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Cryospheric Sciences

Science communication

Image of the Week — Cryo Connect: connecting cryosphere scientists and information seekers

Image of the Week — Cryo Connect: connecting cryosphere scientists and information seekers

Communicating scientific findings toward non-experts is a vital part of cryosphere science. However, when it comes to climate change and its impact, the gap between scientific knowledge and human action has never been so evident (see for instance, the publication of the latest IPCC special report). Today, our image of the week features an interview with Cryo Connect, a new initiative for more efficient flow of information between cryosphere scientists and information seekers.


Why have you decided to come up with an initiative like Cryo Connect?

Currently, information seekers such as journalists, policy makers, teachers and stakeholders often resort to internet search engines to find experts for answering specific questions about the cryosphere. Or they return to the same expert they have interacted with in the past. Either way, it is unlikely that they end up receiving information from the expert that knows most about the topic, or even in the preferred language. Some organizations have their own science outreach portals, but a truly global and inclusive network of cryosphere experts willing to provide insights to those seeking information has been lacking. For this reason, we established Cryo Connect.

Number of Cryo Connect experts for each cryospheric component. [Credit: Cryo connect]

How does it work exactly?

Cryo Connect is run as a non-profit organization. We are an official EGU Cryospheric Sciences partner and provide a free, online gateway through which experts and information seekers can reach out. Here, not only can information seekers find answers, but scientists can also actively promote their latest findings, pushing press releases (screened but unmodified by Cryo Connect) towards information seekers. All cryosphere scientists globally can sign up as experts allowing them to boost their visibility (especially with respect to those ranking high on internet search engines), irrespective of their career stage, ethnicity, gender or the languages that they master.

Number of Cryo Connect experts for each cryosphere region. [Credit: Cryo connect]

How has Cryo Connect been doing so far?
Although still in our first year, by October 2018 Cryo Connect has already grown to a community of 98 experts based in 22 countries across the planet. Together, they can provide information on all components of all cryospheric regions in the world – in 19 different languages! Researchers make up about two-fifths of the expert database, while PhD students, senior researchers and professors each constitute a ⅕ part. Lots of knowledge to go around.

Career stage of Cryo Connect experts. [Credit: Cryo connect]

What’s the take-home message for scientists?

That all cryosphere scientists around the globe are invited to sign up as a Cryo Connect expert to increase their visibility to the media and other information seekers. The platform works best, and attracts more information seekers with an even larger expert population from all corners of the planet. And don’t forget to tweet about your latest peer-reviewed publication using the @CryoConnect Twitter handle for increased media exposure!

Edited by Sophie Berger


Cryo-connect is an initiative run by Dirk van As, Faezeh Nick, William Colgan and Inka Koch

Image of the week – Getting glaciers noticed!

Image of the week – Getting glaciers noticed!

Public engagement and outreach in science is a big deal right now. In cryospheric science the need to inform the public about our research is vital to enable more people to understand how climate change is affecting water resources and sea level rise globally. There is also no better way to enthuse people about science than to involve them in it. However, bringing the cryosphere to the public is a little more difficult when compared to other fields of science. Whilst volcanologists can cause mini explosions, seismologists can simulate earthquakes (such as Explosive Earth at last year’s Royal Society science fair) and realistic rivers can be simulated using interactive stream tables, combining ice and glacier dynamics in a public engagement setting can a little more challenging!


Despite the challenges involved in bringing the cryosphere to the public, a huge variety of great outreach projects concerned with glaciers exist, which deal with different aspects of the cryosphere; from using glacier goo to display how glaciers flow, recreating hydrology of a glacier with ice blocks, dressing up school children in fieldwork kit, or passing wires through ice to show regelation at work. But what should you keep in mind when planning your next cryospheric themed outreach activity?

Figure 2: The Vanishing Glacier of Everest stand at the Manchester Science festival [Credit: Owen King].

Keep it simple. By nature, academics are good at complexity. However, the most effective project I have been involved in was very simple – one where an ice block simply sat and melted (see our Image of the week). The team involved with this project came up with a vast array of complex ideas when planning the stand, but settled on the simple, effective idea of an ice block – which has been a great hit. The stand has now been to numerous science festivals, and people are constantly surprised by the ice being real! Once past the initial shock we have a great base from which to start conversations on the basics of how ice melts to the impact of climate change on glaciers around the world.

Keep it broad. Academics are also very good at forgetting just how specific their area of research is. You may want to link your outreach work to a particular project, but if you try to attempt something very specific you will spend a great deal of time talking to public about the basics before you get to the detail. To ensure everyone can get something out of your outreach work the best way is to provide a platform on which the basics can be taught but, if a conversation takes you there, you have the resources to explain your research in greater detail. At ‘Vanishing Glaciers of Everest’ we have the ice block for introductory discussions, but if someone gets really interested in the details we have figures and photos on the stand behind that can be used to introduce more complex areas of our research (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Glacier goo at science and engineering week, Aberystwyth University [Credit: Morgan Gibson]

Make it interactive. Generally, people don’t want to be talked at. Instead, most people want to discuss what they know with you, so make it easy for them to do so. Give people something to do (e.g. glacier goo – Fig. 3) as soon as they reach the stand that they can explore on their own. You can then join them and ask exploratory questions, which starts a discussion rather than presenting to them. You are then likely to engage the person you are talking to much more effectively, and may well find out something yourself!

Consider all ages. Outreach work is often focused on children. However, adults are also a key demographic on which to focus. Engaging teachers and parents is vital to really bring home the importance of science to children in school and at home; I have found that almost all children have an interest in what you are saying, but without enthusiasm and interest from the supervising adult your hard work at engaging the children will not be encouraged once they leave. Consider how you will show how your aspect of science is fun, but also relevant to peoples’ everyday lives – that way you can appeal to both demographics.

Be innovative. Hanging an ice block from a wire to show regelation is cool, as is glacier goo. However, increasingly I am finding people have seen these experiments before, and are finding it all a little boring as a result. By repeating the same experiments again and again we are in danger of suggesting our research is static, which is obviously not the case! So be inventive when you are coming up with ideas and don’t forget all the new technology you could include!

Figure 4: “Icy bear” – a Twitter-based public engagement ‘project’ that documents research on microbes on ice, and fieldwork, across the world [Credit: Arwyn Edwards]

Be prepared for anything. I’ve had people talk to me, at length, about how the best way for us adapt to sea level rise is for all of us live in high rise blocks on hill tops. I’ve also spent a great deal of time explaining how we know anthropogenic climate change is real. You will get some strange questions and bold statements, but they are part of the experience. Keep an open mind and be positive; you meet amazing, interesting people at these events, and I have had conversations that have led to new research ideas, or to me rewriting paragraphs of a paper due to discussions at such events.

Be reflective. Spend some time considering the effectiveness of your outreach once you have finished (and recovered) from an event. What worked well and what didn’t? Do aspects of your stand or event need adapting for different audiences? Can you expand what you are doing to enable more flexibility on the overall message for your work? Being reflective will only lead to more effective public engagement, more interesting discussions, and you feeling satisfied that you have enthused and engaged public on your research, so it is worth doing!

 

 

Public engagement, done right, is incredibly rewarding. You not only spread your enthusiasm for research and get to discuss your work with a huge range of people, but it also enables you to show people that like science is relevant to everyone.

If you want to see some public outreach in action for yourself, the upcoming International APECS Polar Week (September 18-24, 2017) is a great chance to get involved in some outreach activities. For example, the #PolarWorld Frostbytes competition, to design a short audio or video recording used as a tool to help researchers easily share their latest findings with a broad audience!

Edited by Emma Smith


Morgan Gibson is a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, UK, and is researching the role of supraglacial debris in ablation of Himalaya-Karakoram debris-covered glaciers. Morgan’s work focuses on: the extent to which supraglacial debris properties vary spatially; how glacier dynamics control supraglacial debris distribution; and the importance of spatial and temporal variations in debris properties on ablation of Himalaya-Karakoram debris-covered glaciers. Morgan tweets at @morgan_gibson, contact email address: mog2@aber.ac.uk.

Image of The Week – Prize Polar Pictures!

Image of The Week –  Prize Polar Pictures!

Last week was the Fall APECS International Polar Week, designed to promote and celebrate the great collaborative science that goes on around the world to further our understanding of the polar regions. Part of this celebration was a figure competition, to find the most “eye-catching, informative and inspiring” figures that illustrate aspects of polar science.

What better, we thought, than to feature the winning figure as our Image of The Week? They say a image tells a thousand words and here at the EGU Cryosphere blog we wholeheartedly agree!


APECS International Polar Week

For the past 4 years APECS (The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) have organised an International Polar Week each March and September. The International Polar Weeks are timed to coincide with the two equinoxes – the only times of year where the Northern and Southern hemisphere are equally illuminated by the sun – a rather nice way to tie our polar regions together!

International Polar Week highlights the importance of the polar regions and, in particular, provides an opportunity to develop new outreach activities in collaboration with teachers and educators. APECS have a fantastic catalogue of polar outreach resources for anyone wanting to spread the word about these diverse and important regions of Earth. They also organise events such as polar film festivals, talks and a figure competition. Today’s Image of The Week is the winning figure from the Polar Week figure competition, created by Noémie Ross as part of the A Frozen-Ground Cartoon outreach project.

A Frozen-Ground Cartoon”  – Where science meets art!

Thawing permafrost in Siberia [Credit: Guido Grosse via imaggeo ]

“A Frozen-Ground Cartoon outreach project was designed to help spread the word about permafrost and its crucial importance in our changing climate through thematic comic strips. Through these cartoons and comics the project aims to make permafrost science accessible to children, young people and the parents and teachers.

The project is funded by the International Permafrost Association and chaired by Frédéric Bouchard with a core group of young researchers from Canada, Germany, Sweden and Portugal providing the scientific information. The cartoons, one of which we feature today, are all designed by young artists.

Today’s image of the week highlights some of the ways that thawing permafrost will affect the lives of indigenous peoples in the Urals who live by reindeer-herding. This cartoon was based on the study of Istomin and Habeck (2016), and effectively provides an accessible way to communicate the key findings of this study to a general audience.

 

Edited by Sophie Berger

 


“A Frozen-Ground Cartoon” Team:

Project Leader: Frédéric Bouchard
Collaborators: Bethany Deshpande, Michael Fritz, Julie Malenfant-Lepage, Alexandre Nieuwendam, Michel Paquette, Ashley Rudy, Matthias B. Siewert, Ylva Sjöberg, Audrey Veillette, Stefanie Weege, Jon Harbor