Muddy Boots is our internal blog where our staff members share experiences getting their boots muddy with on-the-ground conservation research! You can find our contributions to external blogs and Op Eds here.
By Rachel Godinho, WCS Canada Social Media Coordinator
Recently, I was lucky to be able to participate in the 2021 Best of Banff - Science Communication Program. I was one of about 375 other participants from across the world (the chat box was definitely popping off 💥)!
Developing my #scicomm skills from the comfort of my own home! Although a weekend in Banff sure would have been nice 😂
At first, I had some trepidation about spending 16 hours on Zoom taking part in a “virtual” training program. But I knew that communicating science has never been more important and is, of course, core to what WCS Canada does, so I buckled up for the ride.
However, much of my nerves dissipated after diving into the pre-course assignments, which were more fun than intimidating and got me excited for the weekend ahead.
“Create your own # to introduce yourself”
“How would you explain online banking to a friend from 150 years ago”
“Prepare to have a pink drink (or item) on hand for a virtual cheers”
My pink drink of choice. Local, low calorie, subtly sweet, and just enough alcohol content to stay engaged and participate meaningfully in a Zoom workshop ⅘ Would recommend. (https://www.lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lcbo/coolers-18-1/coolers-18029/cocktails/georgian-bay-raspberry-rhubarb-vodka-smash-14525)
Once we met the hosts and workshop leaders (all renowned in their fields and unsurprisingly, amazing speakers) I had the confirmation that the weekend would be way more fun and engaging than I thought would be possible over Zoom.
Something that surprised me about the weekend was how easy it was to share my writing with strangers. I was particularly nervous to be sharing my ideas with a group, especially with scientists and professional scientific communicators far deeper into their careers than I. All of these insecurities were easily overcome once we were placed into small breakout groups. Sharing in front of 375 individuals seemed daunting but groups of three or four participants was more inviting. Despite this whole event happening over video call, our groups were quick to get comfortable with each other. This meant that we got to exchange ideas without hesitation, an exchange which led to thorough discussion of workshop topics and even further learning. This experience also reminded me of the power of personalization, which brings me to the next point.
One way in which science communication can benefit from existing in the digital realm is by incorporating diverse perspectives and giving the space to personalize one's work. Knowing online platforms, and social media in particular, are geared towards storytelling can create an interesting challenge. By being more narrative-based, scientists can share their findings in a way that is less passive and more dynamic than the conventional scientific paper or news piece. The digital realm can also be used as a tool to really get immersed into different points of views. Because of the huge variety of science blogs, channels, and communities that are accessible through the internet, one can now access new and fresh perspectives.
As a person of colour in the predominantly white field of wildlife conservation, it was very encouraging to know there is movement toward ensuring that this field is not perpetuating silences or eurocentrism and there is a push to deliberately and intentionally include and promote research, articles, and media from BIPOC scientists (Here are some resources that were shared with me!)
The Open Notebook
Home | Lotus STEMM
Another great resource:
Another important reminder that came out of this workshop is the growing role that Indigenous knowledge plays in science. As a settler listening in to the Indigenous voices in the workshop, I was humbled and inspired and further reminded that including Indigenous perspectives is always a priority. Having this mindset is key to science communication in 2021.
I was genuinely surprised how despite a huge number of participants and the online format, a sense of community emerged. It really felt like I was connected and getting to know these people. Through small breakout groups, we were able to learn about each other and our respective stories and backgrounds. That opened my eyes to what we can do with WCS online communications -- we want to be so much more engaged with our fans and followers. We want to hear their stories as well as sharing ours. We are excited to be pursuing that a lot more.
As the event came to a close, we were invited to stay in touch through various online mediums such as Twitter, Instagram and Slack. My favourite has been the #banffscicomm2021 book club Slack channel, a clever outcome of the workshop. Since the end of the workshop, participants and workshop leaders have been sharing their favourite science-related books and podcasts.
Digital communication makes the sharing of scientific information so easy and accessible. This is particularly important at a time when everything is online and when misinformation can be spread so easily and quickly. At the end of the day this workshop reinforced for me the need to keep findings engaging and relevant, to not be afraid to get personal and be confident in telling our stories; all of which I plan to bring back to WCS Canada.
Photo credits: Banner | Lila Tauzer © WCS Canada