Talking Science Communication With the Knauss Fellows

Bill Dennison ·
27 December 2017
Science Communication | 

On 2-3 Dec 2017, fourteen Knauss Fellows had a science communication training retreat on the Horn Point Laboratory campus. The Integration and Application Network (IAN) has been training Knauss Fellows annually since 2013 and each year has been a lot of fun. The IAN team this year included Emily Nastase, Jamie Currie, Dylan Taillie, Caroline Donovan, and Bill Dennison.

Emily Nastase worked hard at the Knauss Course. Image credit Jamie Currie

We used a newly created science communication workbook for the first time. This workbook proved to be useful for in-person training that focused on interactivity and hands-on training.

Knauss Fellows clapping appreciatively at a presentation. Image credit Jamie Currie

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin and his wife Miki joined us for Happy Hour and dinner. Peter spoke about the prestige of the Knauss program and the upcoming opportunities for advancement due to many federal retirements. The retreat occurred on the weekend of the Cambridge Christmas Parade, so we were able to watch the Horn Point Laboratory float sporting IAN symbols before dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

Knauss Fellows and UMCES staff eat dinner together at a local Mexican restaurant. Image credit Bill Dennison

This year’s training was a first in one respect: every Knauss Fellow who participated was female. The names of those who attended the course were the following: Emily Argo, Tori Bahe, Amber Bellamy, Shelby Brunner, Adrienne Copeland, Elizabeth Cemy-Chipman, Gina Digiantonio, Sarah Glitz, Kayla Miller, Emily Parker, Rebecca Peters, Charlotte Regula-Whitefield, Jackie Specht, and Christine Sur. They came from every part of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii and work in a variety of federal agencies and organizations to provide science advice and work on the science aspects of policy and management. The Knauss Fellows were a lot of fun and I am encouraged about this generation of scientists who are so talented and committed.

Knauss Fellows and IAN intern Claire Sbardella present their poster drafts. Image credit Jamie Currie

The Conceptionary and symbol drawing activities prompted my concern that there is a seeming lack of ability to recreate certain symbols, such as stop and yield signs and the map of the United States. In addition, the personal drawings of each other that we used as part of our introductions to one another produced a rogue’s gallery. Yet the ability of Knauss Fellows to encapsulate and communicate important concepts was demonstrated as we worked through their conceptual diagrams.

A demonstration of how the Knauss fellows drew maps.

As you can see, it's hard to remember what yield signs look like.

My “and, but, therefore” summary statement at the end of the course was the following: “We had a lot of fun AND you were great students, BUT the challenges ahead are immense. THEREFORE you need to use your science communication skills to save the world.”

At the end of the course, a rendition of Jimmy Buffett’s classic Margaritaville, inspired by our Mexican margaritas at dinner, was used in conjunction with a summary PowerPoint to convey what a great time everyone had during the course. Adrienne Copeland sported a henna tattoo from a recent trip to Dubai, prompting the tattoo reference.


3 Dec 2017

William C. Dennison


Nibblin’ on snack food
Gettin’ into the mood
By drawing symbols and diagrams
Hangin’ out with DuPont rams
The Fellows are good scientists
But IAN can give them an assist.

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Talking science in water, fresh and salt
Some people claim, that there’s a Fellow to blame
But I know, it’s nobody’s fault.

Don’t know the reason
A workshop off season
With nothing to show but this henna tattoo
But it’s a real beauty
An Emirates cutie, how it got there
I haven’t a clue.

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Talking science in water, fresh and salt
Some people claim, that there’s a Fellow to blame
Now I think, Hell, it could be my fault.

I had fun at the Workshop
Cranked on my laptop
Worked on Adobe, had to cruise on back home
But there’s booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Talking science in water, fresh and salt
Some people claim, that there’s a Fellow to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault.

Yes, and some people claim that there’s a Fellow to blame
And I know it’s my own damn fault.

Knauss Fellows and IAN staff pose for a silly picture.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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