The people behind KSCI
Faculty, staff, and students across campus as well as community partners who are interested in science communication have come together to build KSCI.
As the curator of education for Sunset Zoo, Jared Bixby helps connect scientists to the public in an effort to further the understanding of the amazing research happening at K-State and around the region. This interest comes from a passion for conservation of wildlife and a belief that science literacy is a key part to solving the many issues animals face today. Beyond helping plan and coordinate Science Communication Week last fall, Jared worked on launching Sunset Zoo’s Behind the Science website. This website will continue Sunset Zoo’s support of scientists in their efforts to engage a wide variety of audiences around their research.
Alice is an assistant professor for the Division of Biology at K-State. She specializes in ornithology, migration, dispersal, and life history as well as the behavioral, evolutionary and physiological ecology of birds. Alice became involved in the Kansas Science Communication Initiative because she loves what she does. She loves telling people about what she does and explaining why it is important to society. "Unfortunately, I—like so many others—sometimes fall into the trap of talking ‘like a scientist’ when describing my own work, and consequently lose my audience." Alice works at science communication to develop abilities to tell important stories in compelling ways through a variety of media including video, imagery, diagrams, interactive activities, and informal talks.
Stephen Bridenstine is the curator of education at the Flint Hills Discovery Center. He became involved in science communication through his work in the National Park Service. Working at places like Yellowstone National Park, he learned how to present scientific information in a clear and concise, yet approachable, way. In particular, teaching controversial topics like the reintroduction of wolves and human-bear interactions to visitors from all over the world. Working at an institution that tackles historical, cultural, and scientific topics proves challenging at times, but ultimately he feels that a program combining all three is ultimately the strongest. Steven is excited about the new Meet the Neighbors: "Flint Hills Native Animals Exhibit." This is the first time that the Flint Hills Discovery Center has live animals on display!
Ryan Greenway is a Ph.D. student in Michi Tobler’s lab at K-State, where he uses fish to answer questions in ecology and evolutionary biology. Although he didn’t realize it until recently, Ryan’s career path is the result of the science communication efforts he was exposed to while growing up, like nature documentaries, museums and zoos, and the information provided at national and state parks. His main goals with science communication are to increase public understanding of how and why scientists study their research topics, as well as to expose people to aspects of the natural environment they may not have otherwise thought about. One of Ryan’s main science communication efforts is Science Snapshots, a blog for graduate students at K-State to practice their writing for broad audiences and share photographs from their scientific activities.
"I am not a scientist," were some of the first words Sarah used to describe her involvement in science communication. But that didn't stop her from spending the last three years helping K-State do a better job communicating the value of its research. Her master's degree is in English and she has background in publishing for the technology industry, teaching, and providing scholarly manuscript editing service. She is the communications coordinator for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Kansas State University. Her curiosity and love of learning new things peaked her interest in science communication.
"Public research universities have not done enough to communicate the value of the research they conduct, so citizens don't have the full picture of what researchers do to improve lives and provide economic opportunity." Over the last three years, Sarah has trained faculty, graduate students, and postdocs in science communication strategies in an effort to share this value. Through these encounters she's found many eager colleagues who want to continue to make progress and pursue common goals, thus the Kansas Science Communication Initiative was born. She hopes to equip researchers with the knowledge to connect directly with citizens and to provide venues where researchers and citizens can build rapport and understanding. "We planned and executed a successful Science Communication Week in Nov. 2017, and I hope we can provide more training and plan more events for our campus, community, state, and even region."
Garrett Hopper is a PhD student studying stream ecology. His research is focused on understanding the role of fish and native freshwater mussels in stream ecosystems. He is passionate about telling people about his work and explaining its importance and also believes it is important to encourage children to understand nature. Last year Garrett was involved in the Science Communication Fellowship program through Sunset Zoo. He developed a board game that teaches elementary aged kids about conservation challenges faced by freshwater fish. As a part of his research, Garrett had the opportunity to be involved in a workshop where middle and high school teachers developed a research project. They collected, analyzed, and interpreted data with the overarching goal of developing lesson plans that align with STEM teaching objectives. He plans to continue to hone his science communication skills by contributing to the graduate student run blog, Science Snapshots.
Stephanie is a graduate student studying indium phosphide semiconductor nanocrystals. Stephanie creates these tiny crystals, which when excited start to fluoresce, each exhibiting a unique absorption and emission. As a chemist studying complex, often conceptual concepts, Stephanie has found photos to be an excellent way to communicate science. They act as a bridge between art and science, and as Stephanie formed the photo library display during Science Communication Week, she discovered that pictures can start a conversation. Stephanie believes that science should be communicated because we should all be conscientious about our world. Stephanie tries to communicate science more broadly than just focusing on her field. Stephanie is an active member of KAWSE (The K-State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering) and attended SciComm 2018 in Nebraska.
Sam says, "As a PhD student studying ecological genomics and plant adaption, I realize that my research isn't always obviously accessible or interesting to those outside of my field. At the same time, I've read that most American's don't know any scientists personally and have trouble naming even one living scientist. I think public trust, interest, and investment in scientific research is crucial, both to support scientists and to allow the public to benefit from research that enhances people's lives and address pressing global challenges. Well-executed science communication can play an important role in creating mutual trust and understanding between scientists and non-scientists. When I talk about my work, whether through social media, scientific talks, or science communication activities, I focus on the relevance of my research to the interests of the audience, and I also like to use pictures or illustrations of myself doing research. It's important to me to show that science is being done by actual living people, and I also think that images convey my love of and admiration for plants, which are too often underappreciated."
Amber Vennum is associate professor of family studies and human services in the College of Human Ecology. Here's what she says about her science communication motivation: "As a young adult, I was in a destructive relationship, and finding an online resource that shared relationship science helped me understand what was happening and what to do. The right information at the right time gave me the power to make the change I wanted in my life. So as a relationship scientist, I believe it is important for researchers to share their knowledge in ways that the public can access and use to make decisions that align with their values and get them closer to their goals." Relevate, one of Amber's projects, is on a mission to make research-based information about romantic relationships accessible to all; to provide research-informed, personalized, and up-to-date information on establishing and maintaining healthy romantic relationships to young adults through accessible mobile technology. Learn more about Relevate.
Mary Kate Wilcox
Mary Kate is a freshman in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She's also an avid birder and hopes to research these amazing creatures someday. Mary Kate has worked on a study analyzing mercury levels in Nelson's Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats in North Dakota, and she currently work in the Boyle Lab analyzing videos of the breeding displays of White-ruffed Manakins. She loves explaining her near-obsession with birds to others and hopes that through the Science Communication Initiative, she can express the importance of science to those who don't already appreciate it. She helps with KSCI social media and does a great job!
Sarah Winnicki is a graduate student studying the effects of Brown-headed Cowbird brood parasitism on the growth and development of grassland birds on Konza Prairie. She is particularly interested in breeding biology and prairie ecosystems. Through Sarah’s experience training to become a scientist, she has learned that science communication is so important because scientists are trained to speak mostly to each other. This jargon of science is like a foreign language that doesn’t extend to other audiences. Sarah’s approach to science communication focuses on conveying not only a narrative of importance, but of translating her passion for her field. One of Sarah’s favorite audiences for discussing science is kids because they are naturally excited about science. Sarah is also up for discussing science with adults — really anyone who she can tell about her research!
Professor Han Yu from the Department of English at K-State became interested in science communication from her academic training in technical communication, which is a broad discipline that examines how we communicate complex information in technology, science, medicine, and business, etc. Within science communication, her particular interest is in visual communication, and she's also interested in public science communication; she's taught and worked with many students and scientists and appreciates their challenges. With her humanities background, Han also appreciates the mistrust and difficulties the public faces when trying to engage with science.
Han recently completed two book projects: "Communicating Genetics: Visualizations and Representations" is a monograph she wrote, and "Scientific Communication: Theories, Practices, and Pedagogies" is a collection that she co-edited. Now she's working on a book project on communicating Alzheimer's disease to public audiences. Look for it in the future!
To see past contributors to the Kansas Science Communication Initiative, check out this page of past KSCI team-members.