Guest post by Allegra Whistler (2018 SciComm Intern)
Today, the notion that scientists should communicate their work beyond the professional community to the wider audience of policy makers and the public seems broadly accepted – Iain Stewart, 2012
In summer 2018, I completed my first field season as a geologist in Yukon. During training, my manager emphasized that the work of a modern geologist involves more than just geology. In addition to prospecting, mapping, core logging, and sampling we must also manage logistics, complete applications, submit reports and much more. It has become apparent throughout my work and studies that being a geologists, or any type of scientist, also entails a balance of science communication.
I’m an earth sciences undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Throughout my time at university, I have always had been involved with science outreach programs through various organizations at SFU, including Science Alive, Science In Action, Let’s Talk Science. I have delivered STEM lessons to children all over the lower mainland in classrooms, science fairs, and events like Roundup’s Discovery Day. Now in my last year at SFU, I have discovered a whole new field that I’m very passionate about – Science Communication.
In my quest to see all “geology” movies (no matter how cheesy or inaccurate!), I finally watched Gold (2016). This film hits closer to home for me than some other geo-movies, like Volcano, The Day After Tomorrow, or the heart-wrenching Impossible, since I live and work in Vancouver. This city is home to more junior exploration companies that any other so I occasionally mix with slightly similar characters and understand the games they play!
In Gold, Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a sleazy, drunken “prospector desperate for a lucky break”. His exploration/promotion business, inherited from his father, looks for gold deposits, and hopes to find investors willing to pay to develop them into mines.
The company goes downhill after his father passes away, and the ragtag crew take up office in the local tavern, spruiking small, pitiful projects to gullible investors between swigs of beer and whiskey. One day, Wells hears that a geologist, Michael Acosta (played swarthy Edgar Ramirez), may be sitting on a literal gold mine in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia and travels to the project.
“But, what’s the first step?”
Last night, I attended my first SCWIST (Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology) event. They are a non-profit working hard to empower women and girls in science, engineering and technology and each year they run the Wonder Women Networking Evening at Science World. This years’ event introduced about 45 women at various stages of their careers in STEM fields to women who were studying, searching for their first job, looking for a change, or just interested in hearing about the twists and turns most career paths take.
I met meteorologists, engineers, software developers, researchers, pathologists, pharmacists, biologists, a trainee mechanic and lots of physicists! What stood out as we introduced ourselves was the number hats people wore. For example, “I’m an environmental engineer by day and my partner and I are raising money for our start-up…” or “I’m a research scientists, I teach at university, and volunteer at…” The other common thread was that very few career paths were straight lines. The word du jour – ‘pivot’ – was overheard more than once! (more…)