I can’t count the number of times I’ve started reading a scientific paper and thought to myself, “I have no idea what these authors are trying to say”. While this has gotten better as I’ve furthered my education, it shows the frustrating reality of science: it is not communicated in a way that is accessible to most people, especially the general public. Effective communication is so important to allow everyone to access scientific knowledge, regardless of their educational background.

Part of my internship at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park has been creating programs to share science with the general public. The first of these focused on the release of the first images

The James Webb image of 5 interacting galaxies. There are many other small light sources in the image, all of which are other galaxies or stars.
Stephan’s Quintent, A.K.A. Isabel’s favorite image from the JWST’s first images. (Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI).

from the James Webb Space Telescope. I wrote a script for and filmed a video about the telescope and the connection that it has to LYJO. We also showed the live-stream of the image release in our visitor’s center. During this live-stream, I was present to talk to visitors about the image releases and any questions that they might have. Astronomy is a field where science communication is important because so much of astronomy happens on scales we rarely have to think about on Earth. It can be hard to wrap your head around, but effective communication that avoids jargon and confusing language can help!

Isabel carrying a water bottle and a clipboard while wearing the Scientists in Parks polo shirt stands on a trail at the Johnson Settlement near sunset.
Isabel leading the night hike at the Johnson Settlement (Photo Credit: Adam Cox).

At the park, I also lead a night hike around the Johnson Settlement. We began our walk just after sunset and concluded as the stars were starting to come out around the park. This provided an opportunity to discuss the effects of light pollution on the Hill Country, and especially the effects it has on animals. While the LBJ Ranch is a dark sky park, the Johnson Settlement is located in the town of Johnson City, TX and experiences the effects of light pollution more than the the Ranch. On our night hike, I talked about how animals have a relationship with the night sky and use it to regulate their behavior, and the detrimental effects light pollution has on them. Ecology is an area where science communication is especially important because of the effects climate change and the environment have on everyone. Dispersing this information in an understandable way helps allow everyone to understand what exactly is happening.

I also had the privilege to be sent by my park to visit the Space Center Houston to see how they were sharing information about astronomy and space exploration with the public and bring that

A selfie of Isabel in front of the Apollo 11 mission control room, which is a room with many old screens and computers lit up.
Isabel visiting the Apollo 11 Mission Control Room at the Johnson Space Center during their visit to Space Center Houston. The Johnson Space Center is named after Lyndon B. Johnson, which is one of the connections that prompted this trip. (Photo Credit: Isabel McIntyre)

information back to our park. Science is collaborative, and so science communication should be collaborative as well. There’s always room to improve, and this trip gave me an excellent chance to become a better science communicator by learning from others! I love science and I want others to love it as well, and science communication is crucial for that.

Published by Isabel McIntyre

Isabel is a Scientists in Parks Fellow located at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. They graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in Astronomy and Biological Sciences, and will be continuing their studies this fall at Arizona State University in the Astrophysics PhD program, focusing on galaxy formation and evolution. In their free time, Isabel loves music (and is learning guitar and banjo) and dance.