Small step for scientists, large leap for science communication

It’s said that many hands make light work, but could that be true for science communication too? In an opinion piece in PNAS that came out last week (Kuehne and Olden 2015 http://www.pnas.org/content/112/12/3585.full ), we propose that lay summaries – published online alongside traditional abstracts – are an efficient and needed science communication option in a changing media landscape. Communication of research is undergoing radical and rapid change through ever-increasing reliance on the internet, resulting in a shift from traditional top-down knowledge transfers to a “media ecosystem” (see figure below). Within this ecosystem, widespread adoption of lay summaries could substantially bolster current science communication efforts by creating reliable and direct pathways between scientists and diverse audiences including journalists, policymakers, resource managers, and the general public. We argue that it wouldn’t hurt interdisciplinary communication between scientists either! PNAS 2015 Mar 112(12) 3585-6, Fig. 1

Although lay summaries should enhance science communication across all disciplines, the need for broadly accessible research results is paramount in ecology and the environment. So we are taking this opportunity to urge journal editors and publishers in these fields to provide the platform for publication and incorporate requirement of lay summaries into their peer-review process.  If you support the inclusion of online lay summaries we hope that you’ll join us in signing an open letter http://washington.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bQIXBWeha7Aeahv to major ecology and environmental journals which will be sent on April 10th.

Thanks!

Lauren Kuehne and Julian Olden

University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

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ScienceNOW Coverage of Ecosystem Dynamics in Yellowstone NP

Dr. Kristin Marshall measuring willow stems in Yellowstone National Park.

Dr. Kristin Marshall measuring willow stems in Yellowstone National Park.

Our very own Dr. Kristin Marshall is getting quite a bit of press these days. This past week, she published an article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences on the dynamics of riparian ecosystems following wolf re-introduction in Yellowstone National Park. This 10-year study concludes that the story of species interactions within the Park is not as simple as we once thought. Turns out, the beaver plays a crucial role in both willow growth and ecosystem functioning! Check out the ScienceNOW coverage of the story, and read Kristin’s own communication of her research right here.

If a fish could write your water bill

Would these fish approve your water bill? Photo of Rio Grande chub (Gila pandora) courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

By Lauren Kuehne

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post Why the mayor wants you to have a green lawn: The dark side of water conservation where I “exposed” the open secret of declining support for water conservation programs. Water districts and utilities end up with a big problem when conservation – to put it bluntly – starts cutting into revenues generated by water consumption, forcing a rise in rates for the same water. This leads to bewildered and betrayed consumers and increasingly strapped public utilities who literally can’t afford conservation. At the end of that article, I promised a follow-up post on water rate structures (aka, what you see on your monthly bill) that utilities can use which promote conservation and meet revenue-for-infrastructure needs. It’s taken me a while to follow up, partly because every time I started researching and writing about water rate structures I found myself inexplicably dozing off. Luckily, once I sat down to it, the breakdown isn’t that complicated, so I am hopeful that it’s possible to stay awake for the exciting conclusion (yes, there is one!). Continue reading

Orcas iced in: a hot topic in the frozen North

Photo credit: Jaime Ramos, National Science Foundation Ross Sea Killer Whale breaches in the Antarctic region.

Villagers watch as a killer whale surfaces for air near Inukjuak, Quebec last week. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Marina Lacasse)

By Guest Blogger Bethann G. Merkle

Last week, while the world watched with bated breath, a pod of orcas (Orcinus orca) swam in an ever-shrinking zone of open water. Each time they came up for air, frigid water sloshed onto the surrounding ice and froze, compounding the problem little by little. Much farther north than normal for this time of year, the killer whales were clearly out of their element. Continue reading

Trees on the Move? Debating Assisted Migration in Climate Change Mitigation

Tree Crossing. Borrowed from Clint Peters.

Tree Crossing. Borrowed from Clint Peters.

By Sarah Bisbing

Trees on the move?! I know you’re thinking, “Come on, Sarah. Trees can’t move.” And, generally, you would be correct in that statement. Tree species are now, however, in a position where movement may be necessary for survival under changing climatic conditions. How trees will move is under debate within the ecological community, but why trees will move is accepted as a survival strategy related to the adaptation of species. Continue reading

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

In the interests of treading (and blogging) a little lighter this week, a couple of ECE writers polled ourselves for eco-friendly holidays traditions to share. Think of these as a present to the planet, and who knows, maybe someday they won’t be “eco-friendly traditions” anymore, but just “traditions”!

** A lot of them also aren’t bad gift ideas for that impossible-to-shop-for person, and recession friendly as well. So happy last-minute hunting – and safe travels!

Vegetables: It's what's for (Christmas) dinner! Photo: K. Pete

Vegetables: It’s what’s for (Christmas) dinner! Photo by K. Pete

Eat lower on the food chain: (Lauren) “I married into a largely vegetarian family a few years ago, and thought the holidays might be a challenge. But not only is it pretty easy to come up with alternatives, it’s less expensive and also lightens the environmental account (see Bill Smith’s post on biofuel production)”

Buy local: (Lindsay) ”Already very popular in the enviro movement, keeping your dollars in your city limits is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Even if you are eventually spending some carbon to send the gift elsewhere, it still saves fossil fuels to have the gift originate in your home town instead of in a factory overseas. Many cities have websites advertising local businesses and locally-made products, you’ll be surprised what you can find! Adding a “from my home town” quality to your gift also makes it more special.”

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string...Photo by Chiot's Run

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string…Photo by Chiot’s Run

Wrap presents in alternative wrapping paper: (Lindsay) “Don’t you hate the pile of wrapping paper after present-opening has happened? Get creative this year to reduce all that paper waste! You could re-use saved paper from last year or wrap with a canvas tote bag that becomes part of the present. I’ve also been known to use brown paper grocery bags from the pile in our kitchen. You can turn them inside out, wrap, and then spice it up rubber stamps or something else festive!”

LED holiday lights: (Lindsay)These tend to be expensive, but they can save a ton of energy and money in your electric bill, too! I have some friends who are buying one new strand each year and slowly replacing all of their old, energy-sucking lights.”

Think outside of the box - or bin...for a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Think outside of the box (or bin). For a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Function over form: (Lauren)”My parents don’t need anything from me – really! But every Christmas I try and find them a new eco-friendly product that they might like to try and start using. It’s completely dorky, but I’ve actually introduced them to biodegradable dog waste bags and LED lights for their home.This year it’s a compost bin for their countertop…”

 

Give an experience (Kristen): “Want to give a present without adding to someone’s ever-growing pile of stuff? Give a service or an experience that they’ll cherish. How about tickets to a concert, movie passes, a nice dinner, a ski tune, or reservations for a weekend away? My all-time favorite gifts have been a massage, yoga passes, an annual state park pass that helped keep me outside all year long.”

Edible presents (Lindsay): “Think about gifting some tasty treats this year. These can be homemade or store bought creations that nourish and won’t eventually take up space in a landfill. There are a lot of small businesses that make delicious products with locally-grown produce, so you could even double up and combine “buy local” with “edible presents!” (Lauren) “In case you need ideas: local wine or chocolate are often easy to find.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate....'nuff said.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate….’nuff said.

And organic and fair-trade coffee and tea are easy ways to splurge a little for the person that you don’t know what to get.”