Finding the right words: A study of how and why we communicate our science with non-peers
Aug15

Finding the right words: A study of how and why we communicate our science with non-peers

Lesley Knoll and Peter Levi want to know how their fellow ecological scientists share knowledge about science outside peer groups. So Knoll, a director of research and education at Lacawac Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, and Levi, a postdoc at UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology, have created a survey. In this guest post, they explain the genesis of the project and how you can get involved.   Who are scientists communicating their science with and why? How are scientists communicating and are certain scientists more likely to communicate than others? Questions like these kept popping up among newly minted PhD’s at the most recent Ecological Dissertations in the Aquatic Sciences, or better known as Eco-DAS. During our time at the symposium in Hawaii, we chatted about the patterns of science communication – or lack thereof – among ourselves and our colleagues.  A group of us had discussions that extended into the evening and, with the help of Mai Tai’s and the Pacific Ocean, we began to come up with a plan. Though we are all aquatic scientists, our interests span the salty divide between freshwater and saltwater and all of us are interested in science communication. However, some of us were experienced and well-trained in communicating science with non-peer groups, while others learned with no guidance. We wondered how well our experiences reflected that of other scientists. Rather than muse about it endlessly, we decided to create a survey to find out! And here we are today with a survey and seeking help. Our scientific research project explores science communication patterns, styles, and expectations of ecologists in various positons, including government agencies, non-profits, academia, and industry. Whether you communicate your science with individuals or groups regularly, occasionally, or not at all, we would greatly appreciate 10 minutes of your time to assess how and why we as ecologists engage (or not) with others about science. To take the survey and for additional information on our research, please click here:   Our study is being conducted through the University of Hawai’i along with the following collaborators: Stacy Baez (Old Dominion University), Lauren Garske (UC-Davis), Jennifer Griffiths (Stockholm University), Emily Henry (Oregon State University), Lesley Knoll (Lacawac Sanctuary), Kevin Rose (UW-Madison), and Adrienne Sponberg (ASLO) with funding support from NSF (OCE08-12838). For more information, please contact one or both of the principal investigators: Drs. Paul Kemp (paulkemp @ hawaii.edu) or Peter Levi (plevi @ wisc.edu). Our research and recruitment materials were approved by UH-IRB on 07-JUN-2014. Survey icon designed by Icons8 from the Noun...

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The importance of investing in the researchers of the future
Jul09

The importance of investing in the researchers of the future

In the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2014 Graduate Student Policy (GSPA) Award winner Brittany West Marsden (the University of Maryland) reflects on her meeting with various congressional office staff this past spring. She explains how this experience “demystified” the perceived complexity of engaging in the policymaking process. During the podcast, Marsden elaborates on her conversation with a congressional staffer who she cited as being strong advocate for science. The congressional staffer asked Marsden and the other students in attendance about their long-term career goals. The students voiced their reservations about pursuing careers that rely on grant funding. Increasingly, they see their professors spend more time applying for funding at the expense of doing actual scientific research. “We think about investing in the products of research, but we also can’t overlook investing in the future researchers themselves,” stated Marsden. The Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition meetings, which Marsden and other 2014 GSPA winners attended, allowed the graduate students to highlight various federal research programs that aid in their science-career development. The meeting conversations included federal programs such as the National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education Traineeship and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship, in which Marsden participated. In the podcast, Marsden noted how the EPA STAR Fellowship fostered her progress throughout graduate school and expanded her network of scientific contacts around the country. Unfortunately, the residual impacts of the 2013 sequestration cuts to the federal budget including spending cuts to EPA and other federal agency programs are diminishing the funding opportunities available for graduate-student career development. The practical and long-term residual effects of this reduced funding are multifold. As mentioned above, one effect is graduate students choosing careers outside of science; another effect is the possibility of students taking their talents to other countries. Insufficient or lack of sustained funding also limits the ability of career scientists to conduct the research that has led to discoveries that help improve American society. Many scientific breakthroughs occurred by chance or happenstance such as commonplace microwave ovens or Alexander Fleming’s accidental encounter with penicillium mold in 1928. Over the long term, lack of federal-science investment hinders the United States’ capacity to compete globally and create the jobs of the future that bolster economic development and opportunity. Recent reports conclude the United States is on the precipice of falling behind other countries in its share of research and development investment. In short, if the US wants to remain a leader in scientific innovation and achievement, it is critical for the nation to invest in programs and initiatives that draw young...

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Let’s try to get eaten!
Jun16

Let’s try to get eaten!

Whelp, they look like they’re having fun.
Masaaki Yuasa has some thoughts to share about what makes learning fun, even when it has a gross, bitter taste, in season 6, episode 7 of the animated series Adventure Time.

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Ecology at the USA Science and Engineering Festival
May13

Ecology at the USA Science and Engineering Festival

ESA went to the USA Science & Engineering Festival on the weekend of April 26-27 to talk about ecology with some of the 325,000 people who attended. Special thanks to University of Maryland ecologists David Inouye (ESA’s president-in-waiting) and Ben Bond-Lamberty for coming down to the Washington DC convention center for the event. At our booth we had a terrarium hosting a few invertebrates and a simple game to prompt questions about ecological ideas like seasonal shifts (phenology), heat island effects, and how other life has adapted to our urban presence. But probably the most popular activity was the set of animal footprint ink stamps. Several adult visitors also enjoyed David’s note cards made from recycled data punch...

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EPSCoR: Expanding Job Growth and Opportunity in Science
May06

EPSCoR: Expanding Job Growth and Opportunity in Science

    The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) provides science resources to its jurisdictions, which constitute 28 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. A recent Capitol Hill briefing spotlighted the program’s work to expand science research and education across US states and territories that have traditionally been underfunded. Speakers noted how the program fosters career development and high-paying job opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The briefing was moderated by Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. NSF Deputy Director Cora Marrett also gave introductory remarks at the briefing. James Rice, Project Director for South Dakota EPSCoR, highlighted the important role businesses in his state play in providing career opportunities for STEM undergraduate students. In partnership with the South Dakota Department of Economic Development, South Dakota EPSCoR established the Dakota SEEDS program to connect STEM undergraduate students with career opportunities at 200 participating South Dakota companies. The program has provided a total of 231 interns (32 percent of participants) full time positions at the companies where they had interned. EPSCoR states and commonwealths are also important for expanding STEM research and education for racial minorities. NSF reports that the populations of EPSCoR jurisdictions consist of 24 percent of the nation’s African-Americans  in areas that are home to 50 percent of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The EPSCoR jurisdiction’s populations also compose 49 percent of the nation’s Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; 40 percent of the nation’s American Indians and Alaskan Natives; 16 percent of the nation’s Hispanics. EPSCoR jurisdictions include 16 percent of the nation’s Hispanics Serving Institutions and 68 percent of the Tribal Colleges and Universities. The Virgin Islands EPSCoR Project Director Henry Smith noted how the EPSCoR program had partially funded research into invasive lionfish, including research into improving methods for its harvesting for the fishing industry. He also noted how EPSCoR funding has contributed to the understanding of coral reef resiliency. Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, ineffective management and other factors are affecting the decline of reefs, which are an important part of the local economy. Smith compared the loss of coral reefs with the tourism financial loss that would occur if Washington, DC saw its cherry blossoms dwindle. Additional information on EPSCoR is available...

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Celebrating Earth Day in 2014
Apr22

Celebrating Earth Day in 2014

Me and milkweed fruit – my #NatureSelfie for #EarthDay. Nash Turley, a naturalist, photographer, musician, and PhD student in evolutionary ecology at the University of Toronto, snapped this shot in Ithaca, NY, in 2011. He tweeted, “Everyday is Earth Day; the fact that the calendar says today is ‘Earth Day’ doesn’t really mean anything to me. Sort of like how aboriginal cultures don’t have a word for ‘nature’ because they didn’t see themselves as separate from nature….the fact that we have a day for the Earth shows how disconnected modern societies are from ‘nature’.”
Earth Day started as a grassroots protest movement in 1970 and has solidified into an annual event. What does Earth Day mean in 2014?

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ESA Policy News: June 14
Jun14

ESA Policy News: June 14

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. EDUCATION: STEM REORGANIZATION EFFORT MEETS BIPARTISAN CRITICISM On June 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing examining the Obama Administration’s proposed reorganization of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) programs outlined in its proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Under the plan, 110 of 226 federal agency STEM programs would be eliminated. The plan would house STEM programs primarily under three agencies: the Department of Education (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI). DOE would oversee K-12 programs, NSF would oversee undergraduate and graduate programs while the Smithsonian would be responsible for informal science education. The proposal, an effort on the part of the administration to deal with the reality of current fiscal constraints, was met with inquiries and skepticism from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and former chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) were all particularly concerned with the reorganization’s impact on STEM programs within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The reorganization would cut NASA programs by one-third. NASA’s STEM programs would lose $50 million under the reorganization effort.  There were also bipartisan concerns that the reorganization does not include enough focus on vocational training programs or programs that seek to increase STEM participation among underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Members of Congress expressed concern that the reorganization effort was decided primarily through the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with little input from school districts, non-profits, universities or the federal agency program managers responsible for the programs slated for elimination. “In addition to being concerned about the process, I have serious concerns with the budget proposal itself.  To be blunt, it seems to me it was not very well thought out,” stated Ranking Member Johnson. Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren noted that no one wants to see their own programs reduced or eliminated. View the full hearing here. CLIMATE CHANGE: US, CHINA REACH DEAL ON HFC EMISSIONS On June 8, the White House announced that the United States had reached an agreement with China to reduce the use of use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are greenhouse gases used in refrigerator and air conditioner appliances. The most common types of HFCs are anywhere from a hundred to a thousand times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet. According to the White House, HFC emissions could grow to nearly...

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Diverse People for a Diverse Science

By Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs “Just watch these students—watch for their names.  They will continue to shine and you will keep coming across their names.  Some are already taking leadership roles and after this meeting will be doing even more to help bring ecology alive.” Teresa Mourad is talking about the undergraduate students who will gather next week for the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) SEEDS Leadership Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Mourad is ESA’s Director of Education and Diversity Programs and manages its award-winning SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program. SEEDS’ mission is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented undergraduate students to not only participate in ecology, but to lead. The program’s 8th annual leadership meeting will bring together over 35 students to participate in a four-day meeting they helped develop and will help run.  Held this year at Dillard University, a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in New Orleans, the February 20-23 meeting will feature workshops, field trips, data analysis, discussion panels and projects all under the rubric of ecological recovery and harnessing science to build social resilience. Mourad says this year’s theme and location really underscore the human components of environmental disasters.  SEEDS students are very interested in seeing the science of ecology make a difference in human communities, such as those impacted by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  The leadership meeting will include a case study of the hurricane as well as the BP oil spill of 2010. “Being there to witness a rebounding community—I hope that the students leave with a sense of hope, a sense of what is possible,” says Mourad. The students will learn how ecological impacts of disasters are measured and what role ecologists have played before and after these events.  They will conduct natural resource damage assessments in the New Orleans lower 9th ward neighborhood and will also learn about rebuilding the city and ways in which ecologists can inform and support recovery efforts. ESA’s president, Scott Collins (University of New Mexico) will run a workshop on scientific ethics to explore topics such as the responsibility of researchers toward the community. Faculty members from the University of New Orleans, Loyola University and Dillard University will also run workshops at the meeting. Tracy Austin, Executive Director of the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas, will share with SEEDS students her insights on careers in the private sector.  Mitsubishi is helping to support this year’s SEEDS Leadership Program. Working with mentors, students will develop recommendations and ideas that address key components of the meeting, such as...

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