ScienceOnline Climate


Ah, logistics. WiFi, websites, sponsors, speakers, travel, venues, sound, and food – planning a meeting means dozens of details need constant attention. And yet, if we’ve done our work well, these all fade into the background as an event comes to life. There’s something magical about creating a space for conversations to unfold and genuine connections to take root, and I am delighted to have been a part of what we created at ScienceOnline Climate.

ScioClimate, as we call it, was a conference that took place in Washington, D.C. August 15-17. Thanks to professional development support from COMPASS, I was able to join Jamie Vernon and Karyn Traphagen as a co-organizer. But ScioClimate is not over because it’s much more than just a meeting – it’s a community of people coalescing around issues of how we improve climate science conversations online. Our intent is to go far beyond tactical discussions about how to share research results, and instead to explore the art, science, rhetoric, politics, philosophy, emotion, and practicalities of tackling unprecedented global change.

Nothing sums up my experience at the event better than this tweet by Mark Westneat:

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Looking Beyond The Business Card


COMPASS needed to investigate how they might contribute at the boundary of science and business, so naturally they needed someone who knew about synergy – an MBA intern! As a master’s candidate in environmental sciences and business management, I felt well positioned to help COMPASS investigate what they’ve been hearing for awhile now – an unmet need at the intersection of science and business. [Read more…]

Trade Secrets At Sea: How Much Information Is Enough?

The author (awkwardly) poses near the (smelly) baleen of a stranded fin whale taken in for necropsy at a lab in Woods Hole, MA. Photo by Maureen Lynch.

*This post was slightly modified from its original version on Dec. 4,2012

Marine fisheries observers rarely claim a space in the media spotlight. It’s an obscure job – only a couple of hundred people work as full-time observers in ports across the country – but the valuable at-sea data they collect for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is used by fisheries managers, fish biologists, and watchdog groups alike. In the October 26th issue of Science, however, fisheries observers made national science news.  Earlier this year, NOAA announced the proposal of a new rule that would dictate how much, and in what detail, information collected by observers is made available to those outside government. Limiting the use of these data is controversial because the observer program uses government funds – $40 million according to Science – and because the agency is mandated with managing a resource of the public trust, something that’s difficult to do well while restricting data.

To me, though, this issue is anything but obscure. In “my other life,” prior to joining COMPASS, I worked as a marine fisheries observer for nearly three years. Based out of Point Judith, RI and New Bedford, MA, I worked aboard commercial fishing boats… everything from tiny day trawlers to 48-hour gillnetters to multi-day bottom trawlers to longliners and factory ships that froze and boxed squid at sea. I’d spend anywhere from a few hours to 14 days on a trip, collecting safety, gear, economic, catch and bycatch information for the databases at NMFS. [Read more…]

Communicating Risk Vs. Communicating Science

Residents received orders to evacuate before Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in coastal New Jersey. Shown here is the ravaged amusement park in Seaside Heights. Photo from the National Guard.

“Don’t be stupid, get out.”

Governor Chris Christie minced no words when he issued the mandatory evacuation warning to the residents of New Jersey’s barrier islands as Hurricane Sandy made her approach. To anyone thinking about staying behind, he cautioned, “If I turn out to be right, and you turn out to be dead, that’s not a great equation.”

This is a clear example of a public official communicating risk and asking the public to act based on that statement. To arrive at the decision to evacuate, Governor Christie weighed scientific projections of the storms impact, along with information on the integrity of infrastructure, traffic flow, social behavior, and other factors. But Christie’s blunt statement left little room to question that he held ultimate responsibility for making the public call-to-action. [Read more…]