graphic of scicommWhen you hear the term “science communication” — or SciComm — what comes to mind? Is it a specific way to communicate, or is it many ways? Is it verbal, written, visual or all of the above? Is it serious, or can it be funny and lighthearted?

Truth be told, SciComm can take many forms, and what it looks like depends on you and your goals. Ask yourself why you want to communicate about your work in the first place; what are you trying to achieve? Once you answer that, the how of your communication can take shape.

We highlight a few examples from around the College of the Environment where communicating science looks different based on varying goals. You’ll see in these examples that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and there are many ways to share your science with the wider world.

Students building communication and outreach skills

Students are capitalizing on building communication skills while still in school, and there are numerous examples of student leadership across the College to connect with the public. Practicing now will help sharpen your communication goals for the future.

Rockin Out, outreach group lead by graduate students to learn about rocks, glaciers, streams, earthquakes and climate
Field Notes, journal and digital storytelling highlighting ecological research lead by undergraduates
Currents, a graduate student blog on timely environmental issue
Science Communications Fellowship, running two quarters per academic year in Washington Sea Grant
SciComm classes, like those lead by P. Sean McDonald and graduate students in ENGAGE

Writing books to reach children

The work our researchers do captures the imagination of many, including children. Writing stories geared towards kids is a great way to reach younger audiences and build excitement around science.

Kupe and the Corals, by Jackie Padilla-Gamino
Ropos and the Underwater Volcano, by Dana Manalang and illustrated by Hunter Hadaway

Writing books for science-interested audiences

Not just kids’ imaginations are captured by science; people of all ages are captivated by the world around us. Does your work tap into a natural curiosity people have around a topic in science?

Dirt and Growing a Revolution, by David Montgomery
Gifts of the Crow and Suburdia, by John Marzluf

Supporting policy and decision making

Much of the work done at the College of the Environment can support decisions around society’s use of natural resources, and some researchers build accessible science into the very DNA of their research portfolio.

Climate Impacts Group body of applied research
Connecting science and the natural world, Q&A with Nives Dolsak

Driving home your message

We recently wrote a story about sharks around the globe. Study co-author Aaron Wirsing thought about his take-home message and reinforced it throughout our discussion. His assessment about the dire state of sharks populations also emphasized a message of hope for recovery, which greatly influenced the shape of the story we told.

Global study reveals hope for recovery in declining shark populations, study co-authored by Aaron Wirsing

Using technology to share remote parts of the planet

Getting a glimpse of rarely seen environments invites people to discover the world alongside scientists, and brings home the WOW-factor that’s present in so much of our research.

Big ships and underwater robots, Q&A with Deb Kelley

Using audio and visual elements to illustrate complex issues

Helping people understand complex environmental issues can be difficult through words and explanation alone. Other pathways may be more suitable for the task, like using unique audio-visuals.

Using infosonics to tap into the emotional side of climate change, featuring Judy Twedt
Beyond video games: virtual reality brings science to life, featuring Alaska Salmon Program and Washington Coastal Resilience Project

Using improv to “get out of your head”

Many of us associate improv skills with comedy, but it is a useful tool and skill that helps scientists get out of their head, think on the fly and connect with people’s hearts.

Using improv to build communication skills, Q&A with Tim Essington

Of course, there are many more examples around the College of the Environment and the University of Washington. If you need help charting your own SciComm path, please reach out to us — we can help! You can reach us at: