About Liz Neeley

Liz is the Assistant Director of Science Outreach. Though she hasn’t held a PipetteMan in 6 years, she still occasionally dreams of running PCR gels. These days she’s more likely to sustain repetitive stress injuries from livetweeting science conferences or joining marathon conference calls. Lately she’s been baking lots of artisanal bread, finding it to be effective as both a crosstraining and carb-loading exercise.

The Hidden Curriculum in Graduate Education


As we prepare to roll out the final #GradSciComm Report this week, I’ve been revisiting the moments of inspiration and flashes of insight that shaped our work. Like clay on a potter’s wheel, the best projects often begin with a vision but take on surprising and idiosyncratic texture as they spin into being.
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Maximizing Moritz et al: On Publication & Promotion


Max Moritz is the lead author on the invited review Learning to Coexist with Wildfire, published last Thursday in Nature. With its synthesis of wildfire science and management from three continents, Max and his co-authors strongly believe the paper holds real-world implications for people’s health, safety, and financial well-being. If you feel like that about a paper, you want it to be read and used widely; and if you want a paper to achieve broader visibility, you don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best! So Max reached out to COMPASS and spent the last two weeks of October working with me to think through what he wanted to say and working with his co-authors and university to prepare. [Read more...]

On Vulnerability in Art and Science Communication

Fingerpainting at its finest – I loved the swirling textures I was able to produce in this set of waves enough to snap a quick photo of it.

My closet is organized in a color spectrum, as are my books, and more strangely, my cleaning products. My spreadsheets march in rainbow precision, as do my (many) calendars. I once actually uttered the phrase, “My contingency planning is a thing of beauty.” I desperately want to package a tidy story. Put everything neatly into place. Make it pretty. Make it precise. That’s what I do. But I’ve been home from my trip to Arizona for 28 hours now, and I don’t know yet exactly how I feel or what, precisely, I have learned. Instead, this is a story about letting go. [Read more...]


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This post was co-authored by Director of Science Outreach Nancy Baron

This weekend, some 1000 scientists, managers, practitioners, agency and activist organization leaders will come together in Missoula, Montana for the North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB). They are the investigators  and observers of what is happening to our land, water, and biodiversity. This is their opportunity to connect with their colleagues and to share new research and developments in conservation science and practice. The meeting’s theme is “Challenging Conservation Boundaries” and COMPASS will be there to help scientists build the skills and relationships they need to bring their new insights and evidence to bear on environmental decision-making across the continent. [Read more...]

Making Peace with Self Promotion


I prepare for writing projects as if they are adventures, so when I sat down to write a book chapter this spring, I was excited. The topic was self-promotion in social media, for the forthcoming The Complete Guide to Science Blogging, made possible by an NASW Ideas Grant. My coffee was hot, my playlist was inspired, and my background research had me buzzing… but before I started writing, I first saved the tweet I would post when I submitted: [Read more...]

Congratulations to the 2014 NACCB Journalist Fellows


COMPASS is proud to support an impressive group of reporters, editors, and producers in attending the Society for Conservation Biology‘s 2014 North American Congress for Conservation Biology. The meeting is expected to convene nearly 1,000 leading researchers, conservationists, and decision-makers to discuss the science and practice of conserving biological diversity. Browse the fellows’ websites for some powerful science and environmental reporting, and easily connect with them via our twitter list here: https://twitter.com/COMPASSonline/naccb-journalist-fellows/members



Allie Wilkinson

Freelance – @love of science

Allie Wilkinson is a New York-based freelance journalist specializing in science, technology and the environment. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic News, Discover, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Slate, and various other publications in print and on the web. Wilkinson also writes and produces podcasts for Scientific American. In 2012, she was published in the anthology The Best Science Writing Online, formerly known as The Open Laboratory. Wilkinson earned a B.A. in environmental studies from Eckerd College and a certificate in conservation biology from Columbia University before going on to earn her M.A. in journalism from Hofstra University.



Ashley Ahearn

EarthFix/KUOW Public Radio – @aahearn

Ashley Ahearn is the environment reporter at KUOW – National Public Radio in Seattle – and part of the regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix. Before joining KUOW Ashley was a producer and reporter for Living on Earth, a nationally aired environment program from Public Radio International. She has a masters in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with the Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She also serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists. In her spare time Ashley enjoys riding vintage motorcycles, snowboarding and hiking in the Olympics and the Cascade mountain ranges of the Northwest.



Ben Goldfarb 

High Country News – @bengoldfarb13

Ben Goldfarb is a correspondent at High Country News, a Colorado-based magazine that covers environmental and land-use issues throughout the American West. His writing has also appeared in publications such as Pacific Standard, OnEarth Magazine, and Earth Island Journal, and his work has been supported by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and the Solutions Journalism Network. Ben’s favorite topics are landowner-driven conservation, habitat connectivity projects, and fisheries management, but he’ll write about darn near anything.



Brendan Borrell

Freelance – @bborrell

Brendan Borrell is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn and frequently writes about wildlife conservation, natural resources, and environmental issues for Bloomberg Businessweek, Nature, Scientific American, and many other publications. His reporting has taken him on a rhino hunt in South Africa, to a subsistence fishing community in West Papua, and to a lovely little town known as “Murderville” on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.



Chris Solomon

Freelance – @chrisasolomon

As a newspaper reporter and now as a freelance writer, Christopher Solomon has eaten the blubber cut from a freshly-killed whale, been shot at by riot police in the WTO-crazed streets of Seattle, helicopter-skied from the back of a 200-foot megayacht and chased sunken treasure within sight of New York’s Empire State Building. His ability to vividly sketch a scene, and his passion for writing about passionate people, has led him to his frequent work for Outside magazine, the New York Times and Ski magazine, among other publications. His work also appeared in the anthology The Best American Travel Writing 2006. He lives in Seattle, but is constantly cajoling editors to send him elsewhere.



Hannah Hoag

Freelance – @hannahh

Hannah Hoag is a Toronto-based science journalist who covers climate, the environment, and human health. Her stories have been published in Nature, Discover, Wired and New Scientist, as well as several Canadian news media, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Maclean’s.



Isabelle Groc

Freelance – @isabellegroc

Isabelle Groc is a freelance writer and photographer, focusing on environmental science, wildlife natural history and conservation, endangered species, marine ecosystems, and land use planning. With her dual background in photojournalism and urban planning, Isabelle brings a unique perspective in documenting the impacts of human activities on threatened species and habitats. A fellow of the Explorers Club, Isabelle has travelled to remote places to raise the profile of many little-known, elusive, under-appreciated threatened species.



Jeff Burnside

KOMO News – @jeffburnside

Jeff is the Senior Investigative Reporter with KOMO television, Seattle’s ABC station. He’s the recipient of more than 25 journalism awards including several national honors from the Investigative Reporters and Editors, Clarion, and National Press Club, as well as more than a dozen regional Emmy’s. Jeff serves as Vice President for the Society of Environmental Journalists, the largest such group of professional reporters in the world. He served on the SEJ board for nearly a decade, and as chairman of SEJ’s 2011 national conference that broke attendance records. The Seattle native is a graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communications.



Josh Zaffos

Freelance – @jzaffos

Joshua Zaffos writes on the environment and science from Fort Collins, Colorado. His stories have appeared in High Country News, Wired, Pacific Standard, Scientific American, Yale Environment 360, Daily Climate, Nature Conservancy Magazine, and many other publications. He also teaches natural-resources communications at Colorado State University. His work is online at joshuazaffos.com.



Liz Devitt

Freelance – @elizdevitt

Elizabeth Devitt is a freelance science writer based in Santa Cruz, California. A graduate of the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program, she also earned a B.A. in Zoology at the University of Vermont and her DVM degree from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Elizabeth ventured from veterinary medicine into science journalism to write stories that could lead to better lives for all animals – our own two-legged species included. Her work has appeared in National Geographic News, Nature Medicine, Ensia, Mongabay, and many regional California publications.



Marianne Lavelle

The Daily Climate – @mlavelles

Marianne Lavelle is climate science writer for The Daily Climate, an independent, on-line news service funded by foundations and readers. She has spent more than two decades covering  environmental issues, business, climate change, and policy in Washington, D.C. Before joining The Daily Climate in April 2014, she served for four years as energy editor at National Geographic, where her 2010 special report, “The Great Shale Gas Rush,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards for Digital Media and the National Academies of Science Communications Awards. Previously, she spearheaded a project tracking climate change lobbying for the nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization The Center for Public Integrity. Before that, she was a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report magazine, where she initiated the Beyond the Barrel blog. Before joining U.S. News & World Report, Lavelle created a beat on federal regulation for The National Law Journal and led a team of reporters in the series, “Unequal Protection,” winner of the George Polk Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors award, and numerous other honors. The report led to Congressional hearings and a U.S. Civil Rights Commission probe and was credited with helping to prompt the Clinton administration’s executive order on environmental justice. Lavelle also has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine and The Washington Post Outlook section, and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio. She has a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Villanova University. She lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband and daughter.



Michelle Nijhuis

Freelance – @nijhuism

Michelle Nijhuis’ writing about science and the environment appears in National Geographic and many other publications. She is a contributing writer for Smithsonian and a longtime contributing editor of High Country News, a magazine known for its in-depth coverage of environmental issues in the American West. She is also the co-editor of The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age, published in 2013 by Da Capo Press. Her work hohas been included in several Best American anthologies, and she is a two-time winner of the Kavli/AAAS Science Journalism Award. After fifteen years of living off the electrical grid in rural western Colorado, she and her family are getting acquainted with their new home in White Salmon, Washington.



Sarah Zielinski

Freelance – @sarahzielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer based in Washington, DC. She turned to freelance writing and editing after several years as an associate editor at Smithsonian magazine. Her writings have appeared in publications such as Slate, Scientific American, Science and Science News, and she regularly edits for Science News for Students and National Geographic News. Her blog Wild Things, about the weird and wonderful in the natural world, appears on the Science News magazine website.



Tom Banse

Northwest Public Radio – @tombanse

Public Radio Regional Correspondent Tom Banse is an omnivore. He covers science, environment, public policy, business and breaking news from the public radio Northwest News Network bureau in Washington’s state capital, Olympia. His stories can be heard during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on NPR affiliates in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Before taking the regional beat, Tom covered the Washington Legislature and state politics for 12 years. He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Banse graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, with a degree in American Studies in 1989.



Virginia Gewin

Freelance – @virginiagewin

Virginia Gewin covers environmental issues—from food security to acidifying oceans to endangered species—from her perch in Portland, Oregon. Once on track to become a soil microbiologist, initially, Virginia scrapped those plans to pursue her budding interest in science journalism after completing an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media fellowship and an internship at Nature magazine. For the last decade, she has been a freelancer, writing for Nature, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, The Oregonian, Portland Monthly, PLoS Biology, and Consumers Digest.



Warren Cornwall

Freelance – @warrencornwall

Warren Cornwall’s work as an environmental, science and outdoor recreation journalist has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, Slate, The Boston Globe Magazine, Outside online, National Geographic News, Triathlete magazine, and The Seattle Times. Before embarking on a freelance career, he worked as an environmental and political reporter at numerous Northwest newspapers, most recently The Seattle Times. He has bombed down ski runs on a mountain bike, tracked endangered spotted owls, descended into the heart of a nuclear bomb factory and wandered more cul-de-sacs than he cares to remember while tracing the environmental damage of suburban sprawl. He has won awards for his environmental reporting, investigative work and feature writing. His story about triathlon deaths and cardiac testing was selected as the best triathlon story of 2013 by Triathlon Business International. He now lives in Bellingham, Washington, an ideal place to pursue his passions for outdoor sports, including triathlons, cycling, skiing, rock climbing and backpacking.


NACCB Journalist Fellowship


We are excited to announce that COMPASS is hosting travel fellowships for journalists attending the North American Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula this July! The NACCB is expected to convene nearly 1,000 leading researchers, conservationists, and decision-makers to discuss the science and practice of conserving biological diversity. This year’s theme, “Challenging Conservation Boundaries”, is designed to encourage fresh thinking and creative problem solving on topics ranging from energy development to wildlife policy. [Read more...]

But what do we DO with the science of science communication?


Last week, as I listened to Andy Rosenberg, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, give a seminar about the new Center for Science and Democracy, I tweeted, “What Rosenberg is saying is familiar: science doesn’t tell us what to do, it helps us understand what questions to ask.”

When I hit ‘tweet’ it felt good. It felt right in my bones. And then it hit me.  I had just refuted the premise of this blog post.


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Reporting back and looking forward from #GradSciComm


This post is co-authored by Liz Neeley and Erica Goldman. It is a continuation of our series on our NSF-funded GradSciComm project.

It was approaching midnight on December 5, 2013, and the COMPASS team was running out of gas. We were in the middle of our two-day #GradSciComm meeting at the National Academy of Sciences. “The only way out is through,” we told ourselves, bleary eyed and punchy with fatigue.

Day 1 had gone quite well. Our stellar group of participants – science communication researchers, practitioners, administrators, and graduate student leaders from a range of STEM disciplines – had engaged with an enthusiasm that was more than we could have hoped for. They were brimming with ideas of what might be done. Yet we were struggling with how to coalesce all of the insights from Day 1 to move ahead in working groups on Day 2. One particular roadblock felt like it was obstructing every path forward: the lack of funding.

Around and around we went, until suddenly – a breakthrough! What would happen if we stop thinking of funding as a roadblock… and instead think of it as a solution to obstacles we face in teaching and conducting effective science communication? What are the first and most transformative investments that we could make? Once we demolished that roadblock, all the pieces began to fall into place. We powered through a synthesis of the discussions from Day 1, locked down the specifics for breakout group assignments, and were ready to charge into Day 2.

The next morning, we held our breaths, watching the room as we unveiled a reframing of our collective task. We had originally believed it was “mapping a course to improve national training capacity in science communication for STEM graduate students.” However, our discussions had  made us realize that communication skills cannot be thought of as extras to be bolted onto existing graduate education structures. They are fundamental competencies that need to be woven throughout training.


Our task is in fact, “mapping the pathways to integrate science communication core competencies into STEM graduate student training.” Of course funding is a real-world limitation, but we can’t move forward until we start asking about how we should use it to pave those pathways.

An audible murmur of accord affirmed our midnight breakthrough. The rest of the second day flew past with highly motivated teams working and sharing their visions of how to progress. We collectively closed out 2013 on the high of a successful event and the promise of more great things to come.


The group focused on how we might align incentives to give graduate students the motivation and permission to include science communication in their training. We identified that students will need to know what options are available to them and have tools at their disposal, such as individual development plans, that allow them to tailor their skill development to their preferred career trajectories. The group also discussed the critical importance of monitoring and evaluation as a cornerstone of effective practice in communication training.

Here is the one-page summary of the outcomes of our discussions, and you can explore deeper with the presentations we gave on site.

The Summary

Slides from Day 1

Slides from Day 2


  • Writing the roadmap. COMPASS is taking the lead on writing a series of documents, collectively called “the #gradscicomm roadmap.” We envision this as something like a tiered layer cake: at the top, a single-page, visual representation of our theory of change. Supporting that, a multipage report outlining the work we’ve conducted, a brief literature review, and summary of the workshop and findings. And finally, we expect other products, likely to include presentations and submissions to the peer-reviewed literature.
  • AAAS in Chicago this February. In our first public presentation, find Erica and Brooke leading the session, “Building National Capacity in Science Communication for STEM Graduate Students” on Valentine’s Day morning. It features many of our workshop participants, and many more will be in attendance. Join us for a meet-up later to continue the conversations in a more social setting (to be scheduled – we’ll update with details ASAP!)
  • University courses. Like many of the other workshop participants, beginning in mid-January, Liz starts teaching her ENVIR500 series again at University of Washington. This is a series of 1-credit short courses in science communication, based on COMPASS workshops, and designed for PhD students in the College of the Environment and beyond. If you’d like to swap syllabi & advice about teaching, please reach out.

We’d love to hear from you with ideas and opportunities as we write up and push forward. Please be in touch with us by email or comment on this post to share your thoughts.  We are invigorated by where 2013 has brought the #gradscicomm effort and are looking forward to the New Year with energy and anticipation.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1255633. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

#GradSciComm: Rolling Up Our Sleeves

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This post is co-authored by Erica Goldman and Liz Neeley.

As we’ve written here and here, over the past year, COMPASS has worked to assess the current landscape of communication trainings available to graduate students in the STEM disciplines. We’ve dubbed this project #GradSciComm, and it has included building a community-sourced database that provides some insight into the current content and capacity of workshops and courses – but this is only the beginning of the conversation.

Later this week, at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C., four COMPASS staff – Nancy Baron, Brooke Smith, Erica Goldman, and Liz Neeley – will facilitate discussion among a select group of scholars, trainers, funders, institutional leaders, and graduate students as they consider the results of our work to date and wrestle with where we go from here. [Read more...]