30 December 2016

Sharing science with the public via the NCAR Explorer Series

Posted by shanlon

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Scott McIntosh giving the 3rd lecture in the 2016 NCAR Explorer Series”. Photo by Natalia Bayona.

by Jadwiga (Yaga) Richter

I always believed that it is important for scientists to communicate science to the general public. I am a scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO and 25% of my time is dedicated to coordinating education and outreach efforts for our organization. At the end of 2015, together with Jim Hurrell, the NCAR director, we initiated the NCAR Explorer Series, a public lecture series designed to expose the general public to and increase their understanding of NCAR’s research and its relation to society.  We kicked-off the series with Kevin Trenberth, NCAR distinguished scientist, presenting a lecture on the 2015/2016 El Nino, the strongest El Nino on record.

I was very excited about our first event to be held on January 20, 2016. At the same time I was worried that not many people would show up. After all, there is not a shortage of things to do in Boulder, CO and we weren’t sure how much interest is there among the public to connect with scientists. The first event announcement was shared on Facebook and Twitter, and we placed an ad in the Daily Camera, the local Boulder newspaper, hoping to attract attendees.  To our surprise, in less than 24 hours from the ad appearing, all the tickets for the first lecture in the NCAR Explorer Series were booked. We started to run a waiting list, and quickly decided to repeat the lecture on the following Saturday. That lecture also filled within a few days.

Due to the large interest, each NCAR Explorer Series talk is given twice: on a Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon. The 2016 series included lectures by Bruce Carmichael (Aviation Safety), Scott McIntosh (Great Solar Eclipse of 2017), and Joanie Kleypas (Coral Reefs and Climate Change).

Lesson learned: Even in a town filled with numerous educational and cultural events, the public is thirsty for live talks with scientists about society-relevant topics. Attendees are curious and grateful for the ability to come and learn about society-relevant science that goes on around them directly from the scientists.

Our goal for 2017 is to expand the viewership of the NCAR Explorer Series. The talks are webcasted live via UCARLive and archived on UCARConnect’s YouTube channel.  We’re looking for like-minded organizations interested in hosting simulcasts of the NCAR Explorer Series and helping us with getting the word out to their communities. If you’d like to help, please email me at jrichter@ucar.edu.

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2nd lecture in the 2016 NCAR Explorer Series given by Bruce Carmichael. Photo by Marijke Unger.

-Jadwiga (Yaga) Richter, PhD is a scientist in a Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.