Science Communication and National Geographic

Sadly, it was not my research that was featured by National Geographic. As Dave recently found out, one of the benefits – or possibly curses depending on your perspective – of studying charismatic megafauna (particularly a species that is threatened by climate change) is that people actually pay attention to your research. A couple of weeks ago, while I was all excited about my lab’s work being published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environmental, Dave had to “one-up” me.

Dave’s Nightmare (from PhD Comics)

National Geographic, who helped to fund some of his research this past summer in Wapusk National Park, wanted to do a video and an online article about some of his research activities. Specifically, they wanted to make a video of some of the images he had captured with his game cameras. Unfortunately, National Geographic were not interested in the super interesting and ground-breaking data we collected when testing the cameras. 🙂  As part of the science news process, Dave was charged with organizing his field research photos into a video and preparing for an interview which would later be turned into the video narration and incorporated into the online article.

As graduate students, we receive little or no training in science communication and therefore Dave felt slightly ill-prepared for the interview.  Mostly he was concerned that the National Geographic would somehow get the research wrong or he would accidentally say something incorrect and get himself and/or his lab in trouble.  As you can imagine, polar bears and climate change can be a contentious issue for some people and research groups.

However, the video and article came out about a week ago and both of them turned out wonderfully! Dave did a great job during his interview and I think the staff at National Geographic did a really good job presenting his research fairly. If you are interested in watching the video or reading the articles the links are below (including the article Utah State put out about the National Geographic feature).  Overall, I think that watching Dave go through the process of preparing his science for public consumption reminded me how important science communication is and that science communication with the public is something that I cannot rely on my degree program to teach me.

Watching Polar Bears Eat Goose Eggs in Warmer 

YouTube Video: Polar Bear Predation

Utah State Today Article

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