Archive for ‘Science Communication’

January 26, 2015

Confessions of a Plant Lover: BIA Fellow Jessi Turner Published in EcoMyths!

by Melissa Harding

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Yet another of our Botany in Action Fellows has been honored this month – Jessica Turner is the author of a recently published article at EcoMyth! Entitled “Why Plants are Awesome to Study: A Love Song from a Scientist“, Jessi’s article speaks about why she prefers to study humble plants over more exciting animal and human subjects. She not only explains why plants are such great subjects for research, but also why they are important to each and every one of us.

The Botany in Action Fellowship program at Phipps fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed, first, to excellent research, and second, to educational outreach. We are so excited for Jessi to have this great opportunity to share her work with a larger audience!

To read Jessi’s article, check it out on EcoMyth! Additionally, check out this piece that Jessi wrote last year for the blog, Understanding the Human Connection the American Ginseng.

Learn more about Jessi and follow her research at her website !

The above photo of Jessi was taken by Chelsie Romulo.  

January 21, 2015

Phipps Is Hosting a Spring Science Communication Workshop – Apply Now!

by Melissa Harding

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We are offering an exciting opportunity for graduate students, faculty and staff scientists to connect their work to diverse public audiences. Please consider participating in our new Portal to the Public program at Phipps this spring!

The goal of the Portal to the Public program is to provide training in science communication for graduate students and professionals in science fields and provide an opportunity for the public to interact with scientists. Phipps will provide the communication training and the venue for scientists and the public to discuss science. Scholarships will be provided to all accepted members of the 2015 cohort. Please review the flyer below for more details, including a link to the application, and share it with all potentially interested contacts.

Completed applications are due to Amanda Joy by February 27, 2015.

Click on the flyer below for more information:

PoP Flyer

Download the application HERE.

Apply today!

The above photo was taken by Science Education and Research staff.

 

January 16, 2015

National Living Lab is Back for Winter!

by Melissa Harding

Shape Game

After taking a holiday break, The National Living Lab science communication program is back for the new semester! Phipps visitors will once again have the opportunity to help real scientists gather data for their research.

In the National Living Lab (NLL) model, scientists in the fields of child developmental and psychological research conduct their studies at local museums, recruiting study participants from museum visitors. These researchers then work with museum educators to communicate  their work to visitors through innovative activities and one-on-one interactions with the researchers themselves. These studies occur on the museum floor, in plain view of visitors, allowing them to be drawn in to the process. Participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.  Studies on the effectiveness of this approach have found that watching children participate in research studies increases adult awareness of child development as a science and that one-on-one conversations between adults and scientists increase adult understanding of the scientific process and their overall scientific literacy.

At Phipps, we have been working with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Discovery Process Lab to provide a museum setting for their work. CMU’s Discovery Process Lab is concerned with exploring children’s scientific reasoning. Phipps is partnering with Dr. Audrey Kittredge, a post-doctoral researcher at the lab, as part of the National Living Lab program; Dr. Kittredge is committed to understanding children’s scientific thinking and problem-solving. In particular, her current studies focus on young children’s independent exploration and experimentation, and on the ways that teachers and other adults may shape children’s learning of these skills. Dr. Kittredge is also committed to making her work applicable both formal and informal educators and to providing them with useful knowledge to help better engage their students.

Dr. Kittredge and her research staff will be continuing to conduct research on a regular basis this winter and spring. In addition to collecting data for her work, she and her staff will also be engaging all visitors about their research and why it is important. The goal of the NLL program is not just to conduct research in a public setting, but for scientists to have face-to-face communication with the general public and give them access to science as it is happening. We are so excited to be able to provide our visitors with this exceptional educational experience!

To join Dr. Kittredge and her team at Phipps, check them out from 9:30 -11:30 am and 1:00 – 3:00pm:
January 17
February 7
February 21
March 21
March 28

You can also follow us on our Phipps Science Education and Research Facebook Page for updates!

Having researchers working in public settings, like museums and libraries, is a great way to involve families in the scientific process. Through participation in studies and interaction with scientists, visitors, researchers and museums can all benefit!

If you are a museum professional and would like to learn more about a Living Lab hub near you, check out the National Living Lab Initiative.

To learn more about the National Science Foundation, click here!

The above photo was taken by Science Education and Research staff.

 

 

December 19, 2014

Interview with a Scientist: BIA Fellow Stephen Murphy

by Melissa Harding

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If there is one segment of society that is often misunderstood, it is people who work in science fields. Public perception of scientists tends to lean towards lab coats, crazy hair and beakers full of chemicals, especially in the eyes of children.  In reality, most scientists are just regular people who want to make the world a better place through scientific discovery. The best way to dispel the myth that scientists are boring or crazy is to get to know them; the purpose of this segment is to talk with real scientists to ask them what they love about their jobs and why they think their work is fun and important.

For our next installment in this series, we sat down with BIA Fellow Stephen Murphy. The Botany in Action Fellowship program at Phipps fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed, first, to excellent research, and second, to educational outreach. The BIA program provides Fellows with funding for use towards field research in the US or abroad and a trip to Phipps, to engage in science outreach training and opportunities to share his or her research to public audiences. Stephen is in his first year as a BIA Fellow, researching tree growth in southwestern Pennsylvania.

We interviewed Stephen about his surprising love of computer work, the thrill of publishing his first paper, and why he loves working outside:

1. Introduce yourself and your work in 5 sentences or less.

My name is Stephen and I’m currently a graduate assistant and PhD student in the ecology and evolution department at Ohio State University. My research focuses primarily on temperate deciduous forests in southwestern Pennsylvania. I’m very interested in helping to understand why trees grow and thrive where they do, and how they interact with each other across space and time. I’m also very involved with undergraduate education, and have been a teaching assistant for courses ranging from introductory biology to sustainable agriculture.

2. Why did you become a scientist?

I grew up loving science. I come from a family of physicians, so science (and particularly biology), has always been of great interest to me. I always knew that I would major in biology in college, but it wasn’t until I took a botany course my junior year that I actually got interested in plant ecology. To be honest, the only reason that I even took the class was because the other elective that I wanted to take filled up and there weren’t any other options! It’s funny how little things like that can have such an impact on the rest of your entire life. I can’t imagine doing anything different now that I’ve been pursuing a career in plant ecology for so long now. The work suits my personality and interests perfectly. I have always enjoyed working outdoors, camping, and the likes and now I get to do that as part of my work. It’s very rewarding work.

3. What part do plants play in your research?

Plants, and trees in particular, are my primary area of interest. I’m fascinated by how trees interact with each other and with their surrounding environment. I’m hoping to make a career out of better understanding exactly how these interactions work in nature.

4. What is the most exciting thing you have ever done at work? 

Submitting my first paper was probably the most exciting thing that I’ve done thus far in my career. It is both exciting and nerve-wracking to put your work out there for review, but knowing that you will leave a permanent contribution to the field feels very rewarding. Other than that, working outside in the woods is always an adventure. I’ve ran into bears and rattlesnakes and bobcats, and have definitely had to work through some tough weather conditions before. You never know what’s gonna happen!

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 5. What skills do you use in your job?

Whenever I meet a student who expresses interest in pursuing a career in the natural sciences, I always ask them two questions: do you like to read, and do you like to write? With few exceptions, these two skills are more important than any other in science. These two skills have probably helped me in my career more than any other. You don’t necessarily have to be a mathematical wizard or a world authority on something to be a good scientist, but you do have to know how to read and write effectively. Reading skills are important for scientists to keep up-to-date with the vast amount of information that’s out there, and for developing new ideas for future projects. Conversely, writing skills are paramount for disseminating your own work to a wide audience, including both scientists and non-scientists alike. Beyond these two skills, I also use statistical methods and programming software for analyzing data, as well as graphical software for producing figures and maps. Public speaking is also an important part of my job, both for teaching and for presenting my work at scientific conferences.

6. What is your favorite part of your job?

Working in the field collecting new data is definitely at the top of the list. It’s always great getting back outside and away from the office for a while. However, I also really enjoy the data analysis component of research, which was a rather unexpected turn because I never had much experience with it prior to graduate school. I think my job is great because once I get bored with one thing it’s usually time to get back to other. I get the best of both worlds!

7. If you weren’t a scientist, what job would you choose?

If I had to truly start everything over and choose a career outside of science, I think computer programming would be an ideal job. I have discovered that I enjoy the computer-oriented aspects of my job a lot more than I expected, and it’s hard to think of any aspect of my job that doesn’t at least indirectly involve a computer in some way. I really was never much of a tech ‘geek’ growing up, but now that I realize how vital computers are to my life and my job, I definitely wish that I had been. I also think being a computer programmer would be fulfilling in similar ways to being a scientist. Both involve problem solving, and at the end of the day you can feel like you created something or learned something new. And, as an added bonus, the job market for computer programmers these days is quite good.

8. Why is science education important? 

Science education is just as important for non-scientists as it is for scientists. A lot of people think that science is a purely academic pursuit, but this is totally not true. I think it’s safe to say that we use science on a daily basis more than any other subject, even if we don’t realize it. From making dietary choices, to driving our cars, to using our phones, to recycling, science is really everywhere in our lives. And I think a really important point is that all of this information is based off of primary research that real scientists have conducted. It’s easy to forget where the data originally comes from for information that we take for granted in our daily lives. Just flip to the back of any science textbook. What you will find is a long list of hundreds of primary articles that were written by scientists, and which are being used as the foundation for the material presented in the textbook. It’s important to recognize the link between the two. We may not need to know exactly how the phones in our pockets work, but we should recognize that decades of scientific research went into their development. We may not need to know the exact strategies that the National Park Service is using to conserve Grizzly Bear populations in Yellowstone, except to recognize that their efforts are certainly based off of years of important ecological research.

Stephen is a great example of someone whose life was changed by a great science class. It was by chance that he ended up in the field of plant ecology, but he was hooked from the beginning. To learn more about the importance of science communication, check out this post.

Follow Stephen’s adventures in research at his blog!

The above photos are used courtesy of Stephen Murphy and Phipps Science Education.

December 10, 2014

Follow the Botany in Action Fellows on Their Websites!

by Melissa Harding

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Our Botany in Action Fellows are not just out doing wonderful research, but have also been busy creating outreach opportunities that allow them to share their work with others. As part of their science communication training during the BIA Science Engagement, the Fellows learn principals of written communication, as well as how to use photographs to tell a compelling story. As a way to use these skills to reach out to visitors and students, each Fellow has also created their own website. Similar in purpose to the Follow the Fellows” pages on the official BIA website, these new websites allow each Fellow the ability to tell the story of their research in their own way.

These websites allow the reader to vicariously participate in science by following the Fellows in their work. Each website is a little different and helps the reader to really understand what it is like to engage in botanical research. This is includes both exciting adventures in the field and not-as-exciting adventures in crunching numbers and writing papers;  all of these pieces are necessary parts of strong research. By creating a complete picture of their lives and their work, they are able to convey not only what a scientist really does and looks like, but why their work is important.

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Advocating for good science communication is an important outcome of the Botany in Action program, but it is not an easy one. It requires not only rethinking preconceived notions about the role of a scientist in communicating his or her own work, but also rethinking what science communication should look like at all. The model of publishing research has not changed in a long time and neither has what happens to that research; it often exists in publications where only other scientists can access it, making it almost impossible to be seen by the public. The Botany in Action program helps Fellows to champion their own work and add to a public body of knowledge, as well as to reach out to students, educators and others who would find their research compelling. By communicating their love for science and showing why their research matters in the real world, the Fellows will inspire readers to dig deeper into their own passions, helping to create a future generation of biologists, chemists, physicists and more!

To learn more about our Fellows and to follow them through the research process, check out their wonderful websites:

Chelsie Romulo: http://cromulo.wordpress.com/
Kelly Ksiazek: http://greenroofresearch.wordpress.com
Anna Johnson: #
Stephen Murphy: http://stephenjosephmurphy.weebly.com/
Aurelie Jacquet: #
Jessica Turner: http://jessicabturner.weebly.com/

To learn more about Botany in Action, check out the website or this blog post.

To read more about the importance of science communication, check out this blog post!

The above images are used courtesy of Kelly Ksiazek and Phipps Science Education, respectively.

November 14, 2014

Interview with a Scientist: BIA Fellow Chelsie Romulo

by Melissa Harding

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If there is one segment of society that is often misunderstood, it is people who work in science fields. Public perception of scientists tends to lean towards lab coats, crazy hair and beakers full of chemicals, especially in the eyes of children.  In reality, most scientists are just regular people who want to make the world a better place through scientific discovery. The best way to dispel the myth that scientists are boring or crazy is to get to know them; the purpose of this segment is to talk with real scientists to ask them what they love about their jobs and why they think their work is fun and important.

It’s a new year with new scientists! For our next installment in this series, we sat down with BIA Fellow Chelsie Romulo. The Botany in Action Fellowship program at Phipps fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed, first, to excellent research, and second, to educational outreach. The BIA program provides Fellows with funding for use towards field research in the US or abroad and a trip to Phipps, to engage in science outreach training and opportunities to share his or her research to public audiences. Chelsie is in her first year as a BIA Fellow, researching the aguaje palm in the Amazon rainforest.

We interviewed Chelsie about her childhood playing outside, her love of bees, and the time that she climbed up a palm tree:

Introduce yourself and your work in 5 sentences or less. 

My name is Chelsie Romulo and I am a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University. I study the economy and ecology of a palm called aguaje that grows in the Amazon rainforest. This species is found in peatlands that can store large amounts of carbon and it produces a fruit that is a very important food source for many animals. I am interested in how the fruit market affects the distribution and ecology of the tree, especially since people cut down the tree to harvest the fruit. My research tries to understand how people who harvest, buy, sell, and eat the fruit make decisions and how their choices affect management of the species.

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Why did you become a scientist? 

As a child my favorite activities consisted of mucking about in creek beds and overturning rocks and logs, and then bringing home critters that I had found. They would then be placed in tanks all over the house, as well as my mother’s potted plants and eventually released where they had been found. Over the years I watched with fascination as many tadpoles and caterpillars transformed into frogs and butterflies. My mother has always been an avid gardener and encouraged us to dig in the dirt and admire living things with her. I’ve always been fascinated with nature and watching things grow and spending as much time outside as possible. Though I’ve never wanted to do anything else except be a scientist, I was surprised at the diversity of options within the field of life sciences. I never would have guessed that I would be studying the economics of an Amazonian fruit but I love being where I am today.

What part do plants play in your research? 

My research focus is on the aguaje palm tree (Mauritia flexuosa) that grows in the Amazon Rainforest. The trees produce a fruit that is an important food for animals and is also eaten whole, or processed into ice cream and juice, by people in the Peruvian Amazon. This tree also grows in peatlands that have the potential to store a lot of carbon dioxide.

What is the most exciting thing you have ever done at work?

During the summer of 2013, while working with a colleague setting camera traps in the forest, we had the chance to climb an aguaje tree. We used a harness developed by a group of local people who were committed to find a more sustainable harvest method. It was much scarier and dirtier than I had ever imagined. You have one strap around your waist and your foot in another loop, hanging dozens of feet up in the air! Having that experience really helps my perspective when talking to harvesters about their decision to cut or climb a tree. Here is a picture:

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What skills do you use in your job? 

People skills are very important. I depend on a lot of people to get my research done, both in the United States and abroad. I have to be able to communicate effectively to a variety of different people, and sometimes in Spanish! Spanish language would be another skill as well, since I need to communicate with my colleagues and field technicians in Peru. It also helps to stay fit throughout the year because tromping through heavily forested swamps can tire you out quickly.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I love meeting new people whose research is similar to mine and sharing new information with each other. Part of being a scientist is spending your life learning and sharing new things.

If you weren’t a scientist, what job would you choose? 

I think if I wasn’t a scientist I would want to be a beekeeper. Actually, I am already a beekeeper, but I just have a few hives as a hobby. I could watch them for hours and hours. Actually, I would probably just be another type of scientist. I can’t imagine not being a scientist.

Why is science education important?

Science is the way that we explain and describe our world, so science education is very important. Science education is needed to help people understand how we got to where we are and why scientists say one thing or another. It is also important because all people need to be thinking critically about how we interpret observations and reach our own conclusions. I think that some people are intimated by science and scientists and this causes a barrier to communication and understanding. It is part of our job as scientists to help people understand and enjoy science, and contribute to science education. For my project specifically I am working with people who harvest, buy and sell aguaje fruit in the Amazon rainforest. Many of these people are less than a high school education, so it is up to me to help them understand what my research means for them and the future of their business in the fruit trade.

Chelsie is a great example of someone who turned a childhood love of nature into an adult career. Research shows that children who spend significant time in nature are more likely to develop positive environmental attitudes as adults. To learn more about the power of nature on child development, check out this blog post.

Follow Chelsie’s adventures in research at her blog!

The above photos are used courtesy of Chelsie Romulo.

October 20, 2014

Interview with a Scientist: BIA Fellow Jessi Turner

by Melissa Harding

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If there is one segment of society that is often misunderstood, it is people who work in science fields. Public perception of scientists tends to lean towards lab coats, crazy hair and beakers full of chemicals, especially in the eyes of children.  In reality, most scientists are just regular people who want to make the world a better place through scientific discovery. The best way to dispel the myth that scientists are boring or crazy is to get to know them; the purpose of this segment is to talk with real scientists to ask them what they love about their jobs and why they think their work is fun and important.

It’s a new year with new scientists! For our next installment in this series, we sat down with BIA Fellow Jessica Turner. The Botany in Action Fellowship program at Phipps fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed, first, to excellent research, and second, to educational outreach. The BIA program provides Fellows with funding for use towards field research in the US or abroad and a trip to Phipps, to engage in science outreach training and opportunities to share his or her research to public audiences. Jessi is in her second year as a BIA Fellow, researching the American Ginseng plant in West Virginia.

We interviewed Jessi about her passion for her work, her childhood playing outdoors and why studying plants is so great.

1. Introduce yourself and your work in 5 sentences or less. 

My name is Jessica B. Turner and I am a passionate outdoor-enthusiast, who loves creating art and traveling. I am also a scientist at West Virginia University, and I study THE most interesting plant in the world: American ginseng. Ginseng is harvested in Appalachia and then sold to China to be used for medicine, so this amazing plant is medicinally, culturally, and economically important on a global scale! Ginseng may not be around in the future…people overharvest it and surface mining is reducing the amount of forest where ginseng grows. As a scientist, I study how we can keep ginseng around for the future, so people can keep using and enjoying this beautiful plant!

2. Why did you become a scientist? 

As a kid, I was always in the mud, catching frogs, looking at insects, pressing wildflowers, and memorizing facts about animals. My parents had a big influence on my future occupation, as well. For every Christmas and birthday I received something science related, such as a microscope, chemistry kit, or a field guide. As a family, we would go to parks, zoos, conservatories, and arboretums together. My folks helped foster a curiosity in the world around me, and I knew that they considered no question to be stupid or silly… so I asked a lot of questions. And now, my job is to ask questions and answer them!

3. What part do plants play in your research? 

YES!!! Plants are great to study for many reasons. Plants are everywhere in every ecosystem! They are the bottom of the food chain, and they provide us with oxygen (pretty important stuff!). I study American ginseng, which is a fantastic plant that people all over the world care about. Since plants don’t move, you can study them over time (this is a GREAT reason to study plants). I study my plants by tagging them with an ID number, and measuring them every year. If the plants are growing, and producing a lot of seed, we know that is a good environment for the plant. If a plant is getting smaller over time, then the plant is probably not growing in the best area. With this simple scientific process, we are able to answer a lot of questions. I have hundreds of plants I visit and measure each year, this is how I collect my data!

4. What is the most exciting thing you have ever done at work?           

Being a scientist has given me so many extraordinary experiences. I have been able to pet rhinos, giraffes, and cheetahs, count tropical fish while doing reef surveys in Hawaii, and I have seen isolated parts of the Appalachian forest that are so beautiful it takes your breath away.  One of the coolest moments in field research happened when I was doing climate change work in Alaska.  I was dropped off at a field site to measure plants on the tundra.  As I looked around at the Brooks Range, felt the wind rushing over me, I realized this was the most isolated I had ever been in my entire life.  I was there with the plants, the mountains, and whatever large wildlife was lurking around in the willows.  It was a profound moment in my life, which I would not have experienced if it were not for my career path.

5. What skills do you use in your job? 

My job requires a whole bunch of skills, such as attention to detail, organization, etc. But my job also requires a healthy does of creativity, curiosity, and an excitement about learning. This job also requires an understanding that fieldwork is not always comfortable. We work long days in the summer, dealing with  a lot of insects and, often, less than ideal weather. I am not always outdoors, I also get to work with some cool computer programs… everything from web design, to photo editing, to statistical analysis. I feel like I have the best job, because I get paid to learn about the world, and in turn, teach others about how things work!

6. What is your favorite part of your job? 

I love working with people, and I love getting people excited about the world around them. One of the greatest perks is when I get to teach different age groups about science.   With kids, it is a blast coming up with different games or activities to teach certain concepts about biology. With the elderly, they are excited to learn, and they relate what they learn to their own personal experiences.   I have met some amazing people from all walks of life, and the natural world gives us a million ways to connect with anyone. I love sharing my passion and excitement about nature.

7. If you weren’t a scientist, what job would you choose? 

I would probably be an artist or a naturalist. As for being a naturalist, I love working with people and getting them interested in the complexities of nature. As for being an artist, I love creating and making things. There is something that is so satisfying about seeing the final product of something you created. That is one of the reasons I love science. I can ask a question, figure out how to answer that question, and then I get to answer it and explain it! At the end of it all, I can look at all of the work I did, and I can see the journey I took to get there. Science is like art, because you need to be flexible and creative.

8. Why is science education important?

Science explains how the world works. Learning about how to ask and answer questions logically can be an important framework for making educated decisions. Appreciating the natural world can connect people. For example, I could talk about ginseng to someone in Appalachia- who has never left his or her home county- or someone in Hong Kong who takes ginseng medicinally. This plant provides ‘common ground’ to two very different people with very different experiences. Science can help show us our similarities and bridge communities.

 

Jessi is an example of someone who loved being outside as a child and was inspired to a career in science because it. She has a passion for her work and telling everyone about what a great and important plant American Ginseng is!

To learn more about the importance of science communication, check out this post.

To learn more about Jessi’s work, check out her Follow the Fellows page on the Botany in Action Website.

The above photo was taken by Amanda Joy.

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