Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Sarah

Sarah - Canadian Ecology Centre

Discovering new things about yourself, creating lasting friendships, following your dreams, and challenging others to be their best are all honourable pursuits. What’s even better is getting to do all of these during an internship for Science Communication.

At the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa, I discovered that outdoor education is a passion of mine- I just never had the opportunity to pursue it until now. I had the amazing experience of being able to lead groups of children who have never been in a forest, or a lake, or a river, or a pond before; never experienced the insight of learning about new species of trees, wildflowers, and animals; never experienced the sounds, touch, smells, and sights of the wilderness; never experienced what it feels like to be encouraged to try something new… and I have never experienced the power of nature as I did working with these children.

What made my experience even more memorable were the people that I worked with. Passionate educators, scientists, and enthusiasts who are incredible at what they do. Role models, colleagues, and friends who get up everyday and look forward to the many challenges and rewards that they receive from pursuing their passions. What I wasn’t expecting was how humble, friendly, welcoming, and warm everyone was. These people are there because they love what they do and I soon discovered how contagious that feeling was.

I followed my dreams by choosing a growing organization with quality educational programming that focused on the natural sciences. I wanted to both learn from watching others and receive feedback when I delivered programming. I also wanted to find an organization that was open to new ideas. I helped create a plan to promote their national Green Check GPS Certification Program; created an exhibit guide so they can apply for funding to build some fun and interactive exhibits; and became an outdoor educator, something that I have always wanted to do.

As for challenging others to be their best, I learned how children learn in an outdoor setting. I learned how they see the world, how they see each other, and how they make decisions… and this was only in the first hour we spent with them. You very quickly form a bond with the group you are working with and notice the subtle yet obvious moments that create those sparks of interest that can lead to lifelong passions. These are children who live in an urban environment and who have never stepped foot off pavement except in a city park. There are teens who come with a tough exterior and leave emotional because of the confidence and self-esteem they gained.

This internship was not just a Science Communication internship. This was an experience in learning about myself and learning about others. I developed new passions alongside the children who were developing passions for the first time. I created friendships alongside the children who had never opened up to another person before. I followed my dreams alongside those who were just starting to create them. Best of all, I challenged others to be their best while they challenged me to become my best.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Brittney

Brittney – Toronto & Region Conservation Authority

Write a communications plan? Yes, I can do that. Deliver a school program to kids? Yes, I can do that. Wait a minute... Dave and Chantal said this would happen. So far in my internship I have been able to say “yes, I can do that” to every task I’ve been given. Here in Toronto at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) I have been putting everything I learned this year to good use.
At TRCA we’re all about the water; keepin’ it clean, lettin’ it flow, and puttin’ some elbow grease into the places where water goes. Basically what all that complicated, business jargon means is that TRCA is actively working towards keeping rivers and shorelines healthy, making sure the city has greenspace and biodiversity, and building more sustainable communities. At the heart of all this hard work lies ME – a lowly intern trying to make it in the harsh Authority world! I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with a number of different projects and in doing so learned so much. I have helped in the planning of TRCA’s speaker series “Lake Ontario Evenings” which is a fun night of food, drinks, and guest speakers who know a great deal about Toronto’s water. I have also prepared a communications plan for two projects that the TRCA and partners (such as Environment Canada, DFO, and MNR, to name a few) currently have underway.
The best experience of my internship to date has definitely been the work I did at the Peel Children’s Water Festival. I was teaching children about pollination, pollution and storm drains, and most importantly, teaching them how to plant different plants along the shoreline. I must say, I loved wearing rubber boots to work every day, getting them even dirtier every day, and getting hopped up on allergy medication every day in order to be one with nature! Sounds glamorous, I know, but it truly was a great experience. I put everything that I learned in Live Programming and Presentations to good use.
It always feels good to make connections between the things I learned in school and the things I encounter each day on the job. After surviving the first six weeks of my internship I know that my year in Science Communication was of incalculable value. My placement has allowed for practice of my skills in the real world, continued growth, and proved that the $16.97 that I spent on my rubber boots was totally worth it!
Nearing the end of my time in the Science Communication program I’m feeling like it went by so fast. I enjoyed my classes, my classmates, and my professors. We’re a cozy little family and part of me is sad that we’re all moving on in our lives. Last year at this time I was terrified to head out into the working world, but after a year of Science Communication, I’m happy to say “yes, I can do that.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Lorraine

Lorraine: Science Media Centre of Canada

Behind the scenes of science journalism

I have been spending my internship in Ottawa at the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC). It's a non-profit organization, launched in September 2010. Its goal is to raise the level of public discourse on science by helping journalists access science experts and evidence-based research to be able to cover science in the news. Can you tell I have been asked that many times in past few weeks?

And what does the SMCC do to achieve these grand statements?

Well for starters, one of my favorite tasks is preparing the weekly Heads Up newsletter. This means going through the embargoed news releases on EurekAlert and a few other journals such as Nature looking for interesting, relevant, Canadian and international studies. Yes it is true, the journalists get a head start for their articles! The embargo gives them precious time to do a bit of research to prepare their story for their media outlet. We try to find research from a mix of the various sciences (from astronomy and physics to biology and health). Once all the SMCC members decide on the 10-15 most important news stories of the week, it's time to write their summary. The key is finding a catchy title and then summarizing the paper in 2 to 3 sentences. These summaries are suppose to incite journalists to write about this important research.

The rest of the time, we keep busy answering calls from journalists looking for help to find an experts (on lobster packing plant effluents for example) and sometimes with a very short deadline. The SMCC is always looking for new experts and journalists to add to their database; journalists need to know the SMCC exists and the SMCC needs to have a list of experts ready to answer their requests. The SMCC also hosts regular webinars for journalists with a panel of 2-3 experts. Before the SMCC hosts these webinars, the topic needs to be well researched, so the SMCC knows what questions and angle to take in during the webinar. The experts are also carefully chosen, they must be good “talkers” who can explain sometimes complicated science in simple terms. The mix of these various tasks and many others makes for an always busy little office!

I got to take part in Radio-Canada's Sudbury morning show Matin du Nord this Tuesday June 7th at 6:50am; host Yves Dubuc tested my interviewee skills as he questioned me about my experiences as a Scommie and my internship.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Linda

Linda - CERN

I am doing my internship at CERN, all the way in Geneva, Switzerland. This is pretty much a dream come true, as I have always loved particle physics, and now I get to be right in the center of it. After a 13 hour flight out of San Francisco, I finally arrived in Geneva. It was a little scary at first, because I didn’t know anyone and I don’t speak any French. But now, one month in, I’ve mostly gotten used to it.

My job here is to work on materials for CERN’s Universe of Particles exhibition. This is a free exhibition explaining all about particle physics, technology used by CERN, and the benefits of basic research. I am making a “treasure hunt” to better engage teenagers in the exhibition. Along with this treasure hunt, I will make a guide for teachers, and some web content for students and teachers coming here on school trips. It’s been fun so far, though trying to test my questions when half the visitors don’t speak English has been a bit of an experience.

Being at CERN is a little intimidating. Almost everyone here has a Ph.D. in physics, or is currently working on one. Almost everyone here speaks at least two languages. I can walk down the hall and hear conversations in languages from all over the world (ok, mostly English and French). There’s a lattice of creepy maintenance tunnels underneath the whole site (some people I know are filming a zombie movie in the tunnels), old abandoned buildings and staircases, and random machinery lying in weird places.

Geneva is an amazing city. It’s got millennium-old buildings sitting on cobbled streets, and statues and fountains everywhere. There are beautiful gardens by the shore of Lake Geneva, and it’s the home of Red Cross and the European headquarters of the United Nations. Geneva is also right next to the border with France, and CERN actually sits right on top of the border, so I can literally walk into France. The border isn’t marked very well, so sometimes I don’t even notice that I have entered another country. And of course, everywhere you look is the Alps. I can look out my window on a clear day and see Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.

This is a great internship, and an exciting time to be at CERN, as I’m sure the discovery of the Higgs is just around the corner.
Scenic Geneva, Switzerland

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Steph

Steph - World Wildlife Fund
Yes, that is really Steph in the panda suit!

One of the most important parts of effective communication is engagement.  And what better way to engage your audience than to put on a giant panda suit and over-exaggerate every motion?!

Don't worry, that was just one time.... I really do work... really!  I'm completing my internship at World Wildlife Fund in Toronto.  Every day I'm surrounded by some of the most inspiring people I've ever met.  They all share my values of conservation, environmentalism, and of course, communicating science to the general public.  

I have been learning the communications ropes, with the help of lovely and enthusiastic coworkers.  Learning what goes on behind the scenes at an organization that I've been interested in my whole life, is very exciting.  There are so many aspects that I never really thought about: strategic partnerships, major donor relations, event planning, working with other NGOs, collaborating with the many WWF offices around the world, and so on.  They are all very obviously important, but new to me.  Seeing everyone working together internally in Toronto and across the country (and world) is wonderful.  I even feel that I am getting business experience as well as communications experience, just by talking to various people in different departments around the office.

My favorite part of this internship, however, has been meeting with people that have been at the company for a number of years, working in conservation, arctic, freshwater, and climate change programs, etc.  They have given me some great advice, and contacts I may be able to use to further my career - it's who you know, right?

All in all, I am enjoying my internship greatly. I am inspired, encouraged, and excited for what the future holds - all thanks to the Science Communication program!