I’m currently working as a Fisheries Technician on the Feather River in northern California, helping to monitor and protect Chinook salmon. Communication has been essential in the chaotic trajectory that is my career. I guess it’s true what they say: there are no straight lines in nature!
I studied Communication for Research Scientists during my Master’s degree, and after graduation I moved to the USA to pursue better career opportunities. I didn’t immediately get the job I wanted, but in the meantime I was able to put my communication skills to good use. I did some work for a website development company doing client communications, basic tech support, and project management. I tried my hand at market research, script-writing, blogging, and social media marketing. I sat on an expert panel at a bioacoustics conference – that was easily the scariest thing I’ve ever done! I’ve networked with scientists in the most unexpected places (a casino in Las Vegas springs to mind) and I’ve met the most interesting people while working for a non-profit that supports scientific research for marine conservation.
None of this would have been possible without studying communication, but not for the reasons you think. For me, studying with Jenny was less about learning skills, and more about building confidence in myself and changing my way of thinking.
While our class discovered methods to keep scientific writing fresh and interesting, I learned that it’s the responsibility of scientists to make sure their work is understood. While we found ways to translate jargon into plain English, I learned that to assume (or require) a level of scientific knowledge in your audience is to diminish your message (this came in handy while investigating public policy during the 2016 US presidential election). Jenny’s Facebook page Scribbling Scientists continues to be an inspiration for me, not just because of its content, but because it shows how constant public engagement can make science fun and inclusive for everyone.
Overall, science communication was one of the most useful things I ever studied. It was helpful during my degree, for sure, but the real benefits emerged after my schooling was over. Almost two years later I still think about my time with Jenny and how it changed me, and I’m sure I’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come.