Science communication challenge – accepted

This week I wrote up the last of my guest posts for Canadian Science Publishing’s blog. The first two – Scientific Societies in the Internet Age and What is this Science Communication You Speak Of? – have proven surprisingly popular, while a fourth on citizen science is in the pipeline.

These posts were relatively easy to put together. I say ‘relatively’, because squeezing 10,000 ideas into an ~500-900 word blog post, while forcing an uncooperative brain to concentrate (“I promise you can go and do some photography after this paragraph is done…”) is a bit easier when the topics you’re writing about are things you think about, read about, and talk about on a regular basis.

But this latest post was more difficult, and presented a real – though welcome! – science communication challenge. I was asked to blog about a recent review paper that came out this month in Environmental Reviews: 25 pages of dense information covering decades of research on ecological principles in fish, habitat, and fisheries management. The paper had strong links to current events in Canadian politics, but for some reason it hadn’t received the attention it really deserved.

I was keen to take on the challenge because the topic dovetailed neatly with my most recent research project, for which my last PhD student had studied stream temperature, hydrology, and implications for fish. The review paper provided a big picture view of physical and chemical processes critical for fish – perfectly fleshing out the rather thin version of the same framework I’d been carrying around in my head since working with that PhD student. It also tied into some of the Canadian science policy issues I’ve been writing about recently, and this provided the opportunity to combine science with politics.

The paper clearly showed how ecological, hydrological, geomorphic, climate and other disciplines could be synthesized into a better understanding of fisheries management, but it also challenged my communication skills in translating a document chock full of complex and interesting ideas into one accessible blog post.

While I’m proud of the outcome – and am pleased to say that feedback from the paper’s authors was also positive – I’ll let you decide for yourself by reading it here.

Looking forward to the next scicomm challenge!

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