Follow up: 30 Science Communications and Outreach Ideas in 30 Minutes

Early this month, I was invited to give a talk called “30 Science Communications and Outreach Ideas in 30 Minutes” as part of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems’ Rough Cut Science series. Missed the talk? You can see it -- and other archived talks here:


I really appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with the faculty, students and staff who attended, as well as those who participated online. Although less than two weeks have passed since the talk, I’m excited to report that several of these ideas are already underway!


If you have feedback or are currently at work on one of these ideas, be sure to share.


In the beginning of the talk, I reference a graphic that I love...the original is here and credit goes to Cherilynn A. Morrow Space of the Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.


And, because of the abbreviated nature of my talk, I had to give a short shrift to Erica Garroutte, who is doing some fascinating research that is SO MUCH MORE than elk scat! Be sure to read more about her work under Citizen Science below.


Lastly, at the end of the talk, we had a short discussion about research and advocacy; I have since found a few articles that touch on this subject. These are not necessarily my own personal views; they are just good food for thought. If you have other articles, I’d love to feature them, too.



Below are the 30 ideas I presented along with references and links. Enjoy!


Working the Crowd

1. Citizen Science

Create a project that allows people to collect data or submit observations. Ideally, this data would contribute to your own research, but even if the data isn’t sound enough for that, it still introduces people to what you do.

See for many ideas on what’s going on in citizen science.


Closer to home, Erica Garroutte, an MSU grad student, invited adults and youth to help her with a phenology project in Paradise Valley.


She also made lesson plans and camp activities for others to use.


2) Art contest

How about starting an art contest or photo contest to get people thinking about a topic?

This is just one example; there are tons!


3) Share your story

New online tools encourage people to share their own personal story. How could we use this as part of our scientific research? offers storytelling tips offers an online recording tool -- record your story right on the site!


4) Scientist talk with online study guide

Wouldn’t it be great if scientists who were about to give a public talk would FIRST give some background information so people could be more prepared?

See this example from the INternational Society of Science, Engineering and Public Policy


Update Feb. 18, 2015: Tony Hartshorn of MSU did it!


5) Online book club

In Bozeman, we have One Book-One Bozeman, in which the entire town reads the same book. What if we could do this so everyone in Montana could read the same book? We could use Twitter, a blog or other tools so all could participate. Maybe someone will step up and propose this for Rebecca Skloot’s visit this fall?!!



6) Food/beverage partnership

Haagen-Dazs used its marketing power to help people understand the importance of honey bees (Thanks, Michelle Flenniken, for this idea!)

Closer to home, could we partner with a local food producer to share ecosystem science? WheatMontana? Other people who make products from forests and farms?

Or, how about a science-themed beer?

3/2/15: Look what I just discovered! 7 Sushi, which is just across the street from the Museum of the Rockies created a special sushi roll: Herbivore Roll, created specifically for MOR, is more than filling, it's fulfilling! Now until March 31, for every Herbivore Roll sold, Seven Sushi will donate 10% to MOR!

7) Theme dinner

Our friends with the Thermal Biology Institute created a meal filled with items that connect back to microbes (yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.)

Professor Florence Dunkel hosts an annual bug buffet at MSU!


8) Local restaurant

Partner with a local restaurant to put educational placemats or table tents in their establishment. Several state Departments of Agriculture have done it


9) Local business

Businesses are already mailing bills and communications pieces. Could you insert something in a bill from the hardware store or energy company? Could you partner with the hospital to write an article about how your science relates to health?



10) Geocache

At the University of Montana, the MathCounts organization created geocaches on campus that require the solving of a math problem in order to find the GPS coordinates of the treasure. We could create those here!


11) Munzee

This high-tech scavenger hunt uses QR codes to lead people around. Could we make a tour of environmentally relevant sites?


12) Cameras: Timelapse, infrared, photo contests, drones

Photos are truly worth a thousand words. Could you make a speeded-up or slowed-down video of your work? Can you put a tiny timelapse camera at a research site? What would happen if you wore a GoPro during your research? You can now buy a fairly inexpensive infrared filter for your iphone.


Squeezing ourselves in

13) Science on a school bus

Kids in Montana spend a lot of time on the bus. Could we find a way to infuse some fun science?


14) School math problems

Our students are doing math word problems in school; what if they were doing math problems about Montana environmental science instead of kool-aid stands?



15) Walking tour

Denmark offers downloadable podcasts that give a walking (or running!) tour of various places


In San Francisco, you can take a tour of bread and cheese that includes science


16) Bike tour

The preeminent bicycle touring organization - Adventure Cycling - is located in our state. Could we partner with them to create a bike tour/trail/map that helps people understand environmentally relevant places in Montana?


17) Theme touring map

We have the dinosaur tour, the geology tour, and the bird tour. What else is possible? Pine beetle kill sites??


18) Driving tour podcast or CD

You can download a podcast tour of Yellowstone National Park. Could we make an audio file that you could listen to as you drive I-90 from east to west or west to east that points on ecologically important features?


19) Graphic wraps

We wrap electrical boxes and Dumpsters in art; why not science?


20) Public art / signs

In Maine, a walking path includes information about what would happen if the sea rises.

An online Google Map accompanies it.

A woman in Miami uses a chalker to show the sea level if the oceans keep rising.

Idea from the audience: Would be great fun to have local 6th graders mark light poles in Billings, Great Falls, etc, with the water line of the ancient ocean,

Hot trends:

21) Quantified self

Many people where a FitBit or other fitness tracker. Could we use the visualizations of our activities as a way to represent our science? (e.g., hiking in to a research site; moving about the lab, etc.)

Here’s my Jawbone visualization after a 16+-mile round trip hike to Heart Lake in Yellowstone


22) Minecraft

Kids love this virtual building game! Could we make lesson plans that direct kids through environmental science challenges in Minecraft?


23) Playlist for your research

Create an audio playlist of songs that pertain to your research. The sky’s the limit!


24) Tile

Could we use this inexpensive geolocator device in activities/lessons that help students understand our science?


Things you can do right now!

Talk with MSU Extended Unversity about:

25) ...being part of the Teen Science Cafe Network


26) ...being a classroom pen pal and corresponding (high tech or low tech) with a Montana classroom


27) ...turning your content into an online graduate course or non-credit module

Graduate courses:

Online short course:



28) Then, turn that content into an ibook like we did with the Astrobiology for Teachers course!


29) ...becoming a mentor: Connect with a student doing the Montana Science Fair and help him/her construct a project that mirrors your research. Bozeman School District also looks for mentors.


30) ...developing an exhibit for NanoDays/MicroDays. Reach several hundred kids and adults with your small-scale science.

Feb. 24, 2015: I'm adding another one...check this out: The White House is hosting an edit-a-thon to get face-to-face and online participants editing online information about African-American STEM heroes. Awesome!

Feedback? Comments? Ideas? Email me at Suzi Taylor



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