Posted on October 28, 2013
Data visualization. Open science. Open data. Interactive graphics. And fisheries. These are a few of my favorite things, and this summer I wrangled them all together for one exciting project: the RAM legacy stock assessment database.
This database has existed for years, but offered little more than a public portal to the data. Dr. Ray Hilborn at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences saw room for improvement. He asked me to develop a web site that not only made the database accessible, but provided data summaries and interactive graphics that would make the site more useful to fisheries scientists.
Two exciting components of this work allowed me to further develop my skills in web interactivity and data visualization.
The map below allows users to access regional summaries of the data by clicking on different regions. I developed it in Arc GIS and made it entirely interactive and responsive through CSS.
The following dynamic data visualization allows users to visualize trends in the data by showing up to five dimensions at once: the x and y-axes, the size and color of the points, and the movement of those points through time. I programmed visualizations for several regions of the database using the GoogleVis package in R.
I’ll soon be making a screen cast that explains how to use and interpret this figure, but for now, I’ll attempt to explain it to you via text. The figure shows different fish groups (stocks) as points (mouse over them to see what they are). The size of the point represents the amount recommended to be fished (MSY) and color represents taxonomic groupings. The x-axis shows a measure of the relative size of the population, and on the y-axis the relative fishing pressure. To really understand what’s going on, you need to know that points in the upper left corner represent groups of fish that aren’t doing so well: they have small populations and high fishing pressure. Points in the lower right corner are relatively healthy: they have large populations and low fishing pressure. Press play on the bottom left to see how the relative health of these groups of fish changed over many decades.
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Posted on August 15, 2013
Today’s early career scientists face staggering challenges: heavy competition for tenure-track positions, budget cuts and sequesters, and a media landscape rampant with science denial. Now more than ever, these scientists need to effectively communicate why their work matters. However, most graduate STEM programs thrive on a finely tuned curriculum tailored to gaining subject-specific expertise; communication to non-experts is rarely included. Scientists, graduate students, and science communicators everywhere call for science communication to become an part of STEM graduate student education (for background, see COMPASS’ #gradscicomm project).
At the Engage Program, we’re leading this movement. It began with a small group of dedicated University of Washington graduate students who wanted to share their science with the Seattle community. Three years later, the program has evolved to include an official University of Washington seminar course, a speaker series at Town Hall Seattle, and a podcast. We were even featured in the Seattle Times.
I first got involved with this program when I enrolled in the course and gave a public presentation on my research. I have since helped secure funding for the program, re-designed the website, and best of all, am now teaching the University of Washington graduate level course. The course not only teaches the science communication fundamentals, but gives the students real world experience: all students give public presentations on their research at Town Hall Seattle.
In class, I teach students to consider their audience, lose the jargon, and transform their research into a story. I and the Engage Board of Directors are currently designing science communication workshops based on our course curriculum (see an example of what a day in class is like to the right). Please get in touch with me if you would like to know more.Leave a Comment
Posted on August 6, 2013
While many of my science communication efforts take place online, sometimes you can’t beat talking about science with somebody face-to-face. You can gauge how an audience is following you by their body language, answering their questions, spend more time on the pieces that they find interesting, and create a richer sensory experience that is so valuable to memory.
That’s why I gave a public presentation on my M.S. research at Town Hall Seattle in January 2012. This was my first public presentation, and you can tell from my stiffness that I was quite nervous to speak with authority to a group of ~25 civilians. But after the experience, my confidence in speaking about salmon migration in Puget Sound has increased significantly. I now find nothing more satisfying than taking the results of my master’s research, weaving it into a story, and relaying it to somebody who thinks they know nothing about salmon.
In order to give this presentation, I took a course at the University of Washington known as Communicating Science to the Public Effectively. I went on to become the instructor of this course the following year, and am on the board of directors for the Engage Program, from which the course was born. Check out their website (which I also designed) for more information about the program, or check out my post on what it was like to teach the course.1 Comment
Posted on July 7, 2013
Faced with too much bad news, people tune out. I recently worked with Conservation magazine to challenge the “doom-and-gloom” paradigm in conservation journalism. While the print magazine is the main course, I helped spice up Conservation’s web presence: I rebuilt their website and reinvigorated their social media strategy. A dash of video here, and infographic there, and +3000 followers later, they’re engaging a new community of environmentalists interested in reading beyond the obituary and creating a greener future.
A collection of my social media shares
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Posted on May 17, 2012
Not long ago, I considered social media to be merely for keeping up with far-away friends or self-important over-sharing of life experiences. Chances are, you too felt this way at one point or another. Maybe you still do.
I’m challenging that pre-conceived notion in my fellow graduate students and scientists. Social media has revolutionized the way we consume media and the way we communicate; 1 in every 13 people on earth is on facebook. It’s easy to judge social media use based on our own anecdotal evidence, or see it as something that doesn’t apply to us as academics or scientists. Thinking this way means you overlook powerful opportunities.1 Comment