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Science Communication

Why I want to talk about science with you

I’ve spent the last year telling you about the science that other people have done- I am so excited to tell you about myself this time!

How I got here

At work (obviously) in the Florida Keys

I decided to save the world after I read A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeline L’Engle. In this book, a young woman saves sick dolphins by talking to them with her mind. 5th-grade me was all, “I want THAT to be my job!” By the time I realized that dolphin telepathy isn’t actually possible, I was hooked on the ocean anyway. I was fortunate enough to attend a number of science-themed summer camps and, when I reached university, to hold a variety of internship positions (note to students: there is almost always a scholarship that you can apply to if this sounds like your kind of thing). I studied everything from fiddler crabs to whales and worked both firmly on land and mostly at sea. All this experience led me to realize that I wanted to be the one deciding what was most important to learn about our world- I wanted to lead my own research program.

So I earned my PhD in ecology. I worked in tropical red mangrove ecosystems in the Caribbean. My dissertation examined how nutrient pollution influences the way that these mangroves grow and how those growth changes impact the habitat quality of mangrove ecosystems. I had a lot of fun setting up some huge and longer-term field experiments.

My dissertation determined how nutriend pollution changes red mangrove marine habitat structure. I then connected those changes to habitat quality.

 

At the end of my dissertation, however, I realized that I was more interested in the impact of my work than the information I’d generated. All the excellent research that scientists do will not change the world unless it reaches beyond the academic sphere. So I started looking for ways to connect with the public. Blogging was the obvious way to start and Oceanbites was the perfect place for me to expand my marine interests.

Why scientists should talk about science

There is growing evidence that all sorts of issues besides facts influence whether people “believe” in a particular piece of science. Establishing a personal connection with science and understanding more about the scientific process can remedy this problem. We scientists are best set up to reveal what it’s like to gather and interpret evidence because we are, after all, the ones doing it.

The time is ripe for scientists to reach beyond their peers to discuss their work. When most adults want to know about a specific science topic, they research it using the internet. And they want to hear from scientists about why science matters.

So talking about science helps people understand it and live a life guided by sound scientific principles.

Plus it is SO MUCH FUN to tell people why I love science!

What’s next

I am leaving Oceanbites but pursuing a career in science communication. My (very broad) goal is to connect non-scientists with science. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but you can follow my adventures by visiting me on facebook or twitter. I won’t be the one generating information any more, I’ll be the one reminding you that we need science in our lives- it keeps us healthy, happy, and safe.

Virginia Schutte
I just finished my graduate education in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. I received my Ph.D. in Ecology in August 2014. My dissertation is all about the creatures that make the habitat for an ecosystem just by growing themselves. I’ve done my research in mangroves; trees that live at the edge of the ocean in the tropics. Before coming to UGA, I earned my B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I worked on a variety of marine ecology projects.

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