Public Engagement With Research and Nature

Since the beginning of graduate school I have been involved in a number of programs aimed at engaging kids with science and creating connections between scientists and the broader public. I think that work on wild birds is uniquely positioned to make these connections, because people have an instant fascination with birds that hooks them into the subject and keeps them engaged even if we move into discussing more general science, policy, and conservation topics. At UC Davis, I worked with school age children through both the ‘Watch It, Don’t Squash It’ program that sent graduate students into local classrooms and through guided walks organized by the local Audubon chapter. With my lab, I participated in outreach fairs associated with the Animal Behavior Society annual conference. I have also consistently participated in bird banding demonstrations that involve discussion with the public (adults and children) and opportunities to visit field sites and learn about birds up close. We regularly run these banding demonstrations at our tree swallow field sites.

Reaching Broader Audiences

At Cornell, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to learn about broader engagement while affiliated with the Lab of Ornithology, which functions as a hub for pairing excellent basic science with effective public communication and advocacy for issues that influence birds. In 2019-20, I worked with Maren Vitousek, Monique Pipkin, and Mya Thompson to write a script for an animated short inspired by some of our research on tree swallows. With funding to Maren from the National Science Foundation, we were able to hire an animator and turn this script into a professionally produced video that has been shared widely, including with the worldwide contact list that the Lab of Ornithology maintains. We also envision the video as being a useful teaching tool for high school and introductory college courses and I’m excited to see this video reaching a large audience!