How researchers get heard
Abstract lines

My Conversation with Hugh Possingham: Fun & Failure in Science Communications

It’s up as the latest episode of Science+Story: The Podcast, with Hugh (the chief scientist of Queensland state in Australia as well as the former chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy) weighing in on matters such as

  • The three kinds of applied ecology (“Killing things you don’t like, killing things you do like, and trying to stop things dying that you like”) and why the third is so hard to get people turned on about;
  • His biggest science communications failures (one involves koalas, the other a temporary victory that taught him a lesson about being non-partisan);
  • How he squares advocacy for nature conservation with being a scientist (easily);
  • Why conservation should be using different flagship endangered species (you know, besides tigers and elephants) to get people excited about conservation; and
  • Why he won’t talk to you — even in a bar — if there’s a map nearby.

Here’s Hugh on conservation’s fun problem:

I do love hanging out with conservationists but sometimes they can be miserable and dull. They can really be miserable and dull, and very much anxious about failure and anxious about whether they’re getting anywhere. So it does have to be fun, and maybe that is part of our communications problem. It shouldn’t just be, “Oh I need to be worthy and count some birds and trees and fix up the water quality.” And I’d have to say most of these conservation groups that I’m a part of don’t spend enough time enjoying themselves and maybe that is part of the secret for the new conservation.

Entertaining throughout.