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16 March 2015

Q&A with journalist-turned-geologist Rex Buchanan (Part 1): From journalist to geologist

When Rex Buchanan became interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey in 2010, earthquakes there were practically unheard of. Only a handful had occurred in the previous ten years, and none at all since 2008. But beginning in 2013, at least one tremor large enough for people to feel rattles Kansas every few days—an uptick in seismic activity that researchers have tied to the state’s oil and gas industry. Reporters have been quick to jump on the link. Many mistakenly blame the quakes on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which geologists crack open subsurface rock formations using high-pressure fluid to extract oil and gas buried underground. A frequent source for media interviews, Buchanan finds himself setting the record straight.

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2 March 2015

You can hide under your desk … as long as you still answer the phone

“Well, if you need me I’ll be hiding under my desk,” I told my adviser on Friday afternoon. I’d just finished a 20-minute phone call with PRI (Public Radio International)’s The World.

Responding to press inquiries is hard, and a morning of staring intently though the clutter on my desk wracking my brain for simple, concise answers to unexpected questions had left me feeling ragged. It had been just over 24 hours since the University of Arizona’s public information office had co-issued a press release with AGU about my recent paper on Icelandic glacial rebound, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, and I’d spent all day Thursday and all of Friday morning answering emails and phone calls from reporters.

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8 August 2014

Worried about Speaking in Public? Try Toastmasters. Really.

That’s right, Toastmasters, the outfit with the retro name that seems to promise insurance salesmen who shake your hand too hard, like that guy in the movie Groundhog Day who keeps pestering Bill Murray. “It’s Ned! NED RYERSON!”

Yes, I was dubious, too.

But then la few weeks ago I actually went to a meeting…

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25 June 2013

Making scientists into scientific spokespeople

How would you bring up scientific funding if you bumped into your senator while he’s buying cheese and cured meats at the local market? How about getting a stranger interested in safer alternatives to lead-based welding solder? Communicating science to lawmakers and laypersons is important, but scientists too often get tongue-tied talking with everyday folks.

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12 June 2013

Tiny vocabulary spurs scientists’ verbal creativity

Here’s a challenge for scientists who want an eye-opening experience of what it takes to communicate in simple language: Give up 90-plus percent of the thousands of words you rely on in everyday life, but try nonetheless to convey the key concepts and ideas of your science.

That’s what about 30 scientists did last week at a science communication workshop offered by the American Geophysical Union. The workshop was part of the American Meteorological Society’s Summer Policy Colloquium.

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15 March 2012

Three minutes to be like Sagan: Competition seeks short bits on science

Prove you’re the next Carl Sagan in three minutes or less. Now, go! That’s what young scientists, engineers and aspiring PhDs in the United States are being called to do – move an audience the way Sagan could, but in three minutes or less. Friday morning, a group of young speakers gathered at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to give it a try.

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3 June 2011

Becoming Media Savvy: Bloopers to Learn From

Camera lenses and microphones are not as intimidating to me as they once were. That may be because I learn well from my mistakes, and I’ve made many of them when dealing with the media. I still make errors when doing interviews, but the lessons I’ve learned continue to prove beneficial as I strive to bring earth and ocean science to a broader audience.

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30 March 2011

Thinking (of science) like a journalist: A physicist’s take on a media training workshop

Clear and accessible science communication has been a priority throughout my 20-year scientific career as a physicist working in wildly interdisciplinary entrepreneurial R&D settings. Like most scientists, I’ve not had much occasion to talk to “the media,” but I’m also a science news junkie and aware that the thirst for information among the public is increasing.

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20 October 2010

One-minute science

Guest post by soil ecologist Marissa Weiss, AGU’s 2010 Mass Media Fellow, on her stint as a radio reporter in Colorado. The first post of her series can be found here. I arrived to the KUNC newsroom on Monday, September 27th. By Friday, I had my first assignment, a news spot (about one minute long) on a study of the benefits of the recent healthcare legislation to Coloradans, due the …

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27 August 2010

Mass Media Fellowship: As the media evolves, training in newsrooms remains relevant

Guest post by Stacey Pasco, Mass Media Program Manager at the American Association for the Advancement of Science If journalism is changing and traditional media sites are disappearing, is science journalism training still relevant? I’m often asked this question as the manager of the 37-year old AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship. More than relevant, it’s required. If scientists are expected to communicate with the public, and the desire …

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