Welcome to Wild Lives!
This is a brand new series I am launching in collaboration with the brilliant Joanne Foo – whoopiee! We will be posting guest blogs for each other discussing everything and anything in the world of science. But first, introductions are in order! Here is what I learnt after an interview with Joanne Foo…
Jo researches the conflicts between apex predators and humans but the love for this subject dates right back to her childhood. Growing up Jo loved dogs and at university, she worked in a kennels to learn more about these animals and to study domestic canine behaviour. It was here that her interested for wolves and their interaction with humans developed. She studied the benefits and drawbacks of reintroducing wolves and sought to find a solution as to how humans and wolves can co-exist. After graduating, Jo applied for an internship at Wolf Park, Indiana, where she discovered her true passion – science communication.
“Internships are amazing ways to learn more and get a foothold in your chosen field. Mine is still one of the best things I’ve done. They’re extremely valuable experiences and I’d recommend them to anyone.”
She claims that her internship was the true starting point of her career and encourages everyone from undergraduates, recent graduates or people looking for a career change to consider applying for an internship! Arguably, there’s no downside. No matter what, you will learn something – the experience isn’t wasted, even if you learn the job is not what you want to do (at least that’s one job possibility ruled off!). For Jo, the few months spent at Wolf Park sparked the rest of her career as a science communicator as she realised that education was ‘vital for the survival and conservation of animals in the wild’.
Fourteen years on and with seven years as a Science Education Coordinator under her belt, she is now an expert on how to communicate science to you lovely people – the public! Over the last three years, Jo has travelled Europe volunteering for various conservation organisations and working on another one of her passions, wildlife photography (which really is just be-a-utiful, check it out here!).
“I learned…about what it takes to capture people’s attention and spark their imagination with the wonderful world of science.”
She now throws all her time and energy into science communication and loves discussing her passions with the public. At every opportunity, whether that be science fairs, festivals or at a kids Scouts group, Jo is there promoting conservation and working hard to make the public feel passionate about their natural world. Like many other scientists, Jo also takes part in events such as Café Scientifique, where scientists can explain their research and open the floor for discussions and questions with the public – it’s a great way to listen to scientists talk in an informal, unintimidating setting, like a café or bar, often over a (large) glass of wine!
In my opinion, scientists like Jo are absolutely essential as they can translate complicated research and explain to us, the public, how we can help to solve the environmental issues our planet faces. That is why science communication is important – it isn’t just about doing a cool chemistry presentation and making an explosion on stage. As Jo so eloquently put it, ‘it is the stepping stone to inspire people to care about and connect with the world around them’. Nobody will protect what they don’t care about, and nobody will care about what they do not understand.
I think it is a real skill to explain science in a way that people can relate to and connect with. It is also a skill that is becoming more and more important as political changes threaten to alter the way conservation efforts are regarded. Science communicators, like Jo, will be the ones to inspire the next generation of scientists who will have to tackle climate change and fight to conserve the planet. Scientific research alone can only solve half the problem – the second stage is encouraging whole nations listen and to change.