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Students Go ‘Under the Boat’

Students in Jeremy Long’s chemical ecology class mix laughs and science in YouTube video.
Mix one part class assignment, one part marine science, two parts humor and add a dash of Spongebob Squarepants, Finding Nemo and Flounder from The Little Mermaid.

What do you get?

“Under the Boat,” a YouTube video by a group of SDSU students for their chemical ecology class.

Explaining chemical ecology

Created by junior Alex Warneke, and seniors Stacey Virtue and Elena “Katie” Kozma, all biology majors with an emphasis in marine biology, the video was part of a mandatory assignment in the chemical ecology course taught by biology professor Jeremy Long. In a music video format, students were expected to explain a key chemical ecology concept.

“I suspect that student retention is much greater for this video assignment than other, more traditional assignments,” Long said, referring to the fact that the assignment replaced an exam or paper in the syllabus.

After some serious brainstorming, “Under the Boat” was born. In a video modeled after The Lonely Island’s “I’m on a Boat,” the group set out to explain the role of chemical deterrents in preventing predation in sea life. Understandably, the project was tough, but the group was confident in their efforts – and it showed.

Laughing and learning

“To make it more entertaining we tried to make the lyrics as funny as possible, but still making them scientific,” Kozma said.

And the educational effort is not lost. Virtue’s mother, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, has shared the video with colleagues with hopes that it will be used in science classes.

“These student videos provide a great opportunity to attract people to science, “Long said. “By making science interesting and fun, we hope to improve the relationship between scientists and the public.”

How they almost lost it

Amazingly, the video almost didn’t happen. As Warmeke explained, after 24 straight hours of editing the final cut in iMovie, the program crashed. Panic set in as the group furiously searched Google for a way to recover their project.

“Everything was like ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it,’” Warneke said. “Luckily, Mac is amazing and I was looking through some file on the desktop and there was a little icon that said ‘Under the Boat.’ I clicked on it and it restored everything. It obviously worked out.”

For now, the group looks forward to sharing the video with other Aztecs during Explore SDSU, the annual campus open house, and with the wider scientific community during this year’s Benthic Ecology Meeting film festival.
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