Science Outreach & Communication

Montana Naturalist  feature; photography by Cordel Anderson

Montana Naturalist feature; photography by Cordel Anderson

Popular Science Media

In my local community of Missoula, MT I enjoy collaborating with the Montana Natural History Center to draw attention to ecology happening under our noses. Check out this public radio Field Note segment about ecology in the garden, or this article in Montana Naturalist magazine about what happens under the surface of streams in winter.

To engage children with “uncharismatic” biodiversity (like invertebrates and parasitic animals), I collaborated with art professor Michael Connors to create a children’s book illustrating the mayfly-parasite interaction I investigated during my PhD. The book is available on iTunes in an interactive e-book that guides readers to discover main themes of stream ecology and the scientific process.

The children’s book collaboration has elicited opportunities to publicly discuss (at interdisciplinary academic symposiums and on public radio) the ecology of host-parasite interactions, as well as the benefits of engaging the public through science-art or science-storytelling collaborations.

The book collaboration also spurred a broader interest in how the natural world is represented in children’s literature, which I explored further as the editor of this blog post surveying nature literature for little ones.

Mayfly  cover illustration by Michael Connors

Mayfly cover illustration by Michael Connors

k12 and family-oriented outreach

Like many ecologists, my passion for observing nature ignited as a child, and I cherish opportunities to engage children with ecology. Using my research as a launchpad, I have volunteered at kids nature and science camps, served as a limnology instructor at the University of Wisconsin’s PEOPLE program, and led “exploration stations” for the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery annual Science Expeditions community open house.

I have also used academic research (mine and others) to facilitate educator workshops, develop lesson plans and outreach programs (like this curriculum sequence) for K12 students, and in interactive media, such as this blog, for high school science classes.

In a similar vein, I enjoyed creating a public talk on parasite ecology for the University of Wisconsin’s popular outreach lecture series Wednesday Nite @the Lab.

I was fortunate to do field work for my dissertation at the Rocky Mt. Biological Laboratory, which excels in public outreach and education programs. I volunteered as a facilitator for adult citizen scientists, children or families to experience field research, and led research tours and giving public talks for the lab’s annual Citizen Scientist Symposium and Stream Ecology & Climate Change Session.

As a graduate student I served as a member of the outreach committee at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology, creating ways to connect the broader community with aquatic science research.

Image by data artist and workshop instructor Dr. Carrie Roy

Image by data artist and workshop instructor Dr. Carrie Roy

Workshops for Increasing Science Impact

Data are the building blocks of science but their value comes not so much from accumulating data points as from managing, sharing, and communicating them in effective ways. At the University of Wisconsin I acquired grant funding for and co-organized two workshops for socioecological researchers to be trained in Data Management (emphasizing the potential for open source data sharing) and Data Visualization, including best practices for creating visuals with broad appeal outside academic circles.