Lions, Whales, and the Web: Transforming Moment Inertia into Conservation Action

I have a new paper out today with an incredible team of co-authors: Naomi Rose, Mel Cosentino, and Andrew Wright.

Thaler and friends (2017) Lions, Whales, and the Web: Transforming Moment Inertia into Conservation Action. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00292.

In it, we look at three case-studies of online and offline reactions to the deaths of specific, charismatic animals, and discuss how preparation, planning, and tactical thinking can be used to promote effective conservation messaging in the wake of these haphazard events. We talk about how outrage, empathy, and curiosity play a role in the global conversation and how to effectively mobilize this attention into conservation action.

Conservation activism following moment inertia is a balancing act between strategic planning and a quick, tactical response. When the catalyst is moral outrage, it is important to allow people to be angry, rather than to try and curb such responses. In these circumstances, it is possible to leverage predictable moral signaling into tangible conservation gains.

Regardless of the emotional reaction—outrage, curiosity, or empathy—the general guidelines for conservationists leveraging moment inertia are the same. First, planning for pseudorandom events is essential to produce meaningful outcomes. Second, understanding the limitations of campaigning on an inertial moment will help establish and achieve concrete, realistic goals. Third, the call to action must be informed by the local context, address local cultural values, and be delivered by those who can connect with the public. Finally, it is critical to maintain a factual basis while acknowledging the emotions involved.

With foresight, a focus on concrete goals, and an understanding of the strengths and limitations inherent in moment inertia, these events can be harnessed to help achieve lasting conservation successes.

Thaler and friends (2017)

What is Moment Inertia: Moment Inertia is a phenomenon that arises from focus of attention around a single, clarifying event, or moment, which propagates, undirected, through media unless acted upon by outside forces.

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Hone your social media #SciComm skills with ocean science pros.

Looking to boost your ocean outreach skills in a more formal setting? We’ve got two opportunities for social media training with ocean science and ocean communications experts from Southern Fried Science:

LUMCON Summer Course: Join me at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium on the Gulf Coast for a week-long workshop on Science Communication Using Social Media led by yours truly. We’ll cover the foundations of social media platforms and best practices for communicating your research to both general and targeted audiences. We’ll also discuss metrics and measuring how effective your outreach really is.

Duke Environmental Leadership Program: For the fifth year, Dr. Amy Freitag and I will run Social Media for Environmental Communications, a 7-week, online-only course that digs deep into the fundamentals of using social media for environmental communications, provides a critical assessment of the available tools, and teaches student to design effective communications campaigns and assess their impact.


Combating fake science in popular media – six months later

As noted earlier, David and my paper on twitter, social media, Shark Week, and fake documentaries came out last week. Since scientific publishing has a “long tail” — the time between when we actually wrote the paper and when it was published, in this case, was almost 9 months — we thought it might be a useful exercise to discuss our paper in the context of the months leading up to and following the most recent Shark Week. Enjoy!

You can find the original paper here: Fish tales: Combating fake science in popular media.

A field guide to ocean science and conservation on Twitter, volume 2

Almost 2 years ago, we published our first field guide to ocean science and conservation on twitter. While the advice is still sound (and you should definitely read it), the recommended people to follow is now painfully dated. Here’s two updated lists of core people to follow on twitter to get yourself plugged in to the ocean science and conservation community.

New to the online ocean community? This list will help you get connected to the conversation by following key members of the community. Rather than a comprehensive collection of all ocean science and conservation broadcasters, this short list will help you follow along without becoming overwhelmed.

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2 opportunities to hone your online science outreach skills

Looking for classes on science, social media, and online environmental writing? We’ve got two classes coming up for undergraduate, graduate, and professionals students looking to hone their online outreach skills.

Social Media For Environmental Communications: taught this year by me and Dr. Amy Freitag, this course will be taught over 6 weeks this spring as an immersive online-only course–the course will be conducted entirely through social media platforms (primarily Google+ Hangouts). Sign up early as early registration ends on March 17 and space is limited. This will be our second year teaching the class, which was very well received last year.

Writing In The Digital Ecosystem: Effective Environmental Writing Through Social Media: A brand new course taught at the Duke University Marine Lab in scenic Beaufort, NC. Undergraduates from any institution looking for an educational experience on the coast can enroll in Summer Term II at the Duke Marine Lab. Plenty of other outstanding ocean science and policy courses are on offer during the same term. Graduate students enrolled in Duke’s Masters in Environmental Management program can also enroll.

How to live-tweet a conference: A guide for conference organizers and twitter users

Attending scientific conferences is one of my favorite parts of my job. I get to travel to interesting places (and Mobile, Alabama), catch up with colleagues, learn about what smart people all over the world are up to, and get feedback on my own research from those smart people. Conferences help me to learn about the world, network with people in my field, and become a better scientist. To date, I’ve attended 13 conferences (including 3 international ones), and I learn something new at each one.

There are a lot of non-scientists in the world who care about many of the issues discussed at scientific conferences, issues like climate change, endangered species, overfishing, and cool new discoveries about sharks. The overwhelming majority of these non-scientists lack the resources or the time to attend conferences, and many might not even know that they’re happening. In many cases, increased public awareness of a conservation issue is exactly what’s needed to help fix the problem. If the interested public can’t attend conferences and the mainstream media doesn’t typically cover them, how can we get the word out?

Image courtesy, used with permission

Part of the answer is social media, the so-called Web 2.0 technologies that simultaneously make it easier than ever before in human history for people to share information with the world (without traditional gatekeepers like the mainstream media), and make it easier than ever before in human history for people to find information about topics they care about. One social media tool that lends itself particularly well to sharing information from a conference is twitter, and live-tweeting conferences is a growing trend. For the purpose of this post, I define live-tweeting (henceforth simply “tweeting”) as simply tweeting about conference presentations and events. This tweeting can take place during the actual conference presentation (in several cases, I’ve been able to relay a question to a presenter from one of my twitter followers during the official question and answer period associated with a presentation), but doesn’t necessarily have to be. At one conference, I simply took notes on talks and tweeted about them later- the only disadvantages of this strategy are that you can’t relay questions from your followers to the presenters and you may be discussing the same topic at a different time as other twitter users.

Presented below is a guide for conference organizers to promote conference tweeting, and a guide for interested twitter users to use the tool to maximum effect. The guide is with specific reference to getting important information from a conference to the interested non-scientist not-present-at-the-conference public. There are many other goals for conference tweeting (taking notes on a conference primarily for personal use, sharing important technical information with colleagues in your field, etc), and the strategies and suggestions below may not be appropriate for these goals.

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