Happy 25 Days of Fishmas!

Dec 23, 2016
Originally published on December 23, 2016 11:44 am

A graduate student is catching attention on social media for some spreading some fish-themed holiday cheer.

Katherine O'Reilly recently came up with a way to share her love of marine life -- and puns -- on Twitter by creating the hashtag #25DaysofFishmas.

She uses it to share information, pictures and even jokes about some of the fish that call the Great Lakes home.

O'Reilly grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and was fascinated with natural phenomenon like the annual spring walleye run on the Maumee River. These days, she's a third year Ph.D. student at the University of Notre Dame, where she studies aquatic ecology.

We wanted to know more, so we posed some questions to O'Reilly, whose Twitter handle is DrKatfish.

What was the inspiration behind #25DaysofFishmas?

It's something that kind of exploded beyond what I anticipated! I love puns and silly humor and I thought it might be a cool opportunity to talk about the lesser-known Great Lakes fish, some of the less charismatic fish.

What do you mean by less charismatic fish?

The fish that I have a soft spot for, the fish that are sometimes called "rough fish," or the things that anglers might not be super-interested in catching. So, for example: the freshwater drum, also known as the sheepshead, or deep water sculpin, which are fish that live in really deep habitats like the name suggests. They might not be seen by a lot of people but play really key roles in the food webs of the Great Lakes.

How do you get people to care about fish?

Twitter and other social media has been really helpful, a really good tool for scientists, for people who do research on animals like fish. Everyone might not have close experiences with them, but people see these pictures and they're like, "Oh, that's a really strange looking fish! I'd like to learn more about that." I think just piquing that curiosity can sometimes be a little spark to get people interested.

Why do you think it's important to communicate with people this way?

Sometimes I think as scientists we get so focused on -- we're doing our research, we're publishing papers, that we forget that very few people are going to read those papers. We need to connect with people and make science accessible in a way that involves them and involves communities in these bigger issues.

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