Communication: The Key to Effective Natural Resource Programs

Natural resource managers and biologists typically do not have a communications background; however, their jobs regularly require them to communicate with the general public and the media regarding topics such as human-wildlife conflicts, changes in harvest regulations, etc. Additionally, population demographics are changing throughout the United States with people becoming increasingly disconnected from the land. Natural resource managers and biologists are now faced with new challenges that require innovative tools and techniques to effectively communicate their message to the public. Presentations will focus on a general overview of interacting with the media including learned experiences from veteran biologists to engaging the public through new media outlets (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Our goal is that attendees with acquire the communication tools necessary to clearly and effectively communicate their natural resource conservation message to the general public.

1:10PM Understanding Your Audience: Making Your Science Speak to Everyone
  Sara Mueller
Talking to other scientists is easy; it is what we are trained to do. However, the majority of people we talk to fall within the category of the “general public”. From kids to special interest groups, from policy makers to hunters and anglers, chances are you will talk to all of these individuals at some point during your career. Each stakeholder within the general public has a unique set of considerations when conversing with them. Choosing the right angle is just as important as choosing the how, when and where to present your information. Topics to be covered in this talk include finding your audience’s objectives, relating to your audience, making your content relevant, and designing a tailored take home message.
1:30PM Conservation through Outreach and Education: From Adopt-a-Trout to Fishmt
  David Schmetterling
Many scientifically sound projects fail from lack of public support. Education and outreach are necessary components of controversial projects and are increasingly necessary for all projects in today’s connected world. We are facing a scientific crisis that is partly of our making. Unfortunately, science has been devalued in our society, equated with opinion, and removed from public policy considerations. The public is skeptical of science, and the rift between the public and scientists has never been greater. We have responsibility for this situation due to our own ineffective communication and comfort in anonymity. As a result, people with questions have been left to their own devices to find answers. Due to social media, there are plenty of answers out there, but those answers are unlikely from us. This is troubling, but there are reasons for optimism, too. For example, we can also use various new tools and platforms to communicate with people. I will share two examples of how I incorporated education and outreach into projects: research on the effects of Milltown Dam on fish in the late 1990’s, and the FishMT web application that provides fisheries information to the public. Biologists should be visible in our communities, advocate, show why fish and their habitats are important, and why others should care. We do important work, for which we are uniquely qualified, and the public looks to us for answers. It is our responsibility to embrace this role.
1:50PM Promoting Science for the Common Good: Working with the Media
  Shawna Richter-Ryerson
Working with the media to share your science can be beneficial for a plethora of reasons. It can elevate the public’s knowledge about your area of expertise; help people make more and better conservation decisions; increase the visibility of your science or institution; and even increase funding or donations. But how do you do that? How do you communicate your science in a clear, understandable way? How do you make sure media outlets don’t “get the science wrong”? A veteran journalist and communication professional lays out the ins-and-outs of working with media; the classic pitfalls scientists and media professionals make; and how by working together, scientists and media professionals can change the world.
2:30PM Facilitated Dialogue: A Tool to Communicate Controversial Science Topics
  Julie Watson
In today’s world of incredibly divisive news media and easily accessible information, communicating controversial science topics to the general public is more difficult than ever. In this presentation we’ll dive into why science topics become controversial in the first place, why in the age of information so many people can be swayed to disregard scientific evidence, and how to overcome these hurdles when communicating controversial science topics. We’ll take a look at current studies that have been done to find the answers to these questions. As science communicators move forward, shifts in communication, education styles, and priorities will need to occur in order to serve the public in the way they need to be served. Facilitating dialogue is one tool to help bridge connections with people on opposing ends of controversial science topics. Dialogue-based communication can look very different depending on the audience and the topic at hand. We’ll be sharing some of the keys to applying facilitated dialogue to your science communication and education strategies.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Death By Powerpoint: Using Technology to Communicate Science
  Ben C. West
The ability to present ideas that are clear and compelling is essential to the success of any organization and, in particular, to advance conservation initiatives. However, the majority of presentations today are unclear, disorganized, boring, too technical, or too lengthy. As a result, people and organizations are missing out on great opportunities to tell their stories to people who matter. At the heart of this ineffectiveness are the PowerPoint presentations that people create, which typically includes screen after screen of bullet points, graphs, charts, and pictures. The way most people use PowerPoint does not help them communicate better, but rather hampers their ability to connect to their audiences and tell their stories in compelling ways. In this presentation, I will illustrate the absurdity of most PowerPoint presentations by using slides from real-world presentations and linking them to cognitive learning theory. I will also show examples of how to create PowerPoint presentations that work, and explain why. Finally, I will discuss why good presentation is key to meet our conservation challenges.
4:00PM Managing the Mysteries of the Media
  Gary San Julian
Whether you are meeting the local news anchor or having lunch with Laura Ingraham and Kellyanne Conway, many of us are nervous about the outcome. We are worried about their questions, being misquoted or a dozen other fears about the outcome. There are simple steps to prepare for an interview and things to remember about the news media either local on national. They all have a job to do and deadlines to meet. They are not your friends nor your enemies despite what you believe at this moment. They don’t have tenure and are in the spotlight every day. Most of them have a liberal arts background and limited scientific knowledge. You can make them successful and they can get your messages to a broad audience. Instead of trying to avoid the media, you can utilize their skills to create a positive and beneficial working relationship by following a few recommendations and avoiding the common pitfalls.
4:20PM Science Communication in Informal and Formal Education Partnerships
  Leah Madison
Public science experiences are necessary to foster a community that embraces science identity, which builds towards sustainable projects. Understanding how to form these experiences can be used as a tool for communication. The success of natural resource projects often depends on the collaboration and communication of a variety of stakeholders. Communication requires balancing values among social, economic and environmental areas, as well as flexibility, space to address concerns, and continued growth and sharing of information. Designing these collaborations to include a long-term component through education-focused partnerships can improve communications, and help extend the reach and evolution of the programs. Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic education has been identified as essential for a successful economy, as well as an area that students need to have a strong identity with in order to pursue STEM fields. Using this as a tool to bridge public-private partnerships can contribute to innovative solutions for natural resource programs and support Sustainable Development Goals. Since 2000, the Office of Education at DRI has been creating connections between science research faculty and the local community throughout the state of Nevada. Through working closely with educators and partners, the program designs components that directly support the needs of the community. The program has included; community college partnerships, informal education groups, k-12 in-classroom hands-on activities, citizen science, educator professional development, public scientific discussions and field experiences with scientists. Using success stories and lessons learned, the strategic choices responsible for the growth and longevity of DRI’s educational office will be illustrated.
4:40PM Elevator Talk: Developing the Ability to Make Connection for Future Collaborations and Funding
  Nate Bickford
One of the most common questions natural resource professionals face when interacting with the public is “What do you do for a living?” Most natural resource professionals receive no formal training in how to quickly respond to this type of question. This has been termed the “elevator talk”, in other words, explaining what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator. This type of training is starting to work its way into science communication curriculum and science communication workshops. Giving an effective elevator speech is a critical skill. Aside from answering questions about their jobs at socials, researchers need to summarize their work quickly while interviewing for a position, asking for money, talking to a visiting politician, or working to develop a potential collaborator. Even casual conversations with friends and neighbors can work to educate the public about the importance of research. This short type of communication can be a significant struggle for many natural resource professionals because they are notorious for using jargon, often becoming bogged down in the details of their experiments that they often forget to mention why this work is important. With preparation and training, researchers can compress their work into key points. Emphasizing relevance, as well as tailoring the speech to the audience. This can all be accomplished and using simple terms and analogies that can turn a thesis-length discussion into a clear two-minute pitch. In this short talk, I will present examples and simple strategies to develop elevator pitches for natural resource professionals.

Organizers: Andy Little, Gary San Julian, Adam Rohnke, Colleen Hartel
Supported by: TWS–Conservation Education and Outreach Working Group, TWS–Student Development Working Group

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm