Science Outreach in Action

This evening I had the distinct pleasure of presenting to the Missouri Master Naturalist™ program, a community-based natural resource education and volunteer service program for adults whose mission is to “engage Missourians in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources through science-based education and volunteer community service.”  The purpose of this organization is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach and service to benefit natural resources and natural areas management within the community. Master Naturalists receive training and contribute volunteer service to become a certified Master Naturalist™.

There are several chapters serving different areas of the state—my presentation was made to the Miramiguoa Chapter serving Franklin County in east-central Missouri. My talk was titled, “Tiger Beetles of Missouri,” and, as an “expert” in my chosen field, attendees received advanced training credit in addition to the basic training they receive in more general aspects of Missouri ecosystems. It is tempting to think that attendees were there just to get the credit, but what I found was one of the most engaged and interested audiences to which I’ve had the pleasure to speak in quite a long time. Naturally, it is not difficult for me to show a lot of passion when I get to present on something as dear to my heart as tiger beetles, but as a presenter I feed off audience enthusiasm as well. As a result, the combination of subject and audience engagement made for a fun discussion, and I only hope the audience enjoyed the 90 minute session as much as I did.

I write about this because I see Science Outreach by practicing scientists as critical to advancing appreciation of and participation in science by the general public—not just because I think they will have fun, but because a science-friendly community tends to make community and policy decisions favorable to and based on science. You might call it my brand of politics! I’ve been heavily involved in science outreach for many years now, talking to everyone from pre-schoolers to secondary school science classes to natural history organizations. The specifics of my message are tailored to the audience, but the underlying principle is the same—to help the audience gain appreciation of entomology in particular and science in general. I think I will chalk up tonight’s presentation as another win!

For those interested, here is a link to a PDF version of the presentation, which provides the best ‘snapshot’ look at the tiger beetle fauna of Missouri available so far:

Miramiguoa – May 2012 – TB of Missouri

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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5 Responses to Science Outreach in Action

  1. scrapydo says:

    This is just excellent! Well done.

  2. Diane Tucker says:

    I always enjoy enjoy your writing-thank you. I agree entirely about making science exciting and interesting to the general public. If we show how exciting the world of science is, to both adults and children, future policy may be based more on ecology. With luck, and presentations like the one you made, we may just turn things around yet. Great job.
    Diane Tucker
    Hill-Stead Museum

  3. James C. Trager says:

    Nice, Ted. I saved the pdf for further study!

  4. Greg Davis says:

    Excellent article. Thank you, Ted.

  5. TGIQ says:

    Great stuff, Ted. I love hearing about other entomologists (specifically, but scientists generally) taking the time to reach out to other non-specialist audiences. I gave a talk at a garden club a couple of weeks ago and had a similarly enthusiastic response – it makes it so much more fun, and you just KNOW the messages got through when they’re that engaged!🙂

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