The video is from one take, walking through doors, in and out of different work areas, and up steps on the vessel, which was moving at about 12 knots at the time. I can't wait to put it to use on some other projects soon! 

Project VIDEO Virtual Reality work recognized by Lisa Tossey


I’m thrilled to have just been notified that Project VIDEO, the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) grant work I’ve been collaborating with Christopher Petrone on, just won the Audiovisual division of the 2016 Delaware Press Association awards. Chris is the education specialist for Delaware Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service and PI on our project, and I assist him on the educational components and do all the video and virtual reality shooting and production. It will now go on to the national communications contest held by the National Association of Press Women (NFPW). 

Across Delmarva via an ARCGis Story Map by Lisa Tossey

I assisted Chris Petrone, the education specialist for Delaware Sea Grant, with a series of teacher workshops this summer that had us transecting the Delmarva Peninsula from the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware Bay, exploring various watersheds along the way. It made for quite a fun and educational road trip for participating teachers! 

I decided to test out Esri's new story map template called Cascade, which is still in beta release, to document the workshops. It's been a bit glitchy at times, and although it promises to optimize images, it can take some time to load. However, I love how it allows you tell an immersive 'story' beautifully by combining images, video, and data! 

OceansOnline - Leading a discussion on digital storytelling at the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress in Newfoundland by Lisa Tossey

I was thrilled to be invited to the OceansOnline conference, which was held in conjunction with the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress in St. John's, Newfoundland in August. I led a discussion on Incorporating digital storytelling in marine science outreach and communication, and spoke about my current work with Delaware Sea Grant, including Project VIDEO, our joint work with the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations

We had an enthusiastic group for our discussion! 

We had an enthusiastic group for our discussion! 

We touched on everything from social media platforms, to using images and video in outreach efforts, to embracing new technologies such as virtual reality. 

Here are a few ideas and tips from the session that I pulled together after the session for the newsletter of Marine Ecosystems and Management (MEAM):

  • When it comes to social media, you don’t have to do it all! Take some time to “lurk” on various platforms to see how they’re used and what audiences tend to use them, then experiment on a few to see what might be the best fit for your field or organization.
  • Social media isn’t a one-way street – that’s why “social” is in its name! Don’t just use it to push out information – engage with other users and your followers, share information that’s relevant to your field or community, and have fun with it!
  • Images are truly worth 1,000 words online. Images drive engagement and an eye-catching photo, animated gif, or video clip can serve as a great “hook” to grab users’ attention in a sea of social media posts. Photos showing action, hands-on activities, or a detailed view of a critter or landscape can be particularly effective.
  • Post with purpose. You should always be able to connect your social media posts, whether they are a photo, link, or shared information, back to your work or organization’s mission. This helps to build your reputation as a trusted resource in your field.
  • Short format videos that are popular on platforms like Instagram are perfect vehicles for bite-sized, sharable science pieces. Use them to share fun “Did you know…” facts, highlight specific areas of work or critters being studied, or show scientific techniques.
  • And most importantly – don’t be afraid to experiment online. Try something new, assess how it works, tweak your approach if necessary, and try again!

If you’re interested in learning more about this, my Prezi presentation from the session is full of examples >> 


Going virtual by Lisa Tossey

A new grant related to my work with Delaware Sea Grant has provided an opportunity to delve into 360 imagery, virtual reality, and the use of Google Cardboard for education, which is exciting in many ways! Much more to come, but here are a couple of immersive examples from early tests with our new equipment to explore!

While setting up the 360 camera on a beach in South Africa, an unexpected guest came down the stairs to investigate the equipment! 

And here is a "behind the scenes" capture of a recent filming we did with Maryland Sea Grant along the waterfront in Baltimore's Inner Harbor!

Behind the scenes: Talking microbes and water quality with Maryland Sea Grant along the waterfront in downtown Baltimore - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

NAIINZ - Presenting overseas for the first time by Lisa Tossey

I was both thrilled and honored when my session proposal was accepted for the International Conference on Interpretation in Wellington, New Zealand, this month. It was hosted by Interpretation Network New Zealand (INNZ) and the National Association of Interpretation (NAI), of which I am a member. NAI is an organization that focuses on the art of engaging instruction, and works with historical and natural heritage educators who work in nature centers, zoos, aquariums, parks, museums, and historical and cultural sites.

Nearly all of the delegates present at the conference.  Image courtesy of NAI  

Nearly all of the delegates present at the conference. Image courtesy of NAI 

This was truly an international conference, drawing in more than 130 delegates from over 12 counties. I was fortunate enough to be invited to present a 90-minute mini-workshop on my work using digital tools in informal science education. My session, Digital Storytelling – Engaging Others Using the Technology in your Pocket, drew over 25 participants who were eager to start incorporating social media and videos into their institution’s educational outreach plans.

My presentation focused heavily on the work I have been doing with the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and the related research I have undertaken as part of my Ed.D. portfolio work. In the days following my workshop I had several constructive follow-up conversations with participants, which progressed into email correspondence.

Shortly after the conclusion of the conference, I heard back from one participant, who works for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, which manages about 40 percent of the country’s land and serves a similar function as our National Parks Service in the U.S. His role includes leading planning for their investment in storytelling in over 500 historic heritage sites throughout New Zealand, and he informed me that he was now looking at adding a digital outreach position due to what he learned in my session. That news and his kind words about my workshop really made the trip worthwhile for me.

Exploring a protected marine reserve during our field trip day along the southern coast of the North Island

Exploring a protected marine reserve during our field trip day along the southern coast of the North Island

In addition to concurrent sessions at the venue, the conference also offered a day of offsite sessions in several tracks. I was thrilled that one track was focused on marine science education, and joined the “Fishy Tales” field trip to a university coastal ecology laboratory, a local marine education center and aquarium, and a coastal interpretive site in a protected marine reserve. These site visits not only provided a chance to get out in the field and experience different educational venues in the region, but also offered excellent networking opportunities and a nice break mid-conference from being confined in the official venue.

I had visited New Zealand once before, and was awed by its natural beauty and welcoming people then, so I was eager to return. This conference both reinforced that first impression and built upon it, allowing me to experience its environmental wonders firsthand, but more importantly, make genuine connections with other educators and administrators who are working tirelessly to educate others about, and protect, the country’s rich heritage and natural resources.

Here's a short video of the traditional Maori ceremony that opened the conference. I shot snippets of audio and video throughout with my phone and pieced them together using iMovie as an example of editing video on the fly for my workshop >

The Prezi I used during my workshop to highlight examples of what we were touching on >

Springtime in Berlin by Lisa Tossey