02 July 2021

So, what’s the deal with science communication?

Written by: Karlee Jewell

While there are several different definitions out there for the term “science communication”. I generally understand science communication to be public communication presenting science related topics to non-experts. In fact, a component of my graduate research is rooted in science communication.

As a graduate student at Humboldt State University in Northern California my graduate research focuses on a 20-year long citizen science study of the North American River Otter. The objective of my research is to understand how the project can take what we are learning about the North American River Otter from citizen scientists and communicate that scientific knowledge back in a way that is relevant and engaging. How have I attempted to do that?

First, I built an interactive map that synthesizes river otter observations between 2015-2020. Second, I included place, people, and otter stories on the map as well. These stories aim to connect map users with river otters and their associated habitats as well as other community who are engaged in citizen science. Next, I built a website that share project goals, objectives, and findings from 2000-2020. The website also shares important information about the North American River Otter, Northern California habitat which support them, and other endeavors that have stemmed from the citizen science project. Interested? You can check it out here:

I believe through communicating science in interactive and engaging methods we can reach new audiences and better support and retain those already involved in science initiatives. This method of science communication from the scientist to the public is something I’m very attuned to. However, through my DFP position I’ve been able to think about an entirely different type of science communication that involves communicating science and conservation between scientists and conservation professionals.

I have the pleasure of participating in the Southwest Non-Native Aquatics Species Community of Practice (NNA CoP) which facilitates information-sharing and supports the development of tools that have the potential to improve our collective ability to address non-native aquatic species in the southwestern United States. The Collaborative Conservation and Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST) supports the NNA CoP and serves as an online platform to share Case Studies that provide useful information and lessons learned from natural resources management and research across North America. It is a multi-organizational partnership coordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation.  

Both initiatives above demonstrate the importance of science communication and knowledge exchange between scientists, natural resource managers and conservation professionals. These opportunities for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange provide an opportunity for increased communication between practitioners and collaboration among organizations which can ultimately lead to greater conservation successes for fish and wildlife within the United States.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to support the NNA CoP and CCAST. It has expanded my understanding of science communication and provided me with opportunities to support knowledge exchange and science communication between conservation practitioners, scientists, researchers, and others.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: Directorate Fellows Program

Location: Tucson Ecological Services Field Office

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