telling stories about science: science communication in the digital age

The world is changing fast, and today’s scientists need to communicate with the media, policy makers, and the public more than ever before. From biodiversity loss and climate change to food security and global health, our biggest problems all have science-based solutions. Yet scientists are seldom trained to communicate with audiences outside of academia. Every 21st-century scientist can benefit from becoming an expert communicator.

Course Content

This course consists of lectures, hands-on activities, and projects that put skills into practice. Our lessons are drawn not only from our faculty’s professional experience, but from the latest research on how to engage your audience — yes, the science of science communication. Students will put their new knowledge to work with the help of expert science storytellers in every medium: writing, radio, photography, and film. They will learn how to tell compelling stories, and use readily available hardware and software tools to produce professional-quality multimedia content. By the end of the course, each student will have produced a science communication mini-portfolio — a collection of science stories told through writing, audio, and video.

Objectives of course:

  • To provide scientists with skills to communicate to diverse non-science audiences through writing, audio, and video.
  • To produce a series of science stories in a variety of media, enabling students to put their new skills into practice.

Course Faculty

Coordinator: Jane Zelikova

Writing: Hillary Rosner and Michael Kodas

Audio Production: Pat Walters and Molly Webster

Video Production: Neil Losin and Morgan Heim of Days Edge Productions

This course was taught at La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica in July-August 2015. Check out the written, audio, and video pieces the students produced on the course website.

Organization for Tropical Studies Graduate Courses

Photo Credit: Day's Edge Productions

Photo Credit: Day's Edge Productions

Field Ecology: Skills for Science and Beyond is a condensed four-week course in field ecology that will take place in Costa Rica Dec. 28-Jan 24, 2015. This updated fundamental OTS field course uses the “field problems” to drive fast-paced formulation of research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, oral presentations, and written papers. Students take away advanced skills in research design, data analysis, writing, science communication, modeling, and collaborative research all in the breath-taking tropical setting that is Costa Rica. Long days and late nights, filled with science. Accepting applications for the winter 2015 cohort.

Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach is an intensive, six-week course in field research and tropical ecology. This classic Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) field course, also called the “Fundamentals Course,” has trained tropical biologists since the 1960s, using highly regarded OTS “field problems” approach that focuses on the formulation of research questions, experimental design, data collection, analysis, and oral and written presentations.  Students  get extensive experience designing and conducting group and individual research projects across a range of tropical ecosystems. In addition, the course emphasizes skills for communicating science both to scientists and the general public in today’s media-based world and include a video project as well as a student blog and the production of a course podcast.

Both courses maintain a blog, post their podcasts, and other course-related activities at and have an active Twitter and Instagram feed.

The students from all the OTS graduate courses I've taught produced incredible short films about their research projects with help from Day's Edge Productions and Biff Farrell





The 2014 students also produced a series of short podcasts about their experience on the course, as well as interviews with visiting faculty.