Science communication is quickly becoming a necessary item on every scientist’s resume. It’s no longer good enough to convince other like-minded Ph.Ds that your research is worthwhile. You somehow have to get the general public to buy-in to the fact that the work you do is necessary and worth funding. And, no amount of graphs, statistics, and confusing jargon is going to accomplish that.
For those in natural resources, scientific communication is particularly necessary for accomplishing our research goals. Not only are most projects funded by tax dollars, but the long-term success of our work is only possible when a community wants to see the ecosystem restored and/or conserved. Simply put, I can restore the stream, but only the community can keep it healthy.
Ironically, despite our jobs being so intertwined with the public, many of us in natural resources struggle to communicate our research outside of academia. I’m willing to bet that many of us, myself included, got into natural resource careers because we thought we would spend more time holding fish than shaking hands. So, now presented with the task of communication, we take entire workshops on using social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), writing to a lay audience, and hosting outreach events. Yet, it still feels like we’re pulling teeth sometimes.
Thankfully, I enjoy telling stories. And, ultimately, I think that’s what scientific communication is about- telling the story of how the world works, including pieces of the plot that I think are still missing (i.e., my research), and convincing you that you also want me to solve that mystery. But, sometimes people don’t want to read the story. Sometimes they just want to flip through the pictures. Enter science art.
I started drawing some years ago while bored in a fish lab. It evolved into a little painting and, most recently, the scratchboard piece featured in this blog. The piece itself doesn’t tell much of a story. But, we don’t share long blocks of texts, graphs, or presentations over social media. We share images. And, if someone happens to see the image and clicks on my website, then it helps communicate my science and tell my story.
The other story it tells it that our fearless leader is getting older! I don’t usually hang on to my artwork, and decided to give this piece to Ty for his birthday last week. Now I can haunt him forever!