October 12, 2013 by Dr. G
The Saturday afternoon of ScienceOnline Oceans was packed with three technical sessions, then group dinners and the Marine Geek Fashion Show. My first session for the afternoon:
Session 3 – Applying apps: Putting mobile technology to use in the field
This discussion focuses on the rise of mobile technology, how it has affected the work of people in the field, both professionals and non-professionals alike, and how it has opened the door up to more citizen science opportunities. How can we use different mobile tools or create our own? What are examples of apps that users find useful? What innovative uses of technology are currently available for mobile devices?
This session was the best session of the day. The session moderators were ready for any and all questions from the audience, and there was a great exchange of information and suggested apps. The session started with some questions on how to actually create our own apps (something I’ve been wanting to do for some time). The programs from Sensr and Fulcrum may just do the trick! It was great to see how customized forms and fields can be created that are geolocated and can include images taken with an iPhone or iPad. The group also recommended some exiting apps to each other that are useful for fieldwork, such as Theodolite, GPS Kit, and FieldNotesPro. We then shifted to discussing existing apps that help with ID, such as Leafsnap that can scan and identify tree species, WildLab Bird which is a bird identification guide, and Project Noah which allows the user to take and send a photo of an animal found in nature, and someone will get back to you with the species name. All brilliant! And other random sources were shared that I will have to take some time investigating, such as the Catlin Seaview Survey of coral reefs (worth checking out!), invasive species mapping, and information on a former online game by Jane McGonigal on World Without Oil (described in her book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, which I have read and highly recommend!).
The next session of the afternoon focused on a familiar topic – social media.
Session 4 – The role of social media in marine science education and outreach: strategies and success stories
In this session, we will discuss the important role played by blogs and other social media in marine science education and outreach. The discussion will focus on case studies, strategies for effective outreach, and struggles faced by bloggers.
The session started with the question, “what is effective communication, and how do we do it for the oceans?” Although I don’t feel we came around to a consensus answer to this question, I did come away from the session with some interesting nuggets of information and suggestions to put in to practice:
- Wait to open an account on any new or existing social media platform until you know what you want to use it for and with which communities
- Pictures in posts (Facebook and blogs) attract viewers and helps make things go “viral”
- A blog post does not have to be a novel, it can be as simple as a paragraph
- Twitter can be a source for literature discovery, like sharing citations of interesting and/or new papers
The final discussion was useful, especially as I’ll be embarking on a new blog in the near future (details coming soon!): where do you find content and inspiration for blog postings? For this blog, Journeys of Dr. G, that response is simple – my students are my inspiration, and the content comes from my professional activities and conferences. But for other blogs, it was suggested to first start with what interests the author and what he/she thinks will interest other people. In addition, the author should tell others why that topic interests them. Perhaps a theme a week could help a blog author, or look to blogs from other topics (fashion, cars, etc.) for ideas for style and approaches to posting. I really liked the idea of testing a topic for a post first in a tweet to see how Twitter reacts. If the tweet is retweeted and/or replied to, then the idea can be flushed out in to a full blog post.
This session had some great take-home messages: (1) strategy is everything (especially knowing when to post); and (2) one audience person suggested that his metric for strategy and success is… “am I having fun?” If he is, then his postings come out better!
Session 5 – Filling the void
Environmental journalists at the major dailies and other influential outlets are becoming few and far between. The NYT recently dismantled its environmental desk and its Green blog is a thing of the past. As pressures mount for stretched journalists, environmental and science communications professionals today need to truly be a jack of all trades to succeed. How do we keep up with the fast-paced changes of the digital age and leverage new tools and tactics to help us effectively reach a more wired set of target audiences?
The final session of the day had some scattered comments and suggestions I jotted down:
- The print newspaper industry is a dinosaur waiting to turn to carbon
- Science journalists no longer writing for print newspapers are still writing stories but now for (their own) blogs
- Include funding to hire a journalist (professional or a graduate student) in any grant proposals (such as to the National Science Foundation) to increase project dissemination in more places
- Always travel with a flash drive that has your science information in a summary, photos and/or video to be able to hand over to someone you meet
- More and more people and organizations are relying on news bloggers to tell the science stories
- The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) are great organizations to find a journalist to work with. Upwell and Upworthy are also additional resources to utilize.
The last note I made was a comment made in passing but was something I had to “Google” immediately – newspapers are increasingly getting rid of their science sections. I found this article that confirms that, since 1989, the number of newspapers that had a weekly science section dropped from 95 to 19. No more science news is indeed sad news.
I decided not to participate in any of the group dinners this evening. Before I headed down to Florida for this conference, my seasonal allergies kicked in (which is interesting, because I don’t have seasonal allergies) and I’ve been coughing nonstop the past few days. It hurts to talk, and the last thing that anyone wants at a group dinner is someone with an incessant cough! I’ll see if I make it down for the Marine Geek Fashion Show later this evening (if so, I’ll add to this post the “fashion” displayed by marine scientists).