The Art of Communicating Cool Science, New Discoveries, and Policy Decisions in the Age of Twitter

ROOM: Atlantis, Grand Ballroom 5
In this age of social media and ever-shorter attention spans, effectively communicating the complexities behind scientific trends, new discoveries, or the science behind natural resource management decisions is a challenge that communications professionals across agencies and organizations struggle with daily. How do you quickly boil down, package, and present scientific information in a way that captures people’s attention these days? What resonates and what doesn’t? What are the best approaches and how do I use them effectively? The objective of this symposium is to highlight recent scientific communications successes and dive into what made them a success. How did you reach your audience, whether it was decision makers, the media, students, the interested public, or all of the above? Presenters will quickly describe the challenge they faced and walk us through their strategy, including the approaches they took and why. They will answer the question – what made this communication effort work, what didn’t, and how do I know? Whether you are a professional communicator for a government agency, a natural resources educator, or a science or policy professional, this symposium will offer valuable and practical insights about getting your message out, clearly and with measurable impact in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world of communications. Attendees will come away with some specific strategies they can use to develop and execute a communications strategy that works.

7:55AM Welcoming Remarks
8:00AM Capitalizing on Social Media; Breaking News and Changing Minds As a Government Agency
  Allison Garrett, Kim Amendola
The presentation will focus on examples of how we, as a government agency, have worked with news media and used social media to tell stories in real time and encourage people to change their behavior to be more conservation minded. We will highlight how we use Twitter to break news, comment on Facebook as a way to correct incorrect information and work with partner agencies to develop messages so that we are all speaking with one voice. We will also share a constituent call format that works well when communicating regulatory actions involving a popular fish species; red snapper. Our examples will feature injured dolphins being “pushed back” into the wild without be treated for their injuries, endangered right whales being videotaped too close using drones and marine mammal mass strandings. We spend time strategizing about the best way to handle various situations presented to us, especially when it comes to social media. We look for ways to reach people, most of whom are not aware of regulations relating to marine mammals and fish. We see these as opportunities to educate not only the person posting the information, but the thousands who like, share, comment and re-post the information.
8:20AM Pole of Inaccessibility: Bringing Ocean Sciences to North America’s Great Interior
  Spencer Cody
If a teacher from South Dakota can use technology to bring the ocean sciences to life for middle and high school students, you can too! Join us as we explore how NOAA Teacher at Sea can bring stimulating ocean science content to the classroom through a wide range of technology and media applications including everything from Google Cardboard and various VR applications to utilizing NOAA Teacher at Sea’s rich ocean science resources and curriculum. We will be covering NOAA Teacher at Sea resources concerning VR applications utilizing Google Cardboard, various mapping and imaging applications, NOAA Teacher at Sea blogs and media, and many other resources that allow students to easily access field experiences, research data, and information concerning our ocean resources that have been assembled into user-friendly resources through NOAA Teacher at Sea’s national network of teacher alumni in collaboration with NOAA’s researchers and support staff. Learn how to take advantage of student devices to provide interactive ocean science field experiences and to generate student buy-in for the content. With today’s technology all schools have NOAA Teacher at Sea’s field experiences and NOAA science at the tips of their fingers.
8:40AM Sharing the Shore: Protecting the “Wild” in West Coast Wildlife
  Michael Milstein, Hannah Mellman, Ruth Howell
While California sea lions are booming on the West Coast, endangered Southern Resident killer whales are sliding toward extinction. These two extremes bookend the communication challenges surrounding wildlife issues that tug at the public’s emotions but which are rooted in the realities of ecosystem science. The recovery of California sea lions has led to a population of some 250,000 animals that now occupy beaches, harbors and breakwaters, enticing watchers to pet, feed, and take photos with the wild animals. At the same time the decline of Southern Resident killer whales has prompted emotional pleas from the public to feed the whales in especially poor condition salmon they need to survive. NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region has sought to redefine public attitudes and behavior through campaigns urging the public to give wildlife the space they need to remain wild, and explaining though a multitude of materials and media releases that feeding wildlife jeopardizes their survival by making animals reliant on human handouts. Consistent delivery of these messages through direct communication and relayed through the media has helped educate wildlife watchers that they too have a role in contributing to the survival and recovery of the species they admire.
9:00AM The Art of Communicating Cool Science, New Discoveries, and Policy Decisions in the Age of Twitter
  Alex Eilers
Pairings between informal science institutions such as museums, zoos, science centers or nature centers with science researchers are ideal partnerships for propagating current science information to diverse audiences, but acquiring and maintaining a ‘following’ can be tricky and time-consuming. Therefore, participating in professional development opportunities like the NOAA Teachers at Sea program and the NSF-funded PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) programs foster these educational opportunities – especially through social media outlets such as journaling or blogging. Museum educator Alex Eilers, along with her Teacher at Sea team and PolarTREC teams, planned, developed and executed extensive outreach efforts with a strong web-based focus. This segment of the symposium outlines the team’s most successful attempts to align and disseminate the science mission objectives through daily (or regular) journaling to targeted recipients. Highlights will include digital platforms used, designing a holistic outreach plan to accommodate multiple audiences, ideas for acquiring and encouraging participation from your audience, and marketing to those audiences. Challenges surrounding these efforts will also be discussed, and will focus on topics such as marketing and promotion in an effort to expand your online presence, and writing/developing intriguing journal content that appeals to a variety of ages.
9:20AM Harnessing the Power of Art to Advance Federal Fisheries Management: An Interdisciplinary Experiment
  Ruth Howell, Cat Ross
In 2013, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region and the Pacific Northwest College of Art joined forces to advance a shared vision: to bridge environmental science and conservation with art to drive social change. Each year, a select group of students worked closely with NOAA staff and scientists to address a specific concern and through art, inspire the public to make changes in their daily lives. Through a “Science in the Studio” award, students brought their perspective and talents to issues ranging from the impact of toxic pollution on salmon, human interactions with wild marine mammals, endangered salmon recovery in California, and U.S. seafood sustainability. Similarly, an “Artist in Residence” program embedded graduate-level art students with NOAA Fisheries scientists for six weeks, fostering discourse across fields and finding creative synergy. The artists brought new ways of interpreting and translating science, deepening the link between research and the broader community. In each case, the final artistic pieces and the infusion of artistic practice transcended scientific information to connect communities and inspire action.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM Communicating Science and Engaging with Alaska Communities
  Maggie Mooney-Seus, Lyle Britt
In the past five years, the northeastern Bering Sea has seen warmer than average ocean temperatures. In an effort to better understand how these changing environmental conditions were affecting the marine ecosystem, NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center conducted two surveys in 2017 and 2018. We worked with the local Sea Grant MAP Agent to conduct an intensive outreach effort. We took a three-pronged approach to communicate and engage with local Alaska Native communities in advance of the surveys, during and after their completion. Our goals were to explain the purpose and scope of the surveys, to listen to and try to address local concerns and share collected information. Due to the success of this effort, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center now is developing a communications protocol for use across Alaska. Through this continuing effort we hope to not only more effectively communicate with local communities but also build partnerships.
1:30PM The Ecology of the Internet: Lessons Learned for Science Communicators from a Career in Journalism
  Melissa Cronin
Scientific outreach is no longer an extracurricular activity for scientists. In an era marked by particularly anti-science public discourse and policies, more and more scientists are practicing some form of science communication—and this type of work is increasingly expected of scientists. But disseminating scientific results in a responsible, educational, and entertaining way in the fast-paced and fickle media atmosphere isn’t an easy task. Drawing on my career as an environmental journalist and science communicator, this session will help inform scientists about how to use their outreach to convey an effective message to diverse knowledge users, promote scholarly debate, and amplify the scope of audiences reached—as well as show why using those tools are more important than ever. This talk will also offer practical advice for maximizing engagement on popular “new media” sources, including blogging and social media platforms like Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, WordPress/Squarespace, and Storify, as well as for developing skills to relate to journalists, avoid media “hype” and misunderstandings, and expand the reach of scientific publications. Lastly, it will include a two-minute crash-course in pitching to large media organizations and news sites, and how to be the scientist a journalist really wants to talk to.
1:50PM Communicating Marine Policy in an Era of Climate Change
  Elizabeth Nyman
Oceans and fisheries face many potential impacts from climate change. However, the future impacts of climate change related alterations – ocean acidification, species migration, habitat loss, and the like – are not yet fully known. Because of this, policymakers are forced to use theories and predictions about the future of the world’s oceans, and may or may not understand the most advanced science. Here, I discuss the issues that come with trying to communicate marine policy and science to a popular audience. I draw on my experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea (2013) and the blog posts I wrote tying marine science with international maritime law, as well as a recent op-ed I spearheaded for the Washington Post on the ongoing negotiations at the United Nations over marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions.
2:10PM Pacific Islands Region Newsroom
  Ali Bayless, Tia Brown
The Pacific Islands Region of NOAA has recently implemented a tool known as ‘Newsroom’ to develop strategies for effective communication of scientific research. The idea behind Newsroom is to create an informal environment where scientists can present research findings, prepare for interviews, or discuss upcoming projects to gain feedback from their colleagues on how best to communicate their science. They are challenged to take a step back from their research and think about what their core messages are. Scientists are typically solicited by the communications team based on upcoming projects. What makes Newsroom such a success is that the process is organic and the presenter gets feedback from all types of colleagues: scientists, communications specialists and managers. This leads to a well-rounded audience that can work together to hone-in on key messages and the most effective way to communicate those messages to the identified target audience. This platform is then used to create web and social media content, press releases, magazine articles, radio interviews, and presentations. For example, one Newsroom discussion on the first-ever stock assessment of Kona Crab, led to the feature story The Mysterious Kona Crab and Its Sustainable Fishery that was highlighted on the NOAA fisheries website.
2:30PM Sunday School: Systems-Literacy Success through Short, Teacher-Led Family Field Trips
  Trevor Hance
Systems literacy is fundamental to 21st century success. Using short, experiential, Sunday evening “family-field trips” in local natural spaces led by (their child’s) public school teachers, we gained buy-in from previously underrepresented parent-groups for “life and learning in natural environments” as essential elements of the school’s successful learning model. The campus is positioned adjacent to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in Austin. Over the past decade, we have leveraged our location and established partnerships with aligned entities to build learning experiences based on nature, sustainability, and conservation. There are 30 languages spoken on the campus, and while students are academically successful, the communication strategy was designed to build deep, place-based systems-literacy with families new to America, promote inclusion, decrease barriers to engagement, connect families to community, and provide professional development for our new teachers. Using grant-funded resources, each immersive session had a slightly different focus (i.e. – angler education, fly tying, nature photography, citizen science) and they were very popular. Reservations for each session filled within 30 minutes of being posted. Our communication and outreach effort addressed a common challenge in public schools (i.e. – community engagement) by providing authentic, hands-on learning experiences for families that deepened systems-literacy for all.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM When “the Blob” Attacks: Conveying Ecosystem Science through Real-Time News
  Michael Milstein
Unusually warm ocean temperatures known as “The Blob” began enveloping the West Coast in fall 2013, precipitating dramatic changes in the marine ecosystem that had important social and economic implications. While the public and media focused on individual impacts such as closed fishing seasons, NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region went further to paint a broader picture of how the unprecedented warming affected species throughout the marine food web, and the coastal communities that depend on them. Communication efforts extending over nearly five years explained how scientists monitor environmental change, highlighting ecosystem dynamics and the inherent trade-offs in managing marine resources. For example, the campaign drew on scientific findings in near-real time to explain how the warming contributed to a record harmful algal bloom that shut down the lucrative West Coast Dungeness crab fishery, affected whale migrations, and displaced species into waters where they had rarely if ever been seen before. Similar effects are expected in a warming climate. Through media outreach, the West Coast press helped reflect the larger ecosystem and ecological themes illustrating how the many diverse effects of “The Blob” fit together.
3:40PM Communicating Real-World Research to Students
  Samuel Northern
As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I gained real-world research experience working with scientists on the Atlantic Ocean. I returned from the program with increased knowledge regarding the world’s oceans, marine biology, and how real governmental field science is conducted. In order to effectively communicate the science behind the Ecosystem Monitoring Survey to students, colleagues, and community members, I utilize innovative communication strategies. During the cruise, I kept a detailed science log and personal journal to communicate complex science topics with students and teachers. My blog includes image galleries, interviews, video clips, and polls. Twitter and Facebook kept my social media followers informed on critical aspects of the survey: animals observed, species collected, and scientific data from various sampling sensors. I use Google Expeditions VR to create virtual tours of the ship using 360-degree pictures I captured while at sea. This enables students to “experience” scientific research by exploring text and photographs that I embed on top of the 360-degree images. I also develop engaging professional presentations with graphic design software to tell students and community groups about my Teacher at Sea voyage. All of these outlets allow me to share my experiences in a succinct and current way.
4:00PM From Paper to the Cloud – Tools and Methods for Communicating with a Diverse Audience
  Allison Ferreira
The Greater Atlantic Region of NOAA Fisheries is known for being a hotbed for marine policy issues – ranging from the dire status of the endangered North Atlantic right whale to the complex and highly political groundfish fishery, and more recently to wind energy development. Our audiences include fishery participants that prefer paper notifications or have no routine internet access to the media who rely on social media for information about the work we do and decisions we make. Thus, we must rely on a variety of communications tools and methods to convey our messages to these various audiences. The presentation will highlight the tools and methods we have developed and use in the Greater Atlantic Region to achieve our communications objectives, including what social media is good for and what it is not, and the lessons we have learned along the way. It will also present our challenges finding effective ways to meaningfully engage with the fishing industry.
4:20PM Grab the Popcorn, It’s Show Time!
  Elizabeth Eubanks
I have a short attention span, and I love short videos. I also love making films and assigning film making to my science based middle school and college level students. Who doesn’t love videos? From Instagram to YouTube we are all watching! Creating and utilizing short videos to communicate science increases interest, which then creates awareness. Guiding students to create short one-three-five minutes films involving personal research, a given or chosen scientific related topic enables them to learn about their topic and learn to engage an audience and communicate effectively. This presentation will teach brevity in video making, introduce the one to three -minute challenge and provide resources and opportunities for students and scientists to create and share their videos.
4:40PM Concluding Remarks

Organizers: Kate Naughten
Supported by: NOAA Fisheries Office of Communications

Location: Atlantis Hotel Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 7:55 am - 5:00 pm