Alpena — 13 of the brightest minds in the nation have gathered at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to learn about a skill outside of the scientific realm, communication.
Each year, the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholars assemble at a different sanctuary throughout the nation for orientation. The group learns different tips and practices for speaking in front of crowds to work on their communication skills when presenting their dense research. Sarah Kienle is a fourth year scholar from the University of California Santa Cruz. She has been working on mastering her communication to help people understand her current research.
“Not using a lot jargon so instead of saying ‘pinnipeds’ which is what I study, saying seals, sea lions, and walruses,” said Kienle. “[I’m] just trying to take some of the vocabulary that we use for scientific papers and scientific talks and actually boiling it down.”
Three to four scholars are chosen each year, depending on if their research topic aligns with sanctuary issues and topics. Topics can range from ocean acidification to maritime archaeology. It boils down to what the sanctuary is protecting. These students are working toward a masters degree or a doctorate. Over 200 people apply for one of these coveted spots. Orientation week helps the students learn how a sanctuary team works and how it functions all around.
“We have a resource protection issue that we have to manage in national marine sanctuaries, so what is that research doing that is then informing the managers to make decisions on how to help protect that resource,” said NOAA Division Chief For Education and Outreach Kate Thompson.
This week, a few of the scholars will present their topics of research at a Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary advisory board meeting. Four other scholars will present their topics on Thursday night at 7:00pm for the community.
The week of education in communication is more than just giving speeches. Students will continue to learn how to share social media and blog posts on their topics. They will attempt to condense their work for television, radio, and newspaper interviews. The crew will also take the stage at Thunder Bay Theatre to learn acting techniques in order to conquer fears of public speaking. The knowledge assembled over the next two to four years will help the scholars make a difference in local communities, decision makers, sanctuary executives, and many more for years to come.
“When I see [them] at the end of four years completely grow and come out of that scared, introverted shell and bloom into the person that can stand up there and confidently talk about their science in a way that people get, I get the goosebumps,” said Thompson.
The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarships honors the memory of Nancy Foster, a pioneer for the examination of underwater ecosystems and diversity in the workplace. Foster worked for NOAA for 23 years before passing away in 2000.
Learn more about the scholarship by visiting the website https://fosterscholars.noaa.gov/aboutnf.html