Cracking the Capitol Hill Nut

Tourists aren't the only ones who need guidance on Capitol Hill. These tips will help you make your meetings with staff efficient and productive. Image courtesy of fensterbme on flickr.

Washington D.C. often gets a reputation for being opaque, with lots of rules and unspoken customs for how things are done.  It’s true that D.C. has its own culture, and Capitol Hill especially can feel like its own world. My experience is that there are many dedicated staff on Capitol Hill who want to understand the best science available and how it can help them develop the best policies – but they have limited time and a number of diverse issues on their plate.  Reaching out and making your science available in an accessible way is essential to making your voice and your science heard.  [Read more...]

Why Do You Do What You Do?

“My motivation – to base management on the most relevant science – that seems like apple pie to me. Who wouldn’t eat it up?” - Tania Schoennagel
Image by Carol Atlantica via flickr
Solving mysteries? Stellar colleagues? Saving the world?

Last week, I wrote about why the why can be hard for scientists. This week, I offer perspectives from scientist colleagues on their whys. All share a passion and commitment to engage beyond the walls of the ivory tower. But their underlying ‘whys’ vary a lot.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this series of posts are motivated, in part, by reflecting on my own whys. One of the reasons I do what I do is the opportunity to connect with some amazing people, including the inspiration and energy I draw from the contributors here.

Scientists have many reasons for doing what they do, and just as many reasons for sharing (or not sharing) their whys. I hope the whys of these scientists – and their willingness to share them, not only here, but also more broadly – inspire you as much as they have inspired me. [Read more...]

Why is the Why Difficult for Scientists?

Are you willing to channel your inner Aristotle and embrace the Philosophy in your PhD for more effective #scicomm?
Image courtesy of Mary Harrsh via flickr.

Being a scientist is more than a job – it’s a way of thinking, a way of living, a way of interacting with the world. For some of you, it is the best job in the world!  Our passion is clearly important, and yet … we so rarely share it. Why?

This is the first in a series about scientists communicating the ‘why’ of their work. In the coming weeks, I’ll share other scientists’ reflections, insights, and stories on the topic. Perhaps yours? Post a comment or send me a note, and I’ll incorporate your perspective into future posts. [Read more...]

Lessons from the Policy Trenches

Like this camouflaged plethodontidae, the entry into a policy dialogue is easy to spot when you know what you're looking for.
Image from Minette Layne on Flickr.

Sometimes, students are the best teachers. I think this is particularly true when you’re pushing yourself beyond the boundaries of hard facts or scholarship into the realm of practice. Those who are just entering the world of policy are often more articulate about the experience than those of us who make our home there. I’m excited to highlight a great example of this, Karen Lips, a Leopold Leadership fellow who studies salamanders like lungless sallys, frogs and other (arguably) adorable amphibians. Karen wanted to help protect the animals she studies from invasive pathogens that reach wild populations via animal imports. Earlier this year we highlighted a “get-your-feet-wet” training that COMPASS did for Leopold fellows who felt they had something to offer to policy but were unsure how to get started. Karen participated in that training with fantastic results; not only has she positioned herself as a resource for policymakers working in this area, she’s enlisted her graduate students in a project that helps directly answer questions decision-makers face. [Read more...]

Back to School

A crisp notebook and a fresh box of No.2's used to be all you needed to tackle the school year. As a grad student or faculty member,  you need a different set of tools to navigate the challenges of academic life.  Photo by Wirawat Lian-udom on Flickr.

The long hot days of summer are turning to the brief and – here in Oregon – soggy days of fall. For grad students and faculty alike it’s a return to the hectic rush of the academic year. We have compiled a list of COMPASS blog posts that can help those of us headed back to school… [Read more...]

About Us: Megan Dearden

Megan Hiking in Gunung Bromo, Java, Indonesia.

Megan Dearden is COMPASS’ Administrative Assistant. Megan provides administrative support across the COMPASS team and for a variety of projects, including the upcoming Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science. She says, “I focus on the details to ensure that the logistics of COMPASS’ programs run smoothly and efficiently.” Megan joined the team earlier this year and she’s excited to support COMPASS’ mission.  “I’ve always been fascinated by societies’ organizations and institutions, and I’m grateful to be able to see first-hand how COMPASS works to bridge the gap between science and society at large.”

A bit more about Megan… [Read more...]

Seeking Conservation Scientists for the Wilburforce Fellowship

Fellows will hone  communication skills though hands-on activities like mock interviews with journalists.

Are you a conservation scientist working in Western North America who wants to hone your skills as a communicator?
Do you have ambitious conservation goals?
Do you want to expand your network to include journalists, policymakers and other players to achieve them?
Would you like ongoing coaching over the course of a year as well as support and inspiration from other scientists?

If this is you, we hope you’ll apply for the new Wilburforce Fellowship, which will provide in-depth COMPASS training for 20 conservation scientists from April 19 – 24, 2015 in Seattle.

The Wilburforce Foundation, in partnership with COMPASS, is offering this fellowship to help environmental scientists form a powerful community of leaders who can develop their skills, build their networks and achieve conservation solutions in the West. [Read more...]

Your Science is a Multi-tool

Science can be a multi-tool within the policy process; understanding what function your science is serving can make engagements more effective.

Science plays many roles in the policymaking process. Describing those roles is often harder than I expect.  While attending the North American Congress of Conservation Biology (NACCB) in July, I was introduced to a new – and helpful – description of those roles, during a talk by Stephen Posner. Stephen is a PhD candidate at the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont. Like COMPASS, the Gund Institute works at the boundary between new knowledge and emerging solutions to pressing environmental challenges. Much of their work takes place through the lens of “ecosystem services”, a way of thinking about how people’s needs, desires, and actions relate to the natural world upon which we all depend. Stephen investigates how knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services is actually used in policymaking. [Read more...]

Why Did the Scientist Cross the Road?

Although crossing the road can be a daunting task, is it made easier by the company of colleagues, some infrastructure to guide the way, and the promise new opportunities on the other side.
CC BY-SA-NC-SA by Khaz on flickr

During the past few weeks I had the opportunity to attend two conferences that had related themes and took place literally across the street from each other, but in other ways were worlds apart. First was the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting (#ESA2014), which was dominated by ecological scientists sharing their research. The following week, government officials, land managers, city planners, and NGO representatives met at the first ever California Adaptation Forum (#CAF14). While both conferences explored the possibility of finding solutions by forging new connections, there was still clearly a gap between those talking about the latest research on one side of the street and those trying to figure out how to implement it on the other. [Read more...]

Tales from the Sea: Scientists Take a Storytelling Journey

Telling stories of science and conservation at IMCC3.

As we sat in an unadorned classroom at the University of Glasgow, Kyle Gillespie helped us hear the sea at night, the sounds of clacking crabs and whistling worms, amplified by the sudden darkness after a broken dive light left him sightless in 20 feet of water and revealed to him a powerful way to understand the relative health of marine systems. Delphine Rocklin transported us through a fish’s life cycle beginning in a port in North Africa and moving through the Mediterranean Sea, showing us why it is so important to consider connectivity when we manage fisheries. And Skye Augustine  introduced us to her community, the children and elders of Stz’uminus Nation in the Salish Sea, as she helped them embark on a path of discovery to connect their ancient methods of resource management to an uncertain but hopeful future.

These are just a few scenes from stories that scientists worked to craft at a two-day storytelling workshop before the start of the third International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3). This workshop was a collaborative effort between Stephanie Green, a Smith Fellow at Oregon State University (OSU), Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, also at OSU and with PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), and COMPASS. Our scientist storytellers hailed from all over the world, France, Spain, Germany, Australia, Colombia, Canada, and the United States. They also spanned a range of career stages, from Ph.D. candidate to senior scientist. But this diverse group was united in their effort to embrace a challenge and learn new ways to communicate their science. [Read more...]