Earlier this year, Andrew issued his Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an Op-Ed. Inspired, I thought I would straight up steal Andrew’s idea and give a few tips on writing an effective advocacy letter, the type of letter you’d send to a government official to ask them to help protect the ocean.
In my conservation career I’ve written hundreds of letters to all levels of government, from agency staff to presidents. Advocacy letters are one of the more effective tools in the arsenal of conservation tactics. They are a great way of communicating a message directly to a targeted person (assuming the letter gets read, of course!) and are a great way to kick off a discussion on protecting the ocean between concerned citizens and government officials. Here are a few tips: Read More
I recently unveiled a new tier of Patreon rewards: 3D printed shark and ray models!For $17 per month, you will get a monthly 3D printed educational model of different shark or ray parts in the mail, and you’ll be supporting my efforts to provide these models to schools for free.
This month’s reward is a tooth from Hexanchus griseus, the bluntnose sixgill shark, a member of the cowshark family!This particular specimen was scanned by Dr. Lisa Whitenack as part of her Ph.D. dissertation work on comparative evolution and biomechanics of shark teeth.
Figure from Whitenack et al. 2011, the sixgill tooth is the one in the lower right! This paper studied teeth of different shapes using Finite Element Analysis (FEA). When Lisa inputs the shape of the tooth, how elastic the tooth is, and how much force the tooth experiences into her computer program, FEA will map out stress on the entire tooth. High points of stress are where a tooth would be likely to break.
Learn more about the bluntnose sixgill shark and it’s unusual shaped teeth below!
If you’ve been following along with our weekly round-up of ocean news, the Monday Morning Salvage (and, if not, why aren’t you reading the Monday Morning Salvage? It’s your one stop shop for the latest and greatest in ocean science and conservation news!) you probably noticed that we called for scientists and conservation professionals to write OpEds or Letters to the Editor this May. We heard from several folks that they submitted articles, though we haven’t heard back that any have been published yet (please leave a link in the comments if yours have). So, we’re extending the challenge and asking science and conservation professionals to take a stand for something you care about and submit a letter or article to your local paper.
Why? A recent study with a large sample size, published this year, demonstrated that OpEds can play a significant in shaping people’s opinions about political and social issues. Though this CATO Institute funded study has a distinctively libertarian slant in the issues they chose to use as treatments, the results are reasonably compelling. Not only did OpEds influence how readers felt about an issue, but regardless of political group, exposure to an OpEd made the reader more likely to agree with the author’s position.
“We find limited evidence of treatment effect heterogeneity by party identification: Democrats, Republicans, and independents all appear to move in the predicted direction by similar magnitudes… Despite large differences in demographics and initial political beliefs, we find that op-eds were persuasive to both the mass public and elites, but marginally more persuasive among the mass public.”
Credit: WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock
This is part of the new regular column on science communication. To suggest a topic, email [email protected]
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re in middle school. The spring formal is approaching and if you don’t have a date, you will literally die ohmygod. Your goal is “find someone to go to the dance with me”. You can’t just walk into the cafeteria and scream “SOMEONE GO TO THE DANCE WITH ME”. (I mean, you can, but…) You need to be tactical. You need to have a specific audience in mind.
A poorly defined audience (or one that is overly broad) is the root cause of the vast majority of issues I run into when I’m working with someone on their science outreach. From “I don’t know where to start” to “I can’t get anyone to listen/subscribe/come to my talk/donate,” my first question is always going to be “who is your audience?”. My next question is going to be “okay, now can you narrow that down”?.
The temptation is always going to be to have the broadest audience possible. If you aren’t appealing to EVERYONE you might miss out on potential opportunities! You could turn away a potential audience! You could miss out on the chance to be the most beloved science communicator that ever communicated!
I have a fundamentally tactical approach to science communication, which occasionally puts me at odds with more conventional practices. Some of the most common pieces of advice in scicomm tend to be the least effective for accurately and precisely communicating your message to a target audience.
Release the Kraken.
1. The J-Word.
Jargon. Jargon. Jargon. We’re all supposed to eradicate jargon from our outreach. Jargon should be avoided. We need to rehab our use of jargon. Hone your science writing by only using the ten hundred most common words (because ‘thousand’ isn’t among the top 1000 word). Sure, these are good exercises for thinking about how you communicate science, but as actual communication advice, it’s big animal that makes white drink back end drop.
Jargon is beautiful. Jargon is powerful. Not only are jargon words often more precise than their generic equivalent, but jargon acts as a form of shorthand. It tells your intended audience “hey, friend, this article/film/tweet/podcast is for you”. Outreach in all forms is always targeted towards a specific audience. Using jargon well helps define that audience and helps that audience connect to your piece. Smart use of jargon can make a good piece of outreach into a tactical piece of outreach.
Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think about jargon use at all. Understanding how different words are used in different contexts and how technical language can alienate non-specialist audiences is essential to producing high-quality outreach. But the general advice that we should all just avoid jargon the least effective approach possible.
OceansOnline is now accepting abstracts! OceansOnline is an optional one-day add-on to the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5).This year’s IMCC (including OceansOnline) will take place in Kuching, Malaysia. IMCC5 is June 22-29th, 2018 with OceansOnline on the 2018.
OceansOnline focuses on using online tools for marine science and conservation, including advocacy, public education, research, and collaboration! Anyone is welcome, including scientists, conservation advocates, educators, natural resource managers, journalists, and communicators. OceansOnline content is suitable for beginners or professionals.
Be sure to follow #SharkScienceMonday on twitter every Monday morning of 2018 (starting January 8th)! Each week, a team of researchers* will be discussing a different scientific paper related to shark and ray biology, behavior, ecology, or management.
Some papers will be new and cutting edge, while others will be classics. They’ll all have one thing in common: a member of the Dulvy lab thought that they had an interesting or important result that significantly contributed to our various areas of expertise. Whenever possible, we will share a link to an open access copy of the paper so everyone can read along.
After we summarize the key takeaways from each paper, we’ll take questions. We’ll also start a discussion about that specific paper and the discipline that it is a part of, including suggesting various experts you can follow on twitter.
We hope that you’ll follow along with us, and that you’ll learn some interesting and important things about elasmobranch research and management!
2017 was… yeah. Of all the years I’ve lived through, 2017 was definitely one of them. Anyway, some interesting things happened in the world of shark research. Here, in no particular order, are 17 amazing and important things that scientists discovered about sharks and rays over the last year.
1 Sharks can switch between sexual and asexual reproduction. We’ve known that several shark species can reproduce asexually for over a decade now, but this year, Dudgeon and friends showed an individual shark switching between sexual and asexual reproduction for the first time!
Noteworthy media coverage: CNN, National Geographic, Gizmodo
Join a team of conservation biologists and wildlife experts for a live science communication event! We are going watch the award-winning BBC documentary series Planet Earth 2 together, tweeting expert commentary and reactions throughout using #PlanetEarthChat. Anyone is free to join in the discussion, and is free to ask questions of our expert team.
We’ll be starting our episodes all at exactly the same time, so anyone who wants to participate can be sure to be synched with us. I’ll make a Storify of all the tweets transcript at the end.
Mastodon is a new(ish), decentralized Twitter-like social network that’s grown quite a bit in the last few months. Mastodon allows individuals to host their own “instances” (i.e. run a full suite of the software on a private server in order to distribute the network), which connect to the larger universe of open-source social networks. This means that, unlike Twitter and Facebook and pretty much every major social networking platform, there’s no one person in control of Mastodon (though the largest instance is run by Mastodon’s creator). Accounts from any Mastodon instance can follow any account from any public instance.
So what, there’s another social network we have to check now?
This is Southern Fried Science. We like to push forward into new digital ecosystems and create places for marine science and conservation. In that spirit, I’ve created oceansocial.us, a Mastodon instance specifically for marine professionals working in science, education, conservation, policy, and management. Craig McClain’s latest science communication paper, Practices and promises of Facebook for science outreach: Becoming a “Nerd of Trust”., I want to see if there’s value in having an instance that makes it easy to find experts talking about the ocean. For the moment, anyone with an oceansocial.us Mastodon handle is immediately identifiable on the network, making is easier for journalist and the public to find ocean experts.
This, of course, is contingent on Mastodon actually taking off. It could still totally crash and burn and be dead as Google+ in 3 months. Mastodon is still growing, and my experience watching new social networks form (and often fail) is that’s there’s a tremendous first-mover advantage in getting something new and novel running right out the gate.