As a scientist, and especially an organismal biologist, I feel I have a responsibility to spread an understanding of my work to the broader public. My main motivations is to generate an interest in and appreciation for science; I think scientists have a unique job that can be intuitively exciting to anyone, as long as the message is delivered correctly. However, it's also important to show the public that basic research is the foundation for many essential applied research discoveries across fields, even though we can't predict the applications of basic research ahead of time.
Basic research, especially behavior-oriented research, is frequently viewed as a non-essential use of public funds. My own research has been targeted as wasteful by Republican Senator Jeff Flake (AZ). In order to defend my work and basic research in general (as my advisor, Sheila Patek, did wonderfully here and here), I think it's imperative to reach out to the broader public as effectively as possible.
To that end, I participate in a range of outreach activities. See the sections and links below for some of the organizations and events I've worked with. Please contact me if you're interested in learning more about any of these!
I'm a member of the leadership team of SciREN - the Scientific Research and Education Network.
SciREN helps researchers at universities and other institutions develop K-12 lesson plans that incorporate their research while
reaching local and national curriculum standards. We do this by hosting lesson plan workshops and "office hours" that help researchers
create lesson plans. Then, we host networking events at which researchers offer these plans to educators. The SciREN Triangle branch
will host its fourth annual networking event on September 21st, 2017. I have also helped develop a network between STEM researchers and
Masters of Arts in Teaching students at Duke to improve the quality of lesson plans used in SciREN. Read a summary of our network here.
Galeta Marine Laboratory
I have done most of my PhD fieldwork at the Galeta Marine Laboratory of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute . Galtea serves as both a research site and an outdoor education hub for much of Panama. I often speak with visiting classes about the seagrass and mangrove habitats of Galeta and their inhabitants. Many students have never seen stomatopods, and some have never been in the ocean! The habitats around Galtea are always in peril, due to traffic in the Panama Canal and expansion of the nearby city of Colon. Hopefully, increasing the amount of visitors to Galeta (through research or education) will keep it as a protected area for future generations.
North Carolina Science Festival Invite-a-Scientist program
The NC Science Festival is a state-wide event that highlights the importance of science to North Carolina. The Invite-a-Scientist program recruits scientists to visit local K-12 schools. During the visit, scientists discuss what it's like to do their jobs, and how they decided to become scientists. A main goal of the program is to show K-12 students that science is a viable, exciting career. I've participated in the program for 2 of my 3 years in North Carolina, and find it to be an extremely rewarding event!
UMass, Amherst Life Sciences Graduate Research Council
At UMass, I also worked with the Life Sciences Graduate Research Council (LSGRC). The council works to encourage strong relationships between all Life Sciences departments at UMass.
One main function of the LSGRC is to organize an annual symposium. At the Life Sciences Graduate Research Council Symposium, students from all Life Science fields are encouraged to present their work through talks or poster presentations. The Symposium is an opportunity to learn more about research from across the Life Sciences at UMass, and a great opportunity for students to present their work. In 2012, I helped collect and review all abstracts submitted for the Symposium.
Find more information about the LSGRC here.