We had a fun first today for the 2013 Google Science Fair Hangouts On Air series of live chats with researchers around the world: with the aid of a smart phone propped up by two fossil bones, we streamed live from a Virginia swamp for a session called Paleo Quest: Venturing into the Unknown. I interviewed Jason Osborne and Aaron Alford, founders of Paleo Quest about their gonzo swamp diving for fossils.
Scientific American has been a partner for the Google Science Fair since its inception in 2011, and I have served as the awards event’s chief judge since then. Last year, we also added the Scientific American-sponsored $50,000 Science in Action award. The 2013 winner is Elif Bilgin of Turkey, for her work in making bio-plastics from banana peels. Elif is also competing as a finalist in the Google Science Fair overall; you can tune in on September 23 to see all the winners. In 2012, Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela won for their simplified hydroponics system.
During the Hangout, we got some clues about the denizens of that area of Virginia millions of years ago; learned about the “day at the office” for these adventurous researchers, who often have to contend with close encounters with giant catfish and other local river residents during dives; and also how anybody can help be a citizen scientist, too, using SharkFinder kits that will be available widely soon. Scroll down for a couple of images from the swamp and then you can see the video of the Hangout itself.