Co-authored by Katie O’Reilly, Nicole Wood, and Solomon David
#SocialGreatLakes: Communicating Great Lakes Science through Social Media was a special session at the 60th annual meeting of the International Association for Great Lakes Research held in Detroit, Michigan, from May 15-19, 2017. During #SocialGreatLakes, eleven speakers from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines shared their experiences using social media in new and innovative ways to communicate science (#scicomm) to diverse audiences.
#SocialGreatLakes is only the beginning of a dialogue happening among Great Lakes researchers on how to effectively use social media to communicate issues and work occurring around the basin. There are plenty of issues to address and much work to be done – the health of the Great Lakes is increasingly faced with threats such as invasive species, harmful algae blooms, and climate change. Further, proposed budget cuts would cripple key Great Lakes research funding, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and NOAA Sea Grant programs. Now more than ever, it is critical that scientists communicate how and why funding is being used to help keep the Great Lakes, well, Great.
Co-organizers of #SocialGreatLakes have put together highlights from the session’s speakers, including video links to the full conference presentations (thanks to Nicole Wood & SciCommMonday). A synopsis can also be found on Storify, and check out #SocialFish for an account of last year’s scicomm and fisheries symposium, co-organized by The Fisheries Blog.
Highlights from Speakers at #SocialGreatLakes
Adapting Great Lakes science to social media: garish examples from the field
Solomon David (@SolomonRDavid) kicked off the session with examples of using social media to show people Great Lakes science, connect with new audiences, and enhance conservation efforts. Integrated with these examples were puns, memes, and even leeches. The presentation concluded with everyone in the audience getting a gar (traditional outreach)! Video
The @DrFishSG is in: improving the great lakes through #outreach and #scicomm
Titus Seilheimer (@DrFishSG) assured us that building a science communication network through social media doesn’t have to be scary and doesn’t have to consume your life! Using examples and tips from his experiences as a scientist with Wisconsin Sea Grant, Titus showed it’s possible to reach and interact with thousands of people who care about your science, even if we only have 140 characters to work with. There was also a special cameo by @GrumpyBurbot. Video
#MORails #MOScience : Tweeting Live From The Field
Auriel Fournier (@RallidaeRule) demonstrates how live tweeting your research via pictures and stories can effectively engage audiences. With her #MORails campaign, Auriel was able to create over a million Twitter interactions during her final three month field season in 2016 for her dissertation research. By live tweeting her science, Auriel gave her audience a nightly behind-the-scenes tour of everything that goes into her research, showing the diversity of the scientists and their skill sets. The hashtag was so popular that Auriel was even able to sell #MORails t-shirts to followers from six different countries, helping to generate additional funds for her research. Video
Using Social Media from a Field Office Perspective to Engage the Public with Fisheries Science
Janine Lajavic (FWS Alpena Field Station) helps manage the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office’s Facebook page, which showcases day to day activities and updates rather than highlighting specific results and published research. From the perspective of a field office, social media helps effectively increase awareness of Great Lakes fisheries science and outreach efforts. Video
Using Social Media at Scientific Conferences, A Case Study of NAOC 2016
Jordan Rutter (@JERutter) provided evidence that using social media at conferences is not only for the birds! Using the North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC) as a case study, Jordan showed how social media allows research to go beyond the walls of the conference, and that Twitter and conferences can be a match made in digital heaven (but of course to be respectful of conference social media policies and presenters’ wishes). If it works for the birds, it can certainly work for the fishes (which are better)! Video
Tweeting at Sea: Bringing Science and Life on a Research Vessel Back to Shore
Allison Neubauer (@akneubauer) answered the question (and demonstrated the scicomm capabilities) of “what is as long as 5 school buses, weighs as much as 6 blue whales, and travels a distance roughly equal to half Earth’s equator in a span of 6 months?” It’s the R/V Lake Guardian! Allison showed how social media can effectively be used to increase awareness of efforts to monitor and protect the Great Lakes using examples aboard the impressive research vessel. Video
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like #25DaysofFishmas: #Scicomm through Education and Entertainment
Katherine (Katie) O’Reilly (@DrKatfish) donned a festive Santa hat and brought a bit of Fishmas spirit to #SocialGreatLakes, talking about a successful Twitter #scicomm event she created, #25DaysofFishmas, to highlight the diversity of Great Lakes fish species. In the vein of an advent calendar counting down days until Christmas, #25DaysofFishmas featured facts about a different species each day during the month of December. The event started conversations among scientists, anglers, and others about the ecological issues facing the Great Lakes. She talked about what she found to be important for successful #scicomm on Twitter, appropriately dubbing it 5 Golden RINGS (Repetition, Images, Narrative, Goals, and Scheduling). Video
Birth and success of the @TwoYellowBuoys Twitter account
Carolyn Foley (@TwoYellowBuoys) showed that even a pair of monitoring buoys can engage people with Great Lakes science, adding that humor was among their keys to success. Operated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and written from the perspective of the buoys themselves, the twitter account proved to be a popular way to share data patterns and buoy-related news with stakeholders. Video
Digital Media as a Tool to Inspire Participation in Invasive Species Management
Erin Spencer (@etspencer) was unable to attend in person, but managed to deliver her presentation using both traditional (proxy presenter Nicole Wood) and new technology (Periscope to answer questions). Erin demonstrated how social media could serve as a tool for invasive species management, using Lionfish as an example. Video
From Message to Method: What Data Does Your #SciComm Need?
Allison Voglesong (@AVZejnati) noted that “Know Your Audience” is an oft-cited mantra of science communication, but data analysis is critical to inform the “who, what, where, when and why” of your message on social media. Allison presented examples from the International Joint Commission‘s Great Lakes social media, as well as an impressive real-time demonstration of social network analysis of the #SocialGreatLakes hashtag. Video
Live streaming your science: The engaging platforms of Periscope and Facebook Live
Nicole Wood (@WildlifeBioGal) showed us that live streaming science through apps, such as Periscope (run by Twitter) and Facebook Live, is the next wave in social media outreach. Scientists can showcase all aspects of their science (research, presentations, daily life, etc.) live to a worldwide audience, while the audience can actively engage those on-screen through the integrated chat module. The resulting discussion allows, not only for deeper understanding of the science, but a better appreciation of the scientists as well. Video
While the issues that face the Great Lakes are numerous, many individuals and organizations are doing amazing work throughout the region. Social media provides not only a platform for their stories to be told, but also serves as a tool to connect and collaborate across institutions and disciplines.
Katherine (Katie) O’Reilly is a Ph.D. student at the University of Notre Dame studying ecosystem linkages in Great Lakes coastal wetlands. A native of the Great Lakes region, she returned to studying freshwater ecosystems after earning a B.S. in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami (FL).
Nicole Wood’s thesis work at Central Michigan University focuses on the impacts the invasive mute swan has on the coastal wetland ecosystems of the Great Lakes. When she’s not in waders, Nicole can be seen on her weekly live stream broadcast, Scicomm Monday, which brings in scientists and scicommers from all over the world to showcase their work and to facilitate discussions on multiple science topics with an actively engaged worldwide audience.