Conference Season

COMPASS Journalist Fellows onstage at the 2015 Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference.

As schools let out and the days grow longer and hotter in the Northern Hemisphere, the busy buzz of the summer field season is often punctuated by a flurry of scientific conferences.

Conferences are great places to work on your communication, share your science, and connect with new people. They can be exhilarating and exhausting, stimulating and stupefying, optimistic and overwhelming – but don’t forget to incorporate ways to improve your communication skills and work toward your communication goals. This week, we’re sharing our top tips to help you communicate at conferences. [Read more…]

Straight From The Scientist: Marissa McMahan

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This post was co-authored by Heather Mannix, COMPASS Assistant Director of Policy Engagement, and Meg Gilley, COMPASS Policy Engagement Specialist.

Earlier this spring, COMPASS led a policy communications training for the Switzer Fellows in Washington, D.C. that included practicing communication skills and learning about the world of policymakers, and was capped by meetings with policymakers on Capitol Hill. The Switzer Fellowship, a program of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, provides academic support, leadership training, and professional development opportunities for graduate students studying environmental fields in New England and California. We caught up with Marissa McMahan, a graduate student at Northeastern University who is studying the northern range expansion of black sea bass and how that affects both human and ecological systems in the Gulf of Maine, to hear more about her experience in D.C. [Read more…]

Highlighting Our #SciComm Advice: An Interview With The Forestry Source

Andrea Watt's Message Box from the

Our executive director, Brooke Smith, was interviewed by Andrea Watts for the May 2016 issue of The Forestry Source, a publication by the Society of American Foresters. This wide-ranging Q&A shares some of our tips, insights on working with media, thoughts about science and advocacy, a bit of our history, and inspiration for starting to engage. This was particularly fun because Andrea had participated in a COMPASS training when she was a graduate student at the University of Washington – she still has her message box from that training, which we are excited to share here! Enjoy. [Read more…]

Putting Our Principles Into Practice

Stephen presenting results in his dissertation defense.

I recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was the result of many months of research, but also an opportunity to learn what it’s like to be a scientist communicating about my research and engaging in public discourse about the environment. These lessons will serve me well as I create the conditions for other scientists to shine and to talk in clear and compelling ways about what their research means to policymakers. [Read more…]

Pulling Back The Curtain At Oregon State University

Journalists Chris Joyce, Ed Jahn, Nicola Jones, and Ashley Ahearn at OSU. Image by Karen McLeod.

This post is co-authored by Sarah Sunu, and based on a panel moderated by Nancy Baron at Oregon State University on March 9, 2016. 

Culture is an important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of communication. Understanding the behaviors, beliefs, and norms of your audience can (and should!) change how you talk about your own work. One key reason COMPASS brings journalists and policymakers to our communication trainings is to give scientists a window into their worlds. [Read more…]

Leading By Example: Communication Lessons Learned From Gulf of Mexico Scientists

Dr. Natalia Sidorovskaia.

In January, right after the holidays, Nancy Baron and I traveled to New Orleans to work with the leaders from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) – a 10-year research program to investigate and understand the effect of oil spills on the environment and public health. The Gulf is the focus of a lot of investment in research these days, and these scientists are at the forefront, studying the effect of oil spills on the natural and human environment. This training brought together the Principal Investigators for the GoMRI Consortia, as well as several of the Research Board Members. These scientists are studying how oil and dispersants move in the ocean, the role of microbes in the reduction of oil, and the health of the marine and human communities around the Gulf, among other topics. [Read more…]

Do You Want Your Research To Change The World?

Society for Marine Mammalogy  2015 Conference panel "How To Make Your Science Matter." Panelists from left to right: Ken Weiss, David Malakoff, Charles Littnan, Marcia McNutt, Nick Gales, Jane Lubchenco, with Nancy Baron moderating.

At the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held last week, I  stood in front of a vast conference hall before a sea of faces. It’s hard to know your audience with a group this size. Yet my task was to try reach every one of them as the moderator of a COMPASS panel featuring scientists and journalists, called “How To Make Your Science Matter.”

To take the temperature in the room, I asked everyone in the auditorium a personal question: “Do you want your research to change the world? If the answer is yes, stand up.” Some 2,500 researchers, students, and managers sprang to their feet. I could not see a single person sitting.

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COMPASS At SMM 2015

San Francisco, image by Michael Craven (CC BY 2.0).

Next week, over 2,200 scientists will come together in San Francisco, CA for the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals—and this year, they will be joined by an impressive group of fourteen journalists. These journalists have been awarded COMPASS travel fellowships to attend the conference and be a part of an intense week of engaging with scientists, hearing the latest research about marine mammals as sentinels of ocean issues, and ultimately sharing these stories with the wider world. [Read more…]

Briefing Debrief: “California’s Changing Oceans” Scientists Jenn Caselle, Francis Chan, Tessa Hill, And Kristy Kroeker

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On November 4, 2015, four eminent scientists came to Sacramento to deliver a briefing about our changing oceans. From ocean acidification to low oxygen zones, the scientists described the challenges that will confront California’s marine ecosystems in the years ahead. They also described how marine protected areas and long-term monitoring are informing our understanding of ocean change. Following the briefing, the scientists took a moment to reflect on the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing science to policymakers. [Read more…]

Straight From The Scientist: Stephanie Hampton

Dr. Stephanie Hampton, Director of WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO).

I recently returned from my first two-day, intensive COMPASS communications training at Washington State University (WSU). I had the chance to catch up with the driving force behind the training: Dr. Stephanie Hampton, Director of WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO). We chatted about the training, the important contributions scientists can make in informing the public and decision-makers about pressing environmental issues, and the need for institutions to support scientists to engage. [Read more…]