SciComm Advice: Start at the End (what are you trying to do?)

Girl drawing in a sketchbook with art supplies on table around her
©2021 – Student sketching in a notebook surrounded by educational materials

I frequently get asked by students and faculty what kind of advice I have for a student interested in sharing science. Some of these students want careers as scicomm professionals. Others want to do scicomm as a scientist. And others still just know someone who is looking for advice. This post is written as direct-to-the-seeker advice.

Feel free to share it and chime in about the advice you share or have found most helpful — share in the comments or on Twitter!


As a starting point, I typically I recommend folks read “Unveiling Impact Identities: A Path for Connecting Science and Society” (link to paper). Julie Risien and Martin Storksdieck’s paper is about about how to meld what they call research and impact identities. Reading this paper can help you orient you to…yourself.

Continue reading “SciComm Advice: Start at the End (what are you trying to do?)”

Canadian Science Publishing interviews me about creative ways of doing science communication and sharing science

I was invited to serve as the People’s Choice Judge for Canadian Science Publishing*’s 2021 Visualizing Science contest (which you can enter now!). In the course of launching the contest, CSP interviewed me about my take on creative approaches to visualizing science and doing science communication.

Here are the cliff notes:

  1. I came to a career scicomm in a round-about way, only to later discover I had been doing scicomm most of my career.
  2. My “creativity+scicomm” soap box centers around 3 principles: (1) Creativity can be practiced and enhanced. (2) Cross-training is essential. (3) Few innovations happen overnight or solo. 
  3. Despite the constraints and our conditioning in academia, we must ground our science communication and public engagement efforts in what our audience or target stakeholders value. “No amount of beautiful art or accessible color palette […] will salvage a visual communication effort that is developed in an echo chamber.”
Continue reading “Canadian Science Publishing interviews me about creative ways of doing science communication and sharing science”

Sketching Tip: Using words for all they are worth

Hares sketched in East Africa – this was the best I ever could do, because they didn’t stick around long enough! (© B.G.Merkle, 2016)

Not all sketching plans go according to plan, and then words can play a critical role. 

In May 2016, I took a trip to East Africa, working on the first international phase of my ecology storybook project: “The Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.” I did a lot of prep for my trip to East Africa. But of course, all kinds of situations arise which planning can’t anticipate. Continue reading “Sketching Tip: Using words for all they are worth”

Sketching Tip: Sketching your notes at conferences, meetings & in class

Toad 5x5
Notes from a training I did in preparation to volunteer for an amphibian monitoring citizen science project in Wyoming.

These tips are excerpted from an earlier article I wrote highlighting many ways that sketchnotes are being used by scientists. The following tips, though, are broadly applicable for many kinds of note-taking situations. Continue reading “Sketching Tip: Sketching your notes at conferences, meetings & in class”

Summer 2017 newsletter: Drawing on windows, making fish & more art-science tips

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Happy summer, dear readers!

I trust this finds you enjoying the weather and doing a bit of sketching. It’s hot in my corner of the Mountain West. I’m writing you from my basement – the only space where it is cool enough to think. But, happily, along with the heat comes garden season, complete with loads of the pollinators I so love to watch and draw. Speaking of which, this is my third year gardening at 7,200 feet above sea level, and it’s a garden in a new part of town.

On top of moving, there are other reasons why it was a busy spring. I successfullydefended my master’s thesis and started a new job. I published a blog series about using the internet to source images for SciComm. I’ve also been co-editing a blog featuring the wide range of career paths possible in SciComm. And, I did some traveling and teaching about art-science synergy, collaborate on communicating about migration, and more. Also,CommNatural is on Instagram now!

As a result of my transition to a new job and all this other busyness, I’m shifting this newsletter from monthly to quarterly. That will ensure I can still connect with you, and share ideas and field experiences, while also giving attention to this new work. Meanwhile, I’ll be posting material on the blog more frequently. I will reference some of it in the newsletter each quarter.

If you’d like to keep up as material is published, and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to my blog. Just visit the website, scroll to the bottom, and provide your email address in the subscription bar! Thanks in advance for subscribing there.

As always, feel free to share* this newsletter with your  friends & colleagues. And do share your sketches & SciArt adventures with me via email or social media!

Happy sketching,

Summer 2017 Table of Contents

  • Insight: E.O. Wilson on drawing & creativity
  • Sketching tip: Drawing on windows
  • Artful Classrooms: Using resin sculptures and drawing to learn about cichlid (fish) phylogeny (genetic relationships)
  • Artful Science: A best-practices primer for using images
  • Sketchbook Snapshot: A mystery moth
  • News & Events: Upcoming science communication graduate course; field sketching workshops for the Wyoming Outdoor Council; recent publications, including a book featuring my illustrations of bighorn sheep; get your summer sketching kits while they’re still in stock

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