A lot of science happens in national parks. Park officials grant more than 3,000 research permits each year (NPS research permit system), and parks have an extensive tradition of scientific inquiry (Parks in Science History). Yet research (#ParkScience) is often invisible to the 300 million+ visitors who enjoy our national parks.
Parks DO tell lots of science stories, but we could tell a whole lot more. Different kinds of people are responsible for science storytelling in national parks—park interpreters, park resource managers, scientists, and often other partners like friends groups and other nonprofits—and all face obstacles in communicating science. Park interpreters may have a hard time finding information on active research and keeping track of scientific findings, which are mostly published in technical reports and scientific journals. Park managers are often focused on the most urgent priorities for protecting natural resources, and may not have the time to help tell important science stories. Scientists tend to have a range of communication skills and experience, and are often unfamiliar with the policies, procedures, and processes of working with the National Park Service. They may also wonder if it is worth it to push to tell the stories of their science.
How do we overcome these obstacles? Why and how should scientists communicate? How do we build effective teams, develop efficient lines of communication, and make science a part of every visitor’s experience?
Second Century Stewardship science communication workshops aim to address these questions. We convene teams of researchers and park staff with teachers, communication scholars, journalists, and partners, so participants can build and strengthen relationships, learn from one another, jointly identify audiences and key messages, and develop plans for communication products and programs that align with National Park Service mission and strategies. Workshops have three primary goals:
- Researchers and park staff have knowledge of public attitudes and understanding of science, barriers to communicating park science, and approaches to communication.
- Second Century Stewardship fellows and other park researchers develop communication skills by creating and implementing communication plans.
- Communication about #ParkScience strengthens public understanding of the importance of science for parks and society.
National Park Service Pacific Region, November 18-20, 2019, Monterey, California (2 days) – Planning is underway for a science communication workshop with researchers, resource managers, and interpretive staff from Pacific Region parks.
Ecological Society of America, 2019, Louisville, Kentucky (half-day) – We led workshops for researchers on improving communication, incorporating citizen science into research projects, and how to work with citizen science data. (Citizen science workshops in collaboration with the Citizen Science Association.) Second Century Stewardship Fellows presented the session, “Inclusion is an Imperative in U.S. National Parks.”
SCS Communications Workshop, 2019, Acadia National Park, Maine (2.5 days) – This workshop convened 2018 and 2019 Second Century Stewardship Fellows, National Park Service and Schoodic Institute staff, Acadia Teacher Fellows, and partners for 2.5 days of communications training, practice, and planning.
Acadia Science Symposium, 2018, Acadia National Park, Maine – The symposium highlighted science occurring in Acadia, with special sessions on undergraduate research in the park, the science behind the transportation plan, and science for the next century of stewardship in national parks.
Strengthening Your Citizen Science Workshops, 2018, Acadia National Park, Maine, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California – These workshops brought together the staff of nonprofits, universities, and national parks to improve the design and outcomes of citizen science projects in national parks and other conservation areas across the country.
Weekly Citizen Science trainings, Acadia National Park, Maine – At these workshops attendees learned how to participate in citizen science programs (eBird, iNaturalist, and Nature’s Notebook) that provide critical biodiversity and phenology data to scientists and resource managers across the world, including those at national parks.
Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, 2018, New Orleans, Louisiana – At this conference, we led a workshop on incorporating citizen science into research projects (in collaboration with the Citizen Science Association). A Second Century Stewardship Fellow, Chris Nadeau, also organized a special session exploring ways that scientists could better work with resource managers so that their research better informed climate adaptation decisions.
AAAS Annual Meeting, 2018, Austin, Texas – We held three Second Century Stewardship symposia at this conference: Natural and cultural resource stewardship; New scientific insights and audiences; Applying conservation genetics and genomics to wildlife and fisheries management; Overcoming challenges to using environmental big data for conservation.
SCS Communications Workshop, 2017, Acadia National Park, Maine – This workshop brought together the first four Second Century Stewardship Fellows, science communication experts, and staff from national parks and key partners to learn techniques—such as video, social media, public presentations, and media interviews—to better communicate science to target audiences.
Acadia Science Symposium, 2016, Acadia National Park, Maine – This symposium highlighted the centennial of Acadia National Park and featured leaders from the natural resource, cultural resource, and interpretation and education directorates of the National Park Service discussing their visions for the next century of science and communication in national parks.