8 March 2017

#MySciComm: Dr. Shane Hanlon

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon. This is a cross post from the Ecological Society of America SciComm section’s blog. It’s a part of their #MySciComm series. See the original post here

This week, Dr. Shane Hanlon responds to the #MySciComm questions!


Shane is a science communicator, recovering ecologist, science-policy advocate, educator, and storyteller. He’s teaches scicomm for Sharing Science, tells stories with The Story Collider, and still ecologizes each summer for the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. Find him @EcologyOfShane and shanemhanlon.com.

The #MySciComm series features a host of SciComm professionals. We’re looking for more contributors, so please get in touch if you’d like to write a post!


Image courtesy of Dr. Shane Hanlon

Okay, Shane…

1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?

I took the path of most resistance.

My background is conservation biology. About halfway through my PhD I started to wonder where research went, i.e. what difference did it make in policy, management, legislation, etc.?

Now, I love research, academia, and all that goes with it, but my desire to answer the “what else is out there” question pulled a little more.

I found out about the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship that takes newly-minted PhDs and puts them in executive offices. I landed the fellowship and ended up in the legislative affairs office at the US Fish and Wildlife Service where I helped to translate the science of the Service to Congress. I went from being a muddy-boots ecologist to a suit on Capitol Hill.

Policy was interesting but I wanted to dive deeper (or broader) into scicomm, so I took another fellowship as an outreach specialist with the National Academy of Sciences, working in their museum (yes, they have a museum). It was my first opportunity to really work full-time in outreach, and I loved it.

But, there was still something missing – I wanted to do it all; policy, outreach, scicomm, and SCIENCE! So, when it was time for me to get an actual job, I had a lot of expectations.

As an ecologist, the American Geophysical Union was never on my radar. However, a colleague told me about this position in their Sharing Science program. Sharing. Science. That’s what I wanted to do! And it’s been a perfect fit. I’m a scientist who teaches other scientists how to talk to non-scientists. I get to learn about research, teach scicomm skills, interact with policymakers, and I’m supported when I want to do my own scicomm and scientific activities (I teach a field course in disease ecology each summer and I’m a producer/host with the science storytelling organization The Story Collider).

I’ve landed in a place where I get to do many things in the realm of “science” and get to show people every day that science surrounds us.

2) What are your top 3 SciComm tips and/or resources?

1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

In the past few months I’ve seen so many new/renewed calls for folks to engage in outreach (see #sciengage). This is fantastic, but scicomm is a lot like research – it requires training, and practice makes perfect. There are so many resources out there…

2) …like me! (And ESA SciComm, AAAS, COMPASS, universities, etc.)

I may work for AGU but scicomm is universal. We’re on Twitter (@AGU_SciComm), offer webinars for everyone, and host workshops across the country. We have many resources, and we’re happy to help anyone, regardless of field of study. And the same goes for the plethora of scicomm groups, organizations, societies, etc. Even if you think, “well, they’re not really in my discipline,” I guarantee they’d be happy to help.

3) Don’t worry.

When I decided that I was going to get out of research, a professor literally yelled at me at a scientific conference. I also was worried that I would stop being a scientist when I stopped being a researcher. It’s simply not true. Science is in my blood and I will always be a citizen of science. If I decided someday that I want to do something else in science, I will. For now though, I love me some scicomm!