Over the past decade, I’ve become convinced: the paradigm-shifting potential of scicomm practitioners and professionals is overlooked and virtually untapped. It’s no surprise, considering the elite, normative ways our society and institutions operate. But, there are lots of civic changes and institutional/academic science changes that are not possible when only the elite entities are at the table. To put it another way, this is not about ‘permission’ – it’s about undercutting our own systemic change efforts when we gatekeep who is part of the discourse, part of the transformation.
So, I work with an express goal of expanding access to and participation in higher ed, science, and scicomm through enhancing people’s ability to share science inclusively and effectively. I conduct research/assessment and run projects on: (1) art-science integration into science research, teaching, and public engagement; (2) mechanisms to enhance scientists’ and science communicators’ communications skills and ability to engage inclusively around science; (3) assessment and evaluation of broader impacts, outreach programs, and institutional change; and (4) mechanisms of transdisciplinary research, teaching, and public engagement.
Media outlets across North America have covered my work and projects that I have contributed to. Check out that coverage here.
UW-MENTOR: Mentoring toward Equitable,
Novel & Transdisciplinary Outcomes of Research
Although individual scientists, universities, professional societies, and major funders are committed to inclusivity and discipline-spanning work, diversity initiatives are falling short in STEM and academia, and innovation programs haven’t informed STEM practices as much as hoped. Better mentoring is key, because it is actually the combination of systemic issues and negative personal experiences that drive people out of academia. Since underrepresented minorities’ research is disproportionately transdisciplinary and public facing, the loss compounds. Through several initiatives including inclusivity-in-STEM reading groups, a department-level climate survey, playing a leadership role in UW’s 2021-2022 strategic planning process, and several more efforts at and beyond UW (see below), I’m collaborating on and leading efforts to : (1) leverage apprenticeship and critique practices in the arts to enhance research mentorship in STEM; (2) shift paradigms around systems-to-individual-level change and social justice in academia, STEM, and scicomm; and (3) coach developing mentors to address systemic issues of social justice and DEIJ in academia and STEM through a holistic approach to mentoring. This work is supported in part by the Wyoming INBRE program and an NSF EPSCoR Track II award.
IMPACT: Innovative Methods to develop Adaptive Capacity through Transdisciplinarity
Science plays a pivotal role in society’s ability to address environmental change, technology innovation, and inequality. However, segments of society doubt that science can meet modern challenges and distrust information they receive about science. We hypothesize that issues of public trust in science stem from lack of connection, inspiration, and creativity among stakeholders. Social, cultural, visual, and communication disciplines are essential in cultivating adaptive capacity. This adaptive capacity is what universities work to inform and foster, but it is not clear to what extent our institution is presently able to do so. I am the lead investigator on an effort to understand and enhance this capacity. Details here about some seed funding that is supporting one phase of the IMPACT program. Our current work includes: (a) a mixed methods approach (interviews, surveys) to understand how transdisicplinary research impacts are understood, reported, and supported and (b) experimental training programs to investigate how transdisciplinary training can enhance research creativity, community-based co-production, and effective sharing of research. This work is supported in part by UW Grand Challenges, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, and the WyoGlobal Program.
Sharing Science: Attitudes, Motivations, and Behaviors in Scicomm
I am the lead investigator on a pair of studies investigating how students, faculty, and staff perceive their own work in science engagement with non-specialist audiences. These survey-based studies are in-progress. I direct a science communication certification program wherein we are investigating effective approaches for science communication skill development and career advancement. I am also the co-PI for a program investigating effective modes of career coaching for mid-to-advanced-career science communication professionals. This work is supported in part by the National Association of Science Writers.
Drawn to Science: Studying the Efficacy of Art-Science Integration
I am the lead investigator on a set of studies investigating the efficacy of art-science integration for teaching and learning about the natural sciences. In particular, I study (1) how art and creative writing practices can enhance teaching, learning, and research in the sciences, (2) how transdisciplinary research and public-facing work is conducted, and (3) how to enhance scientists’ ability to learn from and use arts and humanities practices to inform and improve their research and sharing their science. Related publications, project updates, and advice are available here. This work is supported in part by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, the WyoGlobal Program, Sheridan College, and the Neltje Center.
Meteor: SciComm with Impact
I co-founded Meteor with Virginia Schutte in 2021. We think the scicomm world needs a coherent community of practice, along with venues for experienced scicomm folks to grow together. Through the Meteor podcast, we aim to create a space for “advanced user” discussions around science communication’s many facets: inclusive approaches to scicomm, training/facilitation, teaching, research, integration of research and practice, and all the angles of community engagement with science. Through Meteor trainings, we help people achieve the inclusive impact, through scicomm, that they want to have in the world. This work is supported in part by the National Association of Science Writers.
Teaching Science Communication
In addition to teaching a host of workshops now and in the past, I teach inclusive science communication (visual, writing, community-focused, and more) at the University of Wyoming. I’ve posted the syllabus for each course here. I am also happy to guest lecture or lead workshops on these course topics. Contact me to discuss stipends, travel costs, and planning logistics.
Public Art and Publicly Engaged Art
In the past few years, I have increasingly melded my training in visual arts and my childhood as a 4-H kid learning to quilt and knit. Recent project range from murals to main street beautification, from massive flags commemorating women’s right to vote and fiber arts encouraging everyone to vote. Details.
Ecological Society of America
Section Editor, Communicating Science, The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America: In 2018, I was recruited to launch and edit a new section of ESA’s oldest journal. Effective November 2018, The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America will now accept submissions for consideration in a new section dedicated to Communicating Science. This new space in the journal provides ESA members interested in communication and engagement a platform for publishing articles on topics of relevance, timeliness, and value for members working at the communications, engagement, and ecology interface. View the editorial/submission guidelines here or submit via the journal
Communication and Engagement Section (link): Through a combination of teaching and communicating, I have come to believe deeply in the importance of science communication training. To that end, I co-founded the Communication and Engagement Section of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in 2014. I regularly co-facilitate science communication training workshops at annual ESA conferences. I also developed and maintained the Section website (2014-2021), served as Secretary (2015-2016), and was voted to serve as Chairperson-Elect (2016-2017), Chairperson (2017-2018), and Past Chairperson (2018-2019). I further served the Section in an “emeritus” or member-at-large advisory capacity between 2019-2022.