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16 October 2014

And now for the fun part: choosing your outreach activities!

The wonderful thing about science communication and outreach is that there are an almost infinite number of ways to share your science. We’ve made a quick list of some of the kinds of activities you can be involved in to share your science.


8 October 2014

Scientists and Reporters Just Want to Get to the Bottom of It All

After just a few short months, my desk at the Los Angeles Times had succumbed to the same peculiar malady as my desk at Oregon State University, where I did my Ph.D. in paleoclimatology: It seemed to have sprouted a thin coat of fluorescent sticky notes. Each tiny square bore a fact that merited remembering or a question that demanded answering, and, every day, they multiplied.


11 June 2014

Send us a postcard from the field

It’s exciting and eye-opening to see where people do fieldwork and what questions they’re asking–it introducesothers to the fun, majesty, grubbiness, hardship, and wonder of studying science. That’s why we’d like you to share your work, and your field locations, with us by submitting a Postcard from the Field to AGU’s new Tumblr site.


10 April 2014

Mapping fantasy: The story behind the Game of Thrones geologic maps

Science fiction can be a really cool gateway for sharing science fact. Earth science is imaginative, and can draw on pop culture, like the HBO show Game of Thrones. My graduate school friend and Generation Anthropocene co-producer, Miles Traer, recently brought science fact and science fiction together over this show in a hilariously awesome and super fun project.


1 April 2014

Scientists must use more jargon for public to appreciate science, study shows

Most of the public is turned off by scientists’ overly accessible and personalized descriptions of their work, new research shows.


17 March 2014

St. Patrick’s Science Limericks

Enjoy the greatest tradition of the holiday: science-themed limericks!


11 March 2014

Calling for Science-Themed Limericks: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Style!

The best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to write a science-themed limerick–and then get it featured on The Plainspoken Scientist!


24 February 2014

Illustrated IPCC Haiku?

“I didn’t deliberately set out to distill the Summary for Policymakers of the latest IPCC report into illustrated haiku. But, one weekend when I was too sick to leave the house, I found myself inspired by its ‘Headline Statements’…”


22 November 2013

Open Question: Talking science with family and friends

With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will soon be celebrating with friends and family who have no idea what we do. How do you talk about science over the holidays? If you don’t, why don’t you?


5 November 2013

What Would Leonardo Do?

Want to communicate about science with kids in a compelling way? Guest blogger Rick Colwell and his geomicrobiology group at Oregon State University learned from experience that it helps to give young folks something fun and informative to do and to give them something to take away with them, too. Figuring that out took a couple of tries, Colwell recalls.


25 March 2013

A cool tool from NASA: the science visualization wall

Blogger Dan Satterfield, who writes Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal on the AGU Blogosphere, recently blogged about one of NASA’s dynamic visual tools – the science visualization wall – for displaying colorful scientific imagery. Satterfield visited the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., where he snapped several photos and took one video of the vivid wall, which is as tall as an adult. See the photos and watch the video on his blog.


22 December 2012

5 years already?!


It certainly doesn’t seem like I’ve spent a significant chunk of my life blogging, but the calendar doesn’t lie: it’s been 5 years since my first post on Magma Cum Laude. When I first started, I never really imagined that this would become such a big part of my professional identity as a geoscientist, but I can’t say that I would have changed the path I’ve taken – because it’s led me to some really interesting places! Since I began this blog with the intent to write about becoming a grad student in volcanology, I’ve had the opportunity to write about everything from eruption triggering to fossiling in Western New York to numerical modeling to how many jelly beans it would take to equal the mass of a lava dome. Seriously, everything.


12 December 2012

AGU 2012 Days 4-6

As always, I’m behind on my AGU updates (possibly because I didn’t have a chance to breathe until Wednesday!) There’s so much to do, and Tuesday was the first day that the exhibits were open, which is always a time sink. Wednesday was really the first day that I had a chance to get into the science side of things and listen to some talks and visit posters. I find talks are interesting but somewhat unsatisfying in that you don’t necessarily get much time to ask questions or discuss the topic. Posters, on the other hand, pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a chance to chat about the work with the PI.


1 December 2012

AGU Fall Meeting 2012: Social Media Roundup

It’s time for my annual addition of your guide to the social media events at AGU’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco! I’ll be attending this year’s meeting (you may see me wearing a press pass and some blogging buttons), and I’ll be attending at least a few of these events. In particular, I’ll be on the panel at the Tuesday Blogger’s Forum, an co-chairing the “Social Media 101″ oral session on Tuesday afternoon and the accompanying poster session Wednesday morning. Feel free to say hi if you see me around!


5 November 2012

Jot some field notes, get printed in The New York Times

Oceanographer Jim Thomson was surprised when The New York Times accepted his pitch to blog for the newspaper from a research cruise. Next thing he knew, his writing showed up as a full-blown article in the October 16 Science Times (circulation about 1 million). I have just returned from a month at sea conducting research on wave breaking.  During the project, I wrote entries in the New York Times “Scientist at Work” blog ( …


28 July 2012

Blogging MSL

You guys. MSL lands in 8 days! My brain is having trouble grasping how soon that is. Later this week I pack up and drive to Pasadena, where I’ll be sharing an apartment with my supervisor and working on the mission. I expect it to be exciting and exhausting and fascinating and of course, I want to share it all here on the blog.

Except I can’t.


28 December 2011

Talking about geoblogging at AGU 2011

As I mentioned in several posts, I gave a talk at a Public Affairs session at this year’s Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco. I was invited to give the talk about my geoblogging experience in a session called “Science Communication in a Changing Media Landscape” on Wednesday afternoon. The session description gave me a lot of leeway, especially since the invitation was basically to talk about blogging – a topic where I can cover a lot of ground! I gave the first version of this talk in an hour-long seminar in my department, so cutting it down to twelve minutes for AGU was a big challenge. Here are the slides that I ended up with, and a general run-through of what I said in the talk.


11 December 2011

AGU 2011: Day 3

Well, as usual, the hectic pace of AGU caught up with me (and my laptop started having fits), so I’m behind on my meeting posts. So, we’ll go back to Wednesday’s activities:


26 November 2011

Geoblogger & social media roundup at AGU 2011

In between not doing any Black Friday shopping (yay for my wallet!), spending time with my family, and trying to fit in a little bit of research time, blogging has taken a hit this week. So I thought I’d do something that I did last year in preparation for AGU’s Fall Meeting, and give you a roundup of all the social-media-related activities you can partake in this year! You can keep involved even if you’re not attending the meeting itself, and there are sure to be plenty of posts, Tweets and other conversations by geobloggers during and after the meeting.


19 October 2011

Use your words (wisely)

The first day of organic chemistry, my professor warned us that we were about to start learning a new language. He wasn’t kidding, and ‘stoichiometry’** is still one of my favorite words. But the different definitions that scientists use for everyday terms can lead to confusion, and scientists should make sure they’re speaking the same language as their audiences. On our sister blog Mountain Beltway, Callan Bentley posted this table outlining some common examples.