Communicating science. Does social media carve a gap between young and old readers?

broken typewriter

This workshop is great but how do we get more information out of you scientists when we get back home?

This question has been asked at nearly every community workshop I’ve ever attended. It highlights a big appetite for new information. Yet I was surprised at a recent workshop when a member of the audience answered the question, like this:

There’s heaps of great information by scientists on social media, on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

It may not surprise you to learn that the person who asked the question was in their 50s and the person who answered it was in their 20s. (I hope I guessed both ages appropriately).

The exchange raises lots of questions about access to information on the web. Does social media create a digital divide across the generations? Do crowd sourcing and citizen science initiatives that rely on smartphones exclude sectors of society? Who is in the tent, and who is left outside? Continue reading

Lightning, trees & exploding people

mossy boulderOn a bed of moss on a large rock on a high knoll, below the summit of a steep, forested ridge, lies – prostrate and exposed – a slab of wood.

At first glance, it resembles a fence post, hewn roughly from the trunk of an old Black Cypress-pine. When buried upright, the thick slab would support a strong wire fence. But who would hew a post in such a remote place, and sacrifice their handiwork on a tall, granite boulder? Continue reading

Before/after photos: 2014 awards and new 2015 competition

Webb Newington 1995

Thank you to everybody who submitted their wonderful photos, and to all who viewed and voted in last year’s repeat photo competition.

When I announced the competition in February 2014 I had no idea whether any photos would be submitted. The response far exceeded my tentative expectations. Many readers have already requested that we do it all again in 2015. So ready, set, go – grab your cameras and start snapping, asap. But first, it’s time to enjoy the winning entries from the 2014 Inaugural Environmental Repeat Photo Competition (drum roll please)… Continue reading

Snap snap! Enjoy this wonderful gallery of repeat nature photos

Repeat header 1a

What a difference a year makes! In February, I invited readers to send in their favourite repeat monitoring photos, and you responded with an amazing series of fantastic images.

The goal was to promote ecosystem monitoring rather than gun photography. Nevertheless many of the photos tick both boxes, and combine great images with great observations. Now it’s your turn to select your favorite shots.

Continue reading

Who will win the inaugural repeat photo competition?

Before After 2

Have you taken your snaps for the environmental repeat photo competition? If you have, it’s now time to enter.

At the start of the year, I announced a photo competition. The goal was to encourage everyone to get out in the bush and to record changes in their favourite ecosystem. It’s now time to submit your shots and then vote for your favourite repeat photos of 2014. Continue reading

Bringing back the dead with old ecology photos

Mallee Swale Eucalypts Wyperfeld 1982 Cheal

Take a close look at the coppicing trees in the old photo above. Notice anything unusual?

Perhaps it looks like any other stand of burnt mallee? Perhaps it does. But most of the trees aren’t resprouting after a fire. They aren’t recovering from drought, insect attack or damage by humans either. What could have caused the damage? Continue reading

Never blog in your PJs, and other tips for science and ecology bloggers

ThePastLogoThe scientists before me out-sourced everything, from typing a letter to making a pot of tea. My generation out-sourced communication and engagement. This generation of researchers has to do the lot. Every early career researcher is encouraged to publicize their work on blogs and social media.

For months now, I’ve collated hundreds of blogs on the Facebook page, Australia’s Best Ecology Blogs, to showcase science to a larger audience. Unfortunately many posts attract few readers, because they aren’t written as effectively as they could be. That’s disappointing but not surprising as – despite the pressure for self-promotion – few researchers are trained in science communication.

Collating blogs on Facebook made me realize that bad blogging is like wearing old pyjamas in public. It’s easy. Anyone can do it. It’s also very obvious. And it lingers. Nobody wants to be ‘that person’.

To help ecologists (and other researchers) attract more readers and avoid being caught out, blogging in their PJs, I compiled my top tips for ecology bloggers. I’m sure many readers will have more suggestions to add to the list. If you do, please leave a comment below. Continue reading