Encountering Science in the World: New Partnerships for Science Interpretation

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Lin H Chambers, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States, Anita Davis, Sigma Space Corporation, Lanham, MD, United States and Ruth Paglierani, University of California Berkeley, Multiverse, Berkeley, CA, United States
In 2000, while visiting Arches National Park in Utah, I had my first encounter with my science in the context of interpretation. During a ranger walk, a student intern at the park explained the concept of the radiation budget (for the desert surface, in her case) to the group of visitors. As a NASA scientist on the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) science team, a team whose entire focus is on understanding Earth’s energy budget, that visit made quite an impression on me: here was my science connected to the immediate and personal experience of that desert environment in a way that even my then 4-year-old daughter could take something from.

Some years later, when I was invited to speak to a group of interpreters through the NASA/National Park Service “Earth to Sky” project, I jumped at the chance. Since then, I have had several opportunities to interact with interpreters, through additional “Earth to Sky” workshops as well as during a meeting of the National Association for Interpretation in my hometown. While I was invited to speak to these groups as a subject matter expert, I always learned at least as much as they did from the interaction. The standard practice for Earth to Sky is to pair presenters with an interpreter coach to help fine-tune the presentation for the audience – a valuable practice for presentations to any audience, if one can find an appropriate coach. The mere idea that interpretation is a profession, with research and guidelines and best practices, was completely eye opening to me at one of my first Earth to Sky events.

So how to leverage interpretation for science communication? Rather than expecting busy scientists to learn everything about interpretation, a more effective approach is likely the one taken in the Earth to Sky workshop series, where scientists and interpreters work together for an intensive period to share information and approaches, and the interpreters are then able to take appropriate science elements to weave into their own interpretative practices in their local settings. This presentation will share experiences and lessons learned from these interactions, will further explain the Earth to Sky model, and will suggest ways that scientists can make connections with interpreters who may be able to communicate their science in unique and personal ways.