November 17, 12 p.m. (noon) to 1 p.m.
Linus Pauling Room 402

How beautiful is an r-squared of 0.95 for a regression line? How puzzling are a bunch of outliers on a distribution plot? How frustrating is a model misfit?

When scientists look at their data they not only think, they also feel. Those emotional reactions are the fuel that energizes the big moment, the moment of discovery. Can scientists convey those emotions to their audiences?

In this brainstorming seminar, we’ll explore ways to present accurate scientific data that fosters emotional responses in scientific and non-scientific audiences. We will bring scientists from across campus using new data visualization techniques to promote a more holistic perception of scientific evidence (encompassing the rational and emotional). We will initiate a discussion about not only the process of incorporating these concepts into science communication but also about the implications of engaging in emotional interactions with the audience when discussing science.

Astronaut Don Pettit, Class of '78, has gone on two space missions. Here he is interviewed by a news crew in Kearney Hall on campus. (photo: Theresa Hogue)
Astronaut Don Pettit, Class of ’78, has gone on two space missions. Here he is interviewed by a news crew in Kearney Hall on campus. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Friday, November 4, 2016. Noon to 1 p.m.
Linus Pauling Institute, Room 402

Behind every good story is a good interview. Your questions are the very bones of your story—and maybe the difference between a tale that stands tall or falls flat. In the sciences, asking the right questions is particularly important to ensure complex subjects are told in an interesting and accurate way. Join us for a panel discussion on the Art of the Interview, featuring campus and local writers who will share tips, tales and tricks. Learn about doing the right amount of background research, establishing rapport, framing questions, getting the most out of your subject and learning how to ask follow-ups to cut through complexity.

Feel free to bring your lunch and your questions!

“I’m swimming along the reef on a beautiful sunny day—surrounded by shimmering blue water and one of the last bright orange corals left on this reef. I’m clutching my clipboard and datasheet, just a foot above the reef…concentrating carefully on any small movement that would mean a baby parrotfish is hiding in the seaweed. Suddenly, I feel something that makes the hairs on the back of my neck prickle…”

And so begins one of my absolute favorite stories to tell. I’ve told it many, many times—to co-workers, friends, neighbors. My two young daughters love this story and ask me to tell it again and again.

As a marine ecologist, when I tell someone what I do for my job they often have a lot of questions. What does it feel like to be under the ocean? Have you ever seen a shark? What’s all this I hear about [pollution/climate change/the oceans turning to acid]?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions. In my greener days, I might have rattled off a 5 minute description of the types of data I collect. Or a research study I had recently read about. I’ve even honed a 30-second “elevator speech” about my research. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about the power of telling a story.

At a meeting of science communicators in 2014, I had the great pleasure of watching a group of scientists tell stories in “stand-up” mode. Just them, a stage, and a microphone—not the typical scenario for those of us who spend the majority of our time staring through a microscope or counting fish. Their stories were funny, moving, and exciting. Each scientist connected with the audience on a personal level. The event, with science storytelling training by The Story Collider, was a hit.

As I boarded the plane home, I kept thinking about science stories. What if I started answering those questions I was always asked by telling a story? And what if that story was not only a cool anecdote about something I had seen, but a story with a message?

There are many others who are asking the same questions. People who are doing research on how your brain reacts when it hears a story. Who are asking how storytelling can build bridges and help us appreciate the “why?” of science.

Scientist storytellers at the 2014 International Marine Conservation Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.

These thoughts expanded as I talked with friends and colleagues at COMPASS and Smith Conservation Fellowship Program. Some of us do research that takes us into places where most people don’t go—like coral reefs. And some of us have seen changes. Changes we feel others should know about. We thought, what would happen if we developed a training that would help us and other scientists use storytelling to share our science messages? These were the seeds of a workshop that was held last summer at the International Marine Conservation Congress, a meeting of marine scientists who are working in a changing ocean.

A group of thirteen scientists, conservation professionals, and science communicators joined together for a two-day science storytelling boot camp. We talked about how to tell a good story and how to weave science into that story.

I’m now thrilled to share a website that hosts some of those stories. This is a small project, but one that I hope will grow. I hope more and more scientists will share what they’ve found through stories. And I hope we’ll continue to use this great tool to tell others—more than just other scientists—what we’ve seen.

As for my story? Ask me anytime to tell it to you. Let’s just say it’s an answer to “Have you ever seen a shark?”


-Kirsten Grorud-Colvert

Join the conversation on Twitter at #IMCCstories or @Kirsten_GC