Science Communication

Live from New Orleans, graduate students’ forays into environmental journalism!

Scientists are accustomed to a certain flow of work in daily life. We use logic and reasoning to formulate hypotheses, develop experiments, and analyze endlessly complex data sets. There is often a dichotomy between scientists and the general public. While we can sometimes rely on journalists and reporters to translate and communicate for us, it is critical to have these skills in our own arsenal and develop an appreciation for the work of journalists.

For the next few days Tara Stevens and Kelly Canesi will be at the 24th Annual Society for Environmental Journalists Conference in New Orleans to learn more about science communication with a group from the Metcalf Institute (URI). Tara is a Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Dr. Bob Kenney at the Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) at the University of Rhode Island (URI). Her research focuses on the behavior and ecology of killer whales in the northwest Atlantic. She is also a writer, having published a field guide to whales and dolphins in 2013. Kelly is an M.S. student studying phytoplankton population dynamics with Dr. Tatiana Rynearson at URI GSO.

We will live tweet throughout the conference (@KellyCanesi, @TaraS309, and @MetcalfURI) and blog about our experiences. We’re here to learn from the many journalists who have traveled from across the country to share their experiences and learn from one another. How can we make science more understandable and interesting? Which stories should we tell and why? What are we, as scientists, missing that would make us better translators? These are the questions we hope to answer by the end of the week. Additionally, we want to know how we can help journalists and reporters translate research into information to be consumed by the general public.

The theme of this conference is “Risk and Resilience,” which couldn’t be more applicable to our current location. New Orleans is no stranger to the threat of environmental disaster, especially after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our location amplifies the importance of increasing awareness of environmental issues and preparing Americans for future challenges such as climate change. We will be reporting from New Orleans on the important environmental and marine topics of the day and, of course, sharing our adventures in environmental journalism and communication. Let’s see how we fare as oceanographers in a sea of journalists!


This program is supported by a grant to study Seasonal Trophic Roles of Euphasia superba (STRES) from the National Science Foundation’s Division  of Polar Programs (Award Number 1142082). Read more about the STRES project here.

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