In our lecture yesterday, in amongst some rather complex philosophy, Maurice (our lecturer) mentioned that in science communication we need to find a balance between loving too much and not enough; in addition to that, the amount of care should be equal between the communicator and their audience. This really struck a chord with me, because Maurice had just made me realise something really important (even slightly embarrassing!) –it dawned on me that I loved waaaaay too much and my audience care factor? Yeah… somewhere around zero.
Now, let me backtrack a bit. I’m a Science student, majoring in Geology. When I tell people, they’re usually like “Oh, yes. Geology… Rocks.” (and before anyone makes the “Geology rocks” pun, I’ve heard it a billion times). Pause. This is where I go wrong every single time – I proceed to tell them that there is so much more to Geology than just rocks and begin explaining everything from the concept of geological time, the stratigraphic record, mineral habits, volcanoes and plate tectonics through to Snowball Earth glaciations and mass extinction events. It is at this point that peoples’ eyes tend to glaze over and/or they pretend to be really interested while secretly thinking that I’m a massive rock geek and that I need to get some other hobbies.
This is where Maurice’s revelation fits in – I have failed to moderate my level of love (extremely high. I love what I do!) to match peoples’ level of care (most often low to moderate)! Most people probably have only the vaguest idea of what Geology is – I’m often asked if I learn where all the different countries are for a living – and if they do, they definitely didn’t sign up for a crash course in the (approximately) 4.55 billion year history of our planet. What’s worse is that all the terminology that I have learnt over the years has slowly wormed its way into my everyday vocabulary – I seem to have forgotten that not everyone speaks Rock (check out the glossary at the end of this entry!)
I can only anticipate that people will expect me to be able to communicate what I’m learning more and more as I begin post-graduate studies and eventually enter the workforce, so I’m setting myself some new goals:
1) I will be more conscious of my audience – I highly doubt that the girl that is scanning through my purchases at Sportsgirl cares about Ediacaran fossils.
2) I will cut down on my Geology lingo when talking to layman, therefore, “Ediacaran” becomes “really, really old. Around 575 million years old, in fact.”
3) I will refrain from attempting to cover every area of Geology (that I know of) in one conversation, unless asked otherwise.
4) I will try to talk slower. This is partly related to my verbal science communication, as I talk extremely fast when I get excited, but will most likely be of benefit in everyday life.
As far as science communication goes, I have a lot of improving to do. I plan on adding more goals to this list as I have more epiphanies. I leave you now, mortified as I think back to the HUNDREDS of people that I have bored over the past three years and optimistic that by the end of this course I will be equipped to share my knowledge with others in a way that could get them to love Geology as much as I do.
- Geological time: Geologists describe the history of the earth in geological time, which is measured in millions of years and billions of years (this blew my mind when I first learned it).
- Stratigraphic record: Sequences of rock layers (vertical). When these sequences are correlated with other sequences around the world, scientists can define events within a particular time period.
- Mineral habit: The general appearance that crystals have when they grow. They vary between different minerals and even within the same mineral they can be very different.
- Volcano: Where there is a break in the crust (surface of the Earth) and melted rock (magma) from deep within the Earth can escape to the surface. E.g. Mt. Vesuvius.
- Plate tectonics: A scientific theory which describes the large scale motions of the continents (well, really tectonic plates) over the history of the Earth.
- Snowball Earth: A hypothesis that the Earth’s surface became mostly or completely frozen at least once between 650 and 750 million years ago.
- Mass extinction events: Many species becoming extinct at about the same time. Usually due to a large event such as a meteorite impact or sudden climate change.
- Ediacaran: The name for a period of time (like how the Jurassic was approximately 200-145 million years ago) that was between 635-542 million years ago. The Ediacaran fossils are the oldest known evidence for multicellular life found on Earth.