26 July 2016

Benefits of the audio experience

Posted by Shane Hanlon


At the local radio station. Photo credit: Lyn Tesseyman

This is a guest post by graduate student Skylar Bayer as part of our ongoing series of posts where we ask students to share their experiences in science communication.


One of the best tools I discovered as a scientist was literally my voice. Not just my voice, but the power of audio to convey a story.

While I have always been a big fan of reading and love what a narrative can leave to imagination, listening to someone tell a story or a field report piece on NPR gives a little more context, a little more feel to what experience is going on behind the curtain. And unlike video, it leaves a little bit of work to your imagination to figure out what’s really going on.

What I love about audio is that you can hear volume changes, tone, laughter, the pauses (umm, uhhh, ahhhh, like, well, etc.) and all the character someone has in just their speech pattern. Hearing that character from a scientist immediately gives a listener a sense of humanity in a scientist that I think a written document simply cannot.

I got into podcasting because I love radio. Radio is by far my favorite form of media. I also love getting involved in my local community. I discovered that at our local radio station in Rockland, Maine, wrfr-lp, (http://www.wrfr.org/) whose signal is limited to our small section of the coast, I could get a radio show if I found a sponsor. So I found a sponsor, and I began recording the strictlyfishwrap science radio hour (https://soundcloud.com/strictlyfishwrap/sets/strictlyfishwrap-science-radio).

The major component of this radio show is doing interviews with peers (other scientists) where we talk about their research. As the reporter, I get to ask questions I think a general audience would want to know (I hope, anyway) and lead the conversation. I found that this has been a great practice for several reasons:

  • I am building my confidence in asking questions and speaking to anyone and therefore my social skills.
  • I am becoming much better at boiling down different kinds of science research and explaining them with analogy.
  • I am learning about all the amazing things other researchers, especially in Maine, are doing.
  • I am practicing the art of editing and listening to a lot of audio. I am continuing to learn what sounds good, how people talk and how to make interviews better in the future.

Interviewing my dog Millie. Photo credit: Thom Young.

Now that you’ve read this, take a listen to the audio recording. It’s exactly what I’ve written. What do you notice about my speech patterns? Noises in the background? Do you feel like you know me a bit better as a person and not just a scientist now that you’ve heard my voice?

This has been Skylar Bayer, reporting for The Plainspoken Scientist.





Skylar Bayer is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Marine Sciences of University of Maine. She has produced for The Story Collider, has written for the National Shellfisheries Association, Fisheries magazine, her blog Strictlyfishwrap.com and also publishes research articles and technical reports. Bayer has appeared on Maine Calling, The Colbert Report, and gave a TEDx talk that one time. You can follow her on Twitter @strctlyfishwrap.