Communicating science

Monica Peters 3MT contestant, Perth 2014Good #scicomm delivers technical information to a broader audience using understandable, engaging language and strong visuals. It’s a 2-way street: scientists spread their messages while informed community members can participate more effectively in decision-making that shapes our environment. In funding-speak, the public are no longer just ‘end-users’, they’re ‘action partners’.

I remind myself of this when I am presenting. Over the years, I have listened to many excruciating presentations and sat through scores of dull workshops. To improve my overall communication and presentation skills, I decided the best approach is simply to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. I record every presentation I deliver and then evaluate it. My local Toastmasters group (Ruakura Midway) has been a great help providing a forum for regular practice and feedback. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to over the last few years

Public lectures
I have been invited to present at community events such as Waitakere Ranges Conservation Network Annual Symposia and Forest & Bird Branch meetings (Auckland), at Landcare Networking Days (Waikato), the Waikato Botanical Society and at Science Society gatherings (Nelson), as well as to groups overseas (Lake Sunapee Protective Society, and the University of Florida Dept. of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences). I’ve also thrown my hat in the ring to speak at two Sci café events in Tauranga, both on citizen science.

Selected Conference/Symposia Presentations

  • Austrian Citizen Science Assn. Conference, Austria, June 2019
  • Waitakere Ranges Conservation Network Seminar, Oct 2018
  • ‘Pestival’ Auckland Council, Auckland, Sept 2018
  • Citizen Science Symposium, Te Papa, Wellington, April 2018
  • Citizen Science Roundtable, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington, Feb 2018
  • Animal Sentience workshop, Ministry of Primary Industries, Wellington, Nov 2017
  • Hamilton Junior Naturalists, Hamilton, July 2017
  • University College London, London, May 2017
  • Waiatakere Ranges Conservation Network, Swanson, April 2017
  • Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference, Hamilton, Nov 2016
  • Science Communicators Association of NZ Conference, Dunedin, Nov 2016
  • Forest & Bird Annual Conference, Wellington, June 2016
  • European Citizen Science Association Conference Berlin(Germany), May 2016
  • National Wetland Trust Symposium, Nelson, Feb 2016
  • Wilf Malcom Institute for Educational Research Symposium, Wellington, Dec 2015
  • Science Communicators Association of NZ Conference, Wellington, Nov 2015
  • NZ Ecological Society Conference, Christchurch, Nov 2015
  • Environmental Defense Society Conference, Auckland, Aug 2015
  • Citizen Science Association Conference, San Jose (USA), Feb 2015
  • Whau River Catchment Trust Seminar, Auckland, May 2016
  • Department of Conservation Seminar, Wellington, Feb 2014
  • National Lake Management Society Conference, Tampa (USA), Nov 2014
  • Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust Conference, Dunedin 2013

3MT (3 Minute Thesis) October 2013
Originally an Australian invention, the annual competition was developed for research students – possibly to prevent them from becoming the most boring dinner party guests ever. The main questions to be addressed are: What are you researching? Why this topic? What are the values/outcomes of your research? You can view my winning presentation here

I’ve also facilitated over 30 workshops for landowners, community environmental groups, societies/trusts, scientists and government agency staff, and been a panelist at the Sanctuaries Hui (Hamilton, Aug 2016) and in the
Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference (Hamilton, Nov 2016). I occasionally produce articles for magazines such as Wet’n’Wild (National Wetland Trust). Links to my academic publications can be found here.

Here’s an article on citizen science:
Blundell, S. 2015. Here’s lookin’ at ya. NZ Listener, October 8.

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