Inspiration and Encouragement for New and Potential SciComm-ers: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

#MySciComm contributors had a lot to say in 2017 about how to get into, and get better at, scicomm and engagement. Trainings, like this “Improv Your Science” workshop at #ESA2017 facilitated by ESA chairperson-elect Annaliese Hettinger, were high on the list. Read on for more tips and resources from 2017 contributors. (Photo by Annaliese Hettinger)

Retrospective by Jennifer Purrenhage, series co-editor and Communication and Engagement Section secretary

Bethann Garramon Merkle’s recent #MySciComm 2017 Year in Review highlighted takeaways from our 2017 contributors on building human connections through scicomm.

As I looked back on the 2017 #MySciComm contributions, an additional set of theme emerged from our contributors. They offered advice and encouragement for those of us looking to either up our communication and engagement  game or transition from an existing career path or position into a scicomm position.

1. Start Now.

You might imagine countless reasons for waiting, or perceived obstacles to getting started in scicomm. But our 2017 #MySciComm contributors reminded us of the importance of starting now and starting where you are.

Katie Burke warned that she often gives the advice ‘Start Writing,’ but that people rarely act on it. Katie linked to online resources that can help scicommers pitch their writing to media outlets that she says are ‘hungry for content.’ Katie Burke and Kristina Young both encouraged us to ‘make the time’ to create content because there will never be a perfect time. And they suggested that it likely won’t take as long as we worry it will. Will Chen and I (Jennifer Purrenhage) urged aspiring scicommers to stop aspiring and just start being science communicators. Will suggested creating an example of your particular kind of scicomm and then testing it with family, friends, or even an online community. I reminded readers that there are opportunities to practice and do scicomm in our existing positions — we don’t necessarily need to be somewhere or someone else to get started (and, in fact, we may have already started without realizing it!). Finally, Virginia Schutte offered a different, and valuable, perspective on ‘getting started’ when she discussed what it can be like to get on the job market for a scicomm position before you feel ready.

2. Get Training.

Good news! For those of us who are still resisting the ‘Start Now’ advice, perhaps we can justify waiting until we get some training. Our #2017 MySciComm contributors were huge proponents of training, and they provided general advice and links to specific resources.

Look back at posts from Shane Hanlon, Megan Litwhiler, Annaliese Hettinger, and Ariana Sutton-Grier for links to some of their favorite scicomm resources and training opportunities, including a few that most everyone ranked at the top of their lists: COMPASS, AGU, and AAAS. Rose Hendricks’ description of her experience with ComSciCon might be particularly interesting for our graduate-student readers. Kristina Young’s post about communication through radio includes suggestions for radio-specific workshops and internships, and Lucy Frisch reminded us that we are not born storytellers and can benefit from specific training in this area too. Bethann Merkle recommended improving our visual communication skills–drawing, graphic design, photography, graphs/figures, and conference posters–through training and practice, and she shared some of her favorite resources for enhancing visual communication skills. Josh Silberg and Greg Nickerson reminded us to take stock of the skills and training we’ve already acquired that might also serve us well in scicomm. And Megan Litwhiler and Ariana Sutton-Grier suggested that formal trainings aren’t the only way to improve our scicomm skills. Megan noted how much we can learn from colleagues at conferences and by visiting museums, and Ariana implored us to read everything we can about scicomm. One the scicomm books that Ariana mentioned will be featured in our new Lit Review Series, which we hope will help you triage your own scicomm reading list!

3. Find Your Role.

Something we can already see, after one year of #MySciComm contributions, is the diversity of roles that people can and do play in science communication and engagement. Our 2017 contributors demonstrated this simply by sharing their stories. Many advised us to find our unique role by: looking for the gaps and filling them with our personal strengths and interests (e.g., Kika Tuff, Annaliese Hettinger, Priya Shukla), acknowledging the communication and engagement skills we have been acquiring and honing all along (e.g., Josh Silberg, Sarah Chevalier Prather, Jennifer Purrenhage), and identifying our own style and individual contributions to diverse teams (e.g., Diogo Verissimo, Skylar Bayer, Virginia Schutte).

Our 2017 #MySciComm contributors reminded us to be patient, persistent, and brave.

They also discussed the concerns that some of us may have when transitioning from doing science to communicating science. We were reminded that doing scicomm is not mutually exclusive with doing science and teaching science. Choosing to do communication and engagement work does not mean that we are abandoning our training as scientists.

What would you add to this list?

And, stay tuned! Next time, Annaliese Hettinger’s 2017 #MySciComm Year in Review will explore our contributors’ perspectives on identity and taking risks in scicomm.


Human Connections Through, With & For SciComm: MySciComm 2017 in Review

Rebecca Johnson
#MySciComm contributors had a lot to say in 2017 about how scicomm and engagement can build human connections and are stronger and more effective because of it. (Photo: #MySciComm contributor Rebecca Johnson, at center, co-directs the Citizen Science program at California Academy of Sciences; photo by Alison Young.)


Retrospective by Bethann Garramon Merkle, series co-editor and Communication and Engagement Section chairperson

Certainly, there is much to be learned from #MySciComm contributors regarding how to incorporate scicomm into research and how to transition into a scicomm career. But we, the editors, think the humanity this series exposes is equally important.

#MySciComm shows us the people behind the science.

In looking back through the #MySciComm contributions from 2017, I noticed that our contributors take that human element a step further. Contributors are museum staffers, research scientists, journalists, professors, and more.

In their experience, science communication and public engagement work  is dependent upon human connections.

They make these connections by producing compelling scicomm, by doing effective engagement. They learn to do so by listening to their audiences, as well as the advice of peers and mentors. They have met collaborators, funders, clients, and friends as a result of taking scicomm risks, reaching out for and offering help, and being committed to the messages they work to share.

Above all, these contributors epitomize our conviction: while the processes of science are, importantly, as objective as we can make them, the people doing, sharing, and learning about science are, and must be, human.

Here are some ways to build human connections, as recommended by 2017 #MySciComm contributors.

1. Ask for help.

Caitlin Looby reminded us to ask for help finding science communication opportunities including journalism and public engagement activities. Shane Hanlon highlighted connecting with individual people and institutional resources like the Communication and Engagement Section, AAAS, COMPASS, and more. William Chen emphasized the importance of seeking out mentors who not only provide opportunities and guidance, but also advocate for your science communication work. Rebecca Johnson encouraged us to listen, ask questions, and respect others’ experience and expertise. And, Virginia Schutte highlighted the pros, cons, and necessity of coming to terms with not being part of an academic hierarchy if you fully leave science.

2. Use scicomm as a force for good. Rose Hendricks noted scicomm and engagement can be used to amplify others. And, Caitlin Looby affirmed that communication and engagement professionals can “be the change” by doing scicomm that makes scicomm and science more inclusive.

3. Think of scicomm and engagement as a conversation.

Skylar Bayer asserted, “If you want to communicate your science, you have to hang out with your audience.” And, Ramesh Laungani found it most effective to be open and willing to talk about science through a conversation rather than a one-way lecture.

4. See scicomm as a community. Join it, and cultivate it. Sarah Prather noted the best scicomm comes from collaborations, and Diogo Verissimo confirmed that building a diversely skilled team was essential for his most recent major project. Priya Shukla recommended finding a community within the scicomm community that is focused on the specific aspect of scicomm you want to do, such as #marginsci on Twitter. Stacy Krueger-Hadfield highlighted empowering and supportive scicomm networks for scicomm professionals. Kika Tuff has found Twitter a powerful tool for connecting with scientists and science communicators outside of your immediate network. And, Rebecca Johnson cautioned: “Social media is fabulous, but don’t sacrifice the person-to-person interactions.”

What would you add to this list?

And, stay tuned! Next time, Jennifer Purrenhage will take a look at #MySciComm 2017 tips that may be especially helpful for those new to scicomm or looking to transition to a career in scicomm.

MySciComm: Looking Back and Looking Forward

A line of colored pencils, one in each of the common colors on the rainbow spectrum. Text on the image reads "#MySciComm in 2018."
Image placed in public domain by Wall Boat, via Flickr.

Welcome to the 2018 #MySciComm Series! We’re excited to kick off the new year by celebrating what the #MySciComm Series became in 2017.

We launched in February 2017, and were able to feature 27 publicly engaged scientists and science communicators. Their back stories celebrated and talked candidly about the diverse entry points and skill sets that epitomize scicomm and public engagement careers.

As we said in a contributed piece on the ESA EcoTone blog last year, we feel strongly that the #My SciComm Series supports our section goals: professionalizing science communication efforts within and beyond ESA and providing mentorship to ecologists interested in trying out, or transitioning to careers in, science communication.

For the next few weeks, leading up to the launch of the first #MySciComm pieces of 2018, we’ll be looking back at the insights shared by our 2017 contributors. Each of the series editors will be highlighting out-takes from the Tips & Resources sections of each blog post.

Stay tuned! Next week we’ll take a look at #MySciComm 2017 contributions for human connections within, for, and as result of scicomm.

And, in the meantime, please pitch us a piece on your scicomm backstory, or suggest someone we should invite to contribute.



#MySciComm: Caitlin Looby on breaking into science journalism without quitting science

This week, Dr. Caitlin Looby, a SciComm Section member, responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt

Caitlin Looby is a scientist and a freelance science writer. She earned her PhD in Biology from the University of California, Irvine, her M.S. in Biotechnology at Kean University, and her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Connecticut. During graduate school, Caitlin found a new passion, motivator, and purpose in science communication. She recently traded ocean views for mountain views, and lives in Colorado. Connect with Caitlin on @caitlooby, through email, or on her website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Okay, Caitlin…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

In graduate school, I realized that I couldn’t wait to finish a study so I could write about it.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Caitlin Looby on breaking into science journalism without quitting science

#MySciComm: Jennifer Purrenhage on teaching undergrads as SciComm

This week, Dr. Jennifer Purrenhage, our SciComm Section Secretary, responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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Jennifer Purrenhage in Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine (photo by Elizabeth Hooper)

Jennifer is a lecturer in wildlife ecology and environmental conservation at the University of New Hampshire, and the current Secretary of the Science Communication Section of ESA. She emphasizes the study and practice of science communication and engagement in all her courses, and puts her own communication skills to use both as an educator and through her work with local non-profit organizations. Jennifer is also the founder of an organic tea company, and lives in the New Hampshire seacoast with her partner Danny and their two dogs Keeley and Gordon. Connect with Jennifer via email or her website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Okay, Jennifer…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

I was raised in a family that values language, conversation, and an appreciation for nature.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Jennifer Purrenhage on teaching undergrads as SciComm

#MySciComm: Ramesh on learning to do SciComm in graduate school, by going back to middle school

This week, Dr. Ramesh Laungani responds to the #MySciComm questions!

Ramesh (center) teaching an introductory biology course at Doane University (photo courtesy of Doane University Office of Strategic Communication)

Ramesh is an associate professor of Biology at Doane University. He holds a PhD in biology (ecology and evolution) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied nutrient cycling in tallgrass prairie. As a professor, he teaches both introductory and upper level biology courses. He is also involved in SciComm with K-12 students through tools like Flipgrid and the 1000 STEM Women Project. Connect with Ramesh online @DrRamBio and at his website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Okay, Ramesh…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

It started in graduate school when I joined Project Fulcrum (PF), a GK-12 program that placed STEM graduate students into K-12 classrooms.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Ramesh on learning to do SciComm in graduate school, by going back to middle school

#MySciComm: Rose Hendricks (of ComSciCon!) on Harnessing Insights from Psychology for SciComm

This week, Rose Hendricks, a member of the ComSciCon Leadership Team, responds to the #MySciComm questions!

Right now, we are recruiting, with ComSciCon and the ESA Student Section, for student co-organizers to lead a ComSciCon workshop at #ESA2018! Please contact the ESA Student section directly if you want to co-organize and lead the #ESA2018 ComSciCon!

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Photo courtesy of the author

Rose is a PhD Candidate in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. She researches how the language we use shapes the way we think, which has dovetailed with her interest in scicomm. As a member of the ComSciCon leadership team and founder of the local ComSciCon workshop in San Diego, she leads teams of graduate students in developing scicomm workshops for other graduate students. Connect with her @RoHendricks and on her website.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Okay, Rose…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

During my last year of high school, I opted not to take a science class.

Continue reading #MySciComm: Rose Hendricks (of ComSciCon!) on Harnessing Insights from Psychology for SciComm

#MySciComm: William Chen on games, conferences, and transitioning to a scicomm career

This week, William Chen responds to the #MySciComm questions!

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William in Seattle, Washington (Photo courtesy of Tal Noznisky)

William is a science communicator interested in writing, storytelling, and interactives. After obtaining a Master’s degree in Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management at the University of Washington, he is transitioning into a career of science communication. This starts with an internship at The Nature Conservancy, where he engages diverse audiences with stories about protecting and restoring nature both for its own sake and for people. Connect with him @ChenWillMath and

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Okay, William…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

Playing off of my board game hobby.

Continue reading #MySciComm: William Chen on games, conferences, and transitioning to a scicomm career

You’re Invited! Co-organizers needed for #ESA2018 comm & engagement sessions, contribute to this blog, and more!

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As we mentioned in our #ESA2017 recap post a couple of weeks ago, a wealth of opportunities sprung up and/or were identified at this year’s annual meeting.

Here’s a complete list of all our current volunteer opportunities. We’ll keep that updated, so do check that page when you have time to commit.

Meanwhile, we want to highlight some particularly exciting and time-sensitive opportunities relating to a) our website and blog, and b) planning for #ESA2018. Specifically, please see the final point for a Google Form where we can all share communication and engagement-related planning for next year’s annual meeting.

Please see below, and do get in touch if you want to contribute!

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Website & Blog Contributors Wanted!

1. If you’re an ESA member (and better yet a SciComm Section member) who has done some kind of communication and engagement work, we want to hear from you.

Please pitch us a piece for our increasingly popular #MySciComm Series. We’d love to highlight your work! Complete contributor guidelines are available here.

2. Got opinions? We’re looking for them for a Lit Review series we will launch in 2018!

The idea is to review/feature books and other types of resources that can be useful for professional development, teaching of scicomm, and planning and assessing engagement activities. Section Secretary Jennifer Purrenhage will be the series editor. Please connect with her if you have suggestions for what we should review. Most especially, please connect with her if you want to pitch/write a review of a resource you recommend! Jennifer can be reached at jennifer.purrenhage[at]

3. Are you a member of the Education Section who is also engaged with scicomm/engagement and/or teaching scicomm skills?

If so, please connect with us! We’re already in touch with the ESA Ed staff through our role on the Committee on Diversity and Education, but we’d like to connect directly with the Ed Section, too. And, we’d love your help making the connection and pursuing collaboration. We’d like to collaborate with the Ed Section & ESA Ed staff to identify areas where we can create and/or curate complementary resources and content.

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Planning for #ESA2018: Session organizers/co-organizers wanted!

1. Attn: Students! Want to co-organize a ComSciCon* workshop for #ESA2018?

We’re coordinating with the Student Section and Rose Hendricks, ComSciCon’s national director, to host a ComSciCon workshop at next year’s meeting. These workshops are a big lift, but also a fantastic way to gain skills in scicomm and event planning. Please contact Student Section officers Kelsey Fischer (kefisher[at] and Rob Crystal-Ornelas (rjp266[at] if you’d like to be involved as a co-organizer. *Note that ComSciCon is by and for students.

2. Are you organizing an #ESA2018 session related to communication and/or engagement?

We’re spearheading a coordination effort to help ensure great attendance and wide-ranging coverage of comm & engagement topics at #ESA2018. So we’d love to know – are you planning a session that in some way relates to themes of policy/public affairs, skill-building, science of scicomm, education, outreach, translational ecology (and the list goes on!), etc.?

If so, please contribute your session information here.

The link leads to a Google Form with publicly visible results. The idea is to help everyone in the comm & enagagement community within ESA to identify opportunities for collaboration, reduce potential redundancies, and identify gaps in topical/thematic coverage.

Thanks in advance for your contributions to the coordinating doc!


You’re planning an #ESA2018 session related to communication and/or engagement? Let’s coordinate!

Help make sure the comm & engagement session schedule for #ESA2018 doesn’t look like this! :) (Image credit: patrickblackjr, CC0 via pixabay)

We’re spearheading a multi-section/committee coordination effort. The aim is to help ensure great attendance at, and wide-ranging coverage of topics relating to, comm & engagement sessions at #ESA2018.

So we’d love to know: Are you planning a session that in some way relates to themes of communication and/or engagement?

Such themes include (but aren’t limited to): policy/public affairs, skill-building, science of scicomm, education, outreach, interacting with the media, and inclusive, translational and/or applied ecology.

If so, please share your session information here.

The link above leads to a Google Form with publicly visible results. By contributing your session ideas/proposal information, you’re contributing to three key objectives for comm & engagement programming at #ESA2018:

  1. Identify opportunities for collaboration,
  2. Reduce potential redundancies, and
  3. Identify gaps in topical/thematic coverage.

Thanks in advance for your contributions to the coordinating doc!

Questions or ideas? Click here for more details re our plans for #ESA2018. And, as always, we’d love to hear from you.