My personal science communication and science-art projects demonstrate the value of fully integrating the arts in communicating ecology/ecological research stories.
Right now, I am working on several projects which explore the role stories and other art/humanities approaches) play in shaping public perspectives of science/ecology topics.
1. Ecological Concepts in Children’s Books: The first investigates “How Ecological Concepts are Represented in Children’s Books,” and involves visual critique and content analysis of Caldecott Medal-winning books held in the University of Wyoming’s Toppan Rare Books Collection. The anticipated outcome is an academic article for submission in a journal such as Biology Teacher, along with workshops which will facilitate discussions between librarians, teachers, children’s book creators, and biologists.
2. The Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare: My second project dovetails with the first, and involves a specific familiar fable. I am conducting research and interviews in/about ecosystems where tortoises and hares actually co-exist. Research is currently on-going in Arizona and East Africa. The anticipated outcome is a multimedia project and exhibition a) investigating the conservation and social/cultural issues in ecosystems where tortoises and hares co-exist, and b) illustrating the value of utilizing a multidisciplinary science+art method for telling this story.
3. Pica Tidings: The black-billed magpie (Pica pica) and magpies around the world have long been creatures of lore, omen, portent. I grew up in an area where magpies are common, and recently started researching what we know about them from historical, cultural, and scientific perspectives. Right now, the project is developing into a long-form essay about how smart we now know corvids are, how they are good and bad luck, depending on your culture, and how essential magpies are (as scavengers) for nutrient cycling.
4. Hunting for a Sense of Place: Eating as an Exploration of Myth, Ritual, and Ecology on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front: a collection of essays about conservation and natural history in Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front ecosystem
5. Drawn to Science: In collaboration with professors and instructors at the University of Wyoming, I am investigating the efficacy of drawing instruction, and drawing requirements, in a range of science-related courses. Investigation focuses both on drawing training and expectations for instructors and training and expectations for students. These courses include, but are not limited to, a freshman seminar focused on natural history appreciation; life science for elementary educators; animal biology.
6. Ecological Society of America’s Science Communication Section: 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 Science Communication 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 now maintain the Section website, served as Secretary (2015-2016), and was recently voted to serve as Chair-elect (2016-2017) and thus will chair the section in (2017-2018).