Thursday, August 30, 2018

Observations from a mid-career, hybrid scientist communicator

Having firmly entered my mid-career years as a hybrid academic practitioner, it occurs to me to share a few things I've learned in case it helps those starting out. Although I only attend professional scientific society meetings once a year at most these days, I do still see a whole lot of tweets and am many conversations related to how the current system of training is not serving most students, who will go on to careers outside of academia. As someone who started asking these questions 20 plus years ago and organized quite a few "alternative science career" workshops in graduate school, it's interesting to reflect on where I am at this point. It also feels like there are enough of us that have already chosen or otherwise been on this path that there should be some lessons learned that can be shared.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Relationship first: An experiential workshop on relationship-centered approaches to climate communication

Gathering a stellar and open-hearted group of scholars and practitioners at the Mayacamas Ranch in northern California. Photo by me.
Last spring, Clare Gupta and I received support from Invoking the Pause to hold a workshop on relationship-centered approaches to climate change, which I've written a lot about in recent years. The basic idea is "relationship first," meaning that even when it comes to these heady scientific topics, it can be helpful to prioritize relationships with people over making a point. But, doing so definitely invites deep learning, self-reflection, and adaptation. The good news is that other fields like law, medicine, and psychology have made a lot of progress in how professionals navigate this terrain, and so there are a lot of resources out there.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Goodbye and farewell to 2017

In a Santa Rosa neighborhood destroyed by wildfire, residents display their sentiments. By Faith Kearns.
It's been a long year, for me and most everybody I know. And, it's been almost a year since posting anything here, though I've tried to stay productive elsewhere.

The year started with some good news on the water front. We saw at least a pause in the California drought in late 2016/2017, and now we're waiting with baited breath to see what happens this winter. So far, it's not much in terms of rain or snow. And, as most folks know, what we've ended up with instead is a whole lot of out-of-season fire instead.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Is there more to water than our use of it?

My first real, in the wild, naturally occurring vernal pool experience involved not just one, but three pools at the Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Reserve, part of the UC Natural Reserve System. So much love.
One of my biggest challenges in working on California water is that it's all about water use. It doesn't matter whether we're talking supply or demand, efficiency or conservation, wastewater or infrastructure, above or under ground storage -- it's all about human use of water. The closest we get to joy or awe at the simple existence of water comes in around rain and snow, especially after many years of drought, but even those conversations become almost immediately about how much we need it and whether or not we are making good use of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Writing on the other blog

One of my favorite water views from Wildcat Peak in Berkeley. Photo by me.
In addition to writing here on what as become a fairly occasional basis, I write things with some regularity for our blog The Confluence (and for other publications, but we'll deal with that later).

For folks interested in California water issues, the posts I've written this year:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Holding out for a hero

So often in life, we want to be saved. We want miracles. We want to be rescued by a parent, by a prince, by a god, by technology, by science -- by a hero. And, who can blame us? It's the stuff of myth and legend and the stories we were all raised with.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Forging new paths in science engagement

The Pacific Crest Trail over the McCloud River. Photo by me.

I so appreciate this beautiful piece on "climate grief" and what it means for climate scientists. It was written by scientist Sarah Myhre and in a couple of my favorite passages, she says:
"We are hamstrung by our need for job security, funding, advancement, and promotion – because we, too, are juggling the demands of child rearing, aging parents, urban gentrification, and the winnowing of the middle-class.

Regardless, this is the time for a gut-check. Our job is not to objectively document the decline of Earth’s biodiversity and humanity, so what does scientific leadership look like in this hot, dangerous world?"


"I believe most scientists are also, quietly and professionally, mourning the loss of the balance of Earth’s life. The pain doesn’t stop. It’s carried upon every wildfire, coral bleaching, or marine die-off. But, we can use these waves of pain to inform our moral commitment to the present and future. It requires the brave integration of science and self, the acceptance of loss."

Monday, April 4, 2016

Chronic versus acute problems

When the California drought really got going, in the sense of a generalized panic about it, it was late 2013 / early 2014. The drought had actually started at least a couple of years before that. Now, here we are, a couple of years later, and by most accounts it looks like we're entering year five, despite a relatively wet winter in some parts of the state.

In those early days, I treated the drought much like I used to treat wildfire events when I worked on fire issues: as an acute problem -- an intense, urgent event that would have at least a somewhat distinct end. This is as opposed to a chronic problem -- one relatively unchanging in condition and with no definite end.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Data and values

There have been some prominent new calls for more and better data on water during the last couple weeks. Charles Fishman kicked things off with an opinion piece in the New York Times saying that the best and simplest answer to changing how we think about water is to "fix water data." Several days later, the White House held a first-of-its-kind water summit. During the live event, many speakers made references to better data, which were further echoed in the event materials

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

From drought to storms: El Niño in Hollywood

After ending my post on California water issues showing up all over the TV with a note about El Niño being next, Sharon Swart at The Hollywood Reporter put out this pretty great article on that very topic. It is filled with some kind of crazy stories, like this one from actress Dyan Cannon on the 1982-83 El Niño landing in her Malibu yard:
"'I ran downstairs, and the ocean was coming into my living room. Then I saw firemen falling into the pool; they didn't know it was there because it's covered with water.' While her house was drying out in Malibu, Cannon rented a place in Coldwater Canyon, where 'torrential rains came and the roof caved in.' She now lives in an L.A.-area condo, in part due to her El Niño misfortunes."