Shaping stories to save the world: The movie

Story shapes header

How do we get our messages out? How do we stop preaching to the converted? These questions are asked at lots of workshops on conservation and science communication. We can send our messages across the world using Facebook and Twitter, but most struggle to be seen in the flood of competing stories.

Last month I gave the opening talk at the wonderful Biodiversity Across The Borders conference, hosted by Federation University in Ballarat. My talk was called Shaping Stories to Save the World and suggested ways to make our messages more engaging.

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Tracking Robbie B: Once bittern, twice shy

Flickr Binoculars

Late at night on a Thursday in April, Robbie B disappeared. No one knew where he would go or how long he might survive.

Robbie was under watch. Nine days earlier and against his will, he was fitted with a tracking device: a computer chip like those inside the ankle bracelets worn by sex offenders.

Yet Robbie was no criminal. He was less than four-months-old. [Continue reading] Continue reading

Goodbye world – this is my final blog.


Four years, one hundred stories and more than 150,000 words ago, I began this blog.

The discipline of writing a new story every fortnight had a big impact. It killed my career. Or, to be more accurate, it led me to decide to put an end to the most recent stage of my career.

Late last year, after long discussions with my partner, I decided to leave academia (I haven’t quite left yet). My university is fantastic, my colleagues wonderful and the pay packet hard to refuse. But it is time to grow and learn new skills. Continue reading

The Candles of Dunkeld

An aerial photo of the boundary between treeless grasslands and grassy woodlands in the Dunkeld region.

The boundary between treeless grasslands and grassy woodlands in the Dunkeld region. Source: Google Earth.

Longevity is the iron lung of a woodland tree – life support for an ageing population.

The woodlands of Dunkeld are among the most beautiful in the world. Stately old trees, scattered across grassy paddocks, frame the rugged Grampians Ranges in the distance. In another continent they could be oaks or olives, but in Dunkeld the trees are River Red Gums. Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Century old giants.

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In the future, how will restorationists think about the past?

The extinct Toolache Wallaby, as painted by John Gould. Source:  Wikipedia.

The extinct Toolache Wallaby, as painted by John Gould. Source: Wikipedia.

It’s easy to argue that history has a bigger influence on why we restore ecosystems than on how we restore them. As climate change intensifies, that distinction will grow. Continue reading

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