Let me tell you a story about science communication.
In this tale, the communicating is conducted not by a trained scientist but instead by a ‘novice’: someone who is an artist, a grandmother, a community leader and who has a personal connection to good information.
First, some background: I have a dear friend called Ness. Ness has a mother, Joy, who is one of the most enthusiastic lovers of life that I have ever met. I am friends with both Ness and Joy on Facebook. Joy and I interact sporadically, mostly in the form of her commenting gleefully about the antics of my children which I post quite regularly on my personal page. Joy is the ‘someone’ in this story.
Joy noticed a couple of weeks back that I commented on a Facebook link about mallee fowl, and she responded with great passion regarding her childhood friend and ornothologist Lindsay Cupper. Lindsay had worked with David Attenborough filming mallee fowl near Waikerie, South Australia for the BBC series the Trials of Life (see this clip, from about the 32:20 mark).
Joy has since lent me her signed copy of a delightful book that Lindsay made with his father Jack and published in 1981. With a focus not on ground birds like the mallee fowl, but instead on Australia’s birds of prey, Hawks in Focus provides beautiful photographic and written documentation, with accompanying maps of animal distribution. I turned immediately to the section on Wedge-Tailed Eagles, a bird which holds a special place in my memories. We used to see many such eagles feeding on road-side carrion on our family camping trips to mining communities in northern South Australia during the 1980s. I can still recall a graphic image to my mind of a huge creature, reddish span of wings flapping, white hooked beak slightly open and terrifying claws gripping a kangaroo carcass.
Joy told me she finds the content in Hawks in Focus so well written that despite no formal training in science she has confidently read some details to her grandchildren. Apparently Miss 5 wishes she didn’t know that male eagles sometimes consume their young in times of scare food availability. But she does know. And that’s science communication.
You did science communication, Joy!
See you on Facebook.
[photo thanks to Frankzed on flickr]