7 May 2019

Paying SciComm Forward with SCOPE

Posted by Shane Hanlon

SCOPE group celebrates their visit on the beach after a fun round of tours. Photo Credit: Cory Pukini

By Scripps Community Outreach for Public Education

Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) is home to world-class research across broad-ranging topics relating to oceanic, atmospheric, and earth sciences. Located in sunny San Diego, the institution is also home to a thriving outreach program – the Scripps Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) program. SCOPE began in 2001 as a small grassroots movement led by two graduate students. Now the program stands as its own entity and has grown rapidly since its inception. In 2018 alone, SCOPE provided educational outreach services that reached over 2,000 local and international participants at 91 different outreach events. Events typically consist of guest presentations and free tours of research facilities at SIO, including the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier and Hubbs Hall Research Aquarium. SCOPE welcomes groups of all ages, from elementary schoolers to senior citizens. This growth and success are all thanks to an outstanding volunteer base, primarily composed of graduate students, and generous financial support from an endowment.

SCOPE is currently managed by four PhD students – Kate Nesbit, Wiley Wolfe, Kelli Mullane, and Brooke Rasina. Though the coordinators span marine biology, marine chemistry, and climate graduate programs, a common thread among them is a “pay-it-forward” attitude towards connecting the public to scientists at SIO. One advantage of SCOPE is that it provides grad students with opportunities to engage in meaningful ways with the public and disseminate their ongoing research. Communicating science to the public is becoming increasingly central to the role of a scientist, yet such opportunities, especially for early career scientists, are rare – SCOPE therefore makes it possible for grad students to gain this invaluable experience. It is equally advantageous for participants because they get to interact directly with researchers, hear about current projects in ways that are tailored to their interests and experiences, and learn about our volunteers’ path in science.

Students visiting SIO through SCOPE look over the “round tank” that houses sharks and rays, as they learn about the climate change research being conducted at SIO using them. Photo Credit: Zach Plopper

SCOPE is committed to facilitating these direct interactions because we firmly believe that exposure to active research environments and the scientists who work there will benefit our communities and bridge gaps in understanding about the scientific process and environmental stewardship. SCOPE is passionate and intentional about promoting diversity and equity in STEM, and thus sponsors scholarships for underprivileged schools in order for students to come experience science in day-to-day life. These program values have enabled partnerships with other outreach and education entities in the San Diego area, and we are looking forward to another busy year of outreach. Our program also hopes to serve as a tractable model for implementing outreach efforts at other primarily research-based institutions, and we welcome discussion on resources and our program.

– SCOPE is happy to discuss any questions about their program or ways in which similar efforts may be implemented at other institutions.  Reach them at [email protected].