Back into science communication

I signed up for a 1 day science communication training session at UTS last week. With engagement and communication there is no way around practice, so I am thankful to have had an opportunity to revisit tools for science communication formally (quite a bit of time has based since the McGill Liber Ero training). As I am working on a “new” project, I really benefited from a little help developing a clearer story on how to explain what I am doing and why.

The training went through how to structure a media story (need to out all the important info in the 1st sentence or 2), and zoned in on something that had come up in past training as well: write down your 3 “must air” messages and really stick to them. I also got to do a mock radio interview (which I will say was not perfect but better than when I tried a year ago). Right after the training I actually worked on a little story for the institute newsletter, and the piece came out today. What a great opportunity to try and apply what I had just learnt!

In between the P-FUTURES work and my Sydney mapping project, I spent a weekend down south at Jervis Bay. Such beautiful Australian Landscapes!

In between the P-FUTURES work and my Sydney mapping project, I spent a weekend down south at Jervis Bay. Such beautiful Australian Landscapes!

Twitter also brought some resources for science writing (templates), and an interesting article on a legal case arguing, in my very layman’s terms, that previously non-point source pollution can/should be regulated as point-source to reduce downstream nutrient pollution in Iowa.

Sunset at Currarong beach

Sunset at Currarong beach

Today (tomorrow depending on the time zone) our big grant application for the P-FUTURES project is due. It has been quite an adventure to put together such a big (and very international) application. I have not only been learning about proposal writing from a scientific content perspective, but also a lot about the more administrative, legal, and political side of things (in particular spending a lot of time creating a 3 year budget with multiple institutions with different currencies and ways of working). I can’t wait to hit the submit button in a few hours after all of our team’s hard work.

My 1st kangaroo sighting

My 1st kangaroo sighting

Discovering Sydney

Two weeks ago was our big Sydney stakeholder workshop for the P-Futures project. As such we also had field visits to better get to know the Greater Sydney Basin (which has especially nice for me and our Vietnamese colleague who flew in for the workshop as it gave us a chance to tour the city in a very different way).

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We visited a few farmers, a wastewater treatment plant, and suburbs of Sydney. The most sticking thing for me was the difficulty of preserving urban and peri-urban agriculture in an urbanizing region and within a global market place. There are so many important services (ecological, social, cultural, and, financial) that agriculture in and around a city can provide and it makes me sad that they are not always highly valued. Decreasing agricultural land decreases resilience of urban food systems, as well as our capacity to recycle P. I hope that our project will help change policies and practices to ensure a vibrant, dynamic, and resilience urban food system.

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Most wonderful orchard and owner in the Basin (in my opinion).

workshop presentations!

workshop presentations!

The workshop itself went very well. The 3rd time is a charm! It was still a lot of work to organize it, but running it really came together (we had wonderful people helping us facilitate and I am so thankful for that). One participant even told us it was one of the most professional workshops he had ever attended! In addition to the day going well, I also noticed that we are getting better at identifying what we need to document for ourselves (the nuggets for the proposal or for how to move the project forward).

Here is what I have gleaned from my tweeter feed over the past few weeks:

Although my project has changed to mapping, rather than “full on” computer modeling, a recent future earth post on agent-based models to help urban planners makes me curious about how such systems can help us make different decisions.

Very interesting research, with McGill authors, published showing that high nutrient concentrations are more important that high temperature in the occurrence of cyanobacteria (which are toxic) in Northern lakes. As I will be working on nitrogen when I start a new position in July, I was interested in reading how ground-level ozone peaks may change to winter because of decreased NOx emission in the US (although I do still have to be looking for permanent jobs and think about how to interview). There is also carbon being lost of the atmosphere because of too much N and P pollution in our waterways, while P is sequestered by sponges in reefs (bringing me back to my undergrad love of marine ecosystems!). Although there were data available to do the studies mentioned above, changes in the Canadian census put in peril our capacity to do research now and in the future.

Also a couple of papers in Science, one about the importance of bridging disciplines (and the particular threat or goal examined) to effectively tackle global environmental and sustainability challenges, and another looking at the need to work closely with policy-makers to protect ecosystem function by supporting flexibility in the face of large uncertainty.