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21 July 2015

Sharing Science with the ten hundred most common English-language words

What if you were limited to using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language to explain your science? That’s what groups of scientists did this summer at several AGU Sharing Science communications skills-building workshops. This year, for the first time, AGU’s Sharing Science program is offering on-site workshops at universities and scientific institutions. During each of these workshops, we ask participants to break into small groups and use the 1,000 most common words in the English language to describe a scientific concept of their choosing. The exercise was inspired by an xkcd comic in which the artist, Randall Munroe, drew a diagram of the Saturn V rocket – the rocket that took astronauts to the moon – using only the “ten hundred” most common words in the English language.


17 July 2015

Falling in love with science all over again as a PhD-turned-journalist

“Please, please, please,” repeats in my mind. At least five other ideas were turned down this week, and I am on my third round of explaining this story idea, receiving my third, “I don’t think so,” from Mark Strauss, one of the quirky and brilliant editors at National Geographic. It’s 6:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The office is nearly empty, the lights mostly off. But then, he hesitates. “Well,” he says before caving to the pitch—or rather my re-pitch—about redefining the mass of a kilogram. “I can’t guarantee we’ll post it.” But that doesn’t matter to me at the moment. I had what I needed: A chance to write my next piece.


29 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part III – Avoiding missteps and pitfalls

This is the third in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. This FAQ series accompanies the Working with the Media webinar, offered by AGU’s Sharing Science program on May 29. Read part one and part two.

1. What are some common pitfalls when working with the media and how can I avoid them?

Common Pitfall #1: Getting into the weeds. Focus on the bigger picture. Prepare your top three key messages ahead of time and practice delivering them to a mirror, to a friend, over the phone, etc. During the interview, bring the conversation back to your key messages. Then, keep coming back to them. Communicating in simple, repeated messages is not a natural skill for many scientists, but it is a critical skill for any speaker. Often, audiences need to hear ideas repeated before they will remember them. For more on this, read “How much detail should I go into when talking with reporters” in Part II of the FAQ.


20 June 2015

Day 2, June 2015 AGU Meetings Committee

This post details my journey as a member of the AGU Meetings Committee, capturing highlights of what we accomplished on our second day of meeting about meetings!


19 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part II – Interviews and relationships with reporters

This is the second in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. This FAQ series accompanies the Working with the Media webinar, offered by AGU’s Sharing Science program on May 29. 1. How should I prepare for an interview? When a reporter contacts you to schedule an interview, find out what the format will be. Is it an in-person, phone, radio or TV interview? Who is the person doing the interview? About how long will it be? If it’s for TV or radio, is the interview being taped or is it live? Then, write and rehearse your key messages – the main thoughts you want to share during the interview. Practice repeating them until you can rattle off the essentials but don’t memorize them word-for-word.


17 June 2015

Day 1, June 2015 AGU Meetings Committee

This post details my journey as a member of the AGU Meetings Committee, capturing highlights of what we accomplished on our first full day of meeting about meetings!


15 June 2015

Pre-meeting, June 2015 AGU Meetings Committee

Getting ready to begin the AGU Meetings Committee meeting! So what exactly is the AGU Meetings Committee, and what does the group do? Follow along with me as I begin my term and we meet over the next couple of days!


10 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part I – The Media

This is the first in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. 1. What should I expect when working with the media? Journalists may or may not have a science background, and may or may not have covered the topic before. So, it is best to talk to journalists as if they are new to the subject and don’t have a science background. They will ask for more detail if they need it.


4 June 2015

AGU’s 2015 Mass Media Fellow to report for National Geographic

Geologist and environmental chemist Maya Wei-Haas defended her thesis last month on flame retardants in lakes and streams of Arctic Alaska. Rather than set off on new studies with her Ph.D., though, Wei-Hass will spend her summer on a different kind of adventure: working as a science reporter at National Geographic in Washington, D. C.


3 June 2015

Rebuilding Sandbars in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a bit closer to how it was before one of the country’s largest dams was installed upstream. Three years of releasing water from Glen Canyon Dam to generate controlled floods has resulted in rebuilding sandbars in the Grand Canyon, according to a new USGS article published in Eos, the daily Earth and space science website published by the American Geophysical Union. These simulated floods redistribute sand and mud, which helps develop this critical feature.


2 June 2015

Flooding, erosion risks rise as Gulf of Mexico waves loom larger

Waves in the northern Gulf of Mexico are higher than they were 30 years ago, contributing to a greater risk of coastal erosion and flooding in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to a new study.


1 April 2015

“Reaffirming the Social Contract Between Science and Society” on

In a recent opinion story for AGU’s Eos magazine, Associate Executive Director and Senior Policy Fellow at the American Meteorological Society William Hooke reflects on the current status of the relationship between science and society: “Stresses over the past decade or so have frayed the fabric of the social contract between scientists and society. The complexity and costs of science have been growing … Society has asked scientists for more help, even as research budgets have remained relatively constant. Relations have been strained on both sides.”


2 March 2015

You can hide under your desk … as long as you still answer the phone

“Well, if you need me I’ll be hiding under my desk,” I told my adviser on Friday afternoon. I’d just finished a 20-minute phone call with PRI (Public Radio International)’s The World.

Responding to press inquiries is hard, and a morning of staring intently though the clutter on my desk wracking my brain for simple, concise answers to unexpected questions had left me feeling ragged. It had been just over 24 hours since the University of Arizona’s public information office had co-issued a press release with AGU about my recent paper on Icelandic glacial rebound, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, and I’d spent all day Thursday and all of Friday morning answering emails and phone calls from reporters.


13 January 2015

Hanging With Smart People at AGU

The AGU meeting every December in San Francisco is truly an amazing experience, and while I only was able to be there for two days, it was well worth flying across the entire continent and back in 48 hours. Here are some sights and sounds from the AGU that I and others made. Up first is meeting Geoph Haines-Stiles one of the senior producers of the original COSMOS with Carl …


19 December 2014

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Day 3

Wednesday was a bit of a break in terms of activities for me. I had the chance to sit down and listen to some talks about multiparameter monitoring at volcanoes (including hearing about Diana Roman’s “BENTO Box” instrument platform, which reminds me of the ‘spiders’ that the USGS uses to get seismometers out to difficult field sites).


17 December 2014

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Day 2

Tuesday I spent most of my time in the poster hall – a full day on my feet, in fact, which I’m regretting slightly today. In the morning I was learning about fluids and mineralization in hydrothermal systems in a number of places – Iceland, Chile, mid-ocean ridges, among others – and in the afternoon I saw some presentations on eruptive dynamics, particularly at my old field area of the Santiaguito lava domes in Guatemala.


16 December 2014

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Day 1

And we’re off! Monday was a mixed bag of service and science for me – I started off as a panelist for the first-ever workshop on Honors nominations, talking about the successful nominations I’ve seen while serving on the Science For Solutions committe


15 December 2014

Social Media Roundup: AGU Fall Meeting 2014

It’s that time of year again! Time for frantic poster-printing, rearranging your talk slides for the third or fourth (or dozenth) time, hoping your flight into SFO will actually land on time and wondering whether you’ll need to pack short sleeves, a wool coat or rain boots. (Right now, I’d recommend the rain boots.)


8 December 2014

Geoscientist and singer-songwriter shares her creative side at AGU’s Open Mic Night – and you can, too

Science is about discovering universal truths. Music, they say, is a universal language. So what better way to communicate science than through music?


3 December 2014

“Yes, And …”: How Improvisational Acting Improves Your Communication Skills

The idea is not new – doing improv does improve your ability to communicate. While the specific vehicle – improvisational acting – may seem foreign from the scientific process, the concept connects the realities of life (improvised, after all) with the vagaries of doing science (experiments don’t always go according to plan, right?).