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ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Meg Lowman

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Meg Lowman (blog, Twitter), best known online as CanopyMeg, director of the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

Invitation to the NRC opening - click to see large!

The new Nature Research Center (NRC), a technology wing of the existing North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is opening on April 20, 2012. Everyone is invited! Invitation attached (click on the image left)!!! It will be a 24-hour science party! There will be live feeds in the SECU Daily Planet multi-media theater from scientists around the planet, ongoing activities in each research lab by our own “rock-star” NRC scientists, food and events related to science, and citizen science take-home ideas. …. and More. My recent article in the Observer summarizes all the stats about the NRC — read and enjoy!

The theme of the new NRC is “how we know what we know.” All exhibits explain how scientists work to solve mysteries that affect our daily lives. The Daily Planet is four stories high, and the giant Earth-shaped structure houses a round multimedia theater featuring global science adventures. Awesome footage, ranging from exploration of forest canopies to digging up ancient dinosaur bones, will be broadcast. Schools can attend live presentations, or access recordings through an extensive virtual library.

The NRC also features citizen science, where the public can engage in science affecting our lives. Analyze the water in your local stream? Check out your DNA? Monitor birds in your backyard? Measure black holes in outer space? Students, classes, citizens, and legislators will be welcome to visit our Investigate Labs to participate in ongoing research. Education staff will help you experience the excitement of discovery. The new wing features a Science Café which is modeled along the lines of a sports bar – except all the TV screens will feature live feeds from science around the world.

Canopymeg with the heirs of Ethiopia's forests -- kids who are disciples of the Coptic church take on the stewardship of conservation in this unique situation where the last forest fragments exist in church yards, otherwise called "church forests".

My passion continues to be mentoring youth in science, especially minorities, and also global forest conservation. I hope the new NRC will offer role models for kids from all walks of life, so that diverse youth are inspired to seek careers in science. During my own childhood, I never had a woman science teacher throughout my career, which made me pretty anxious at times about pursuing ecology as a career. I hope that the emerging generation will never experience that anxiety.

My other passion is conserving global forests. Not only are they the lungs of the planet, but they are also the drug stores, the carbon storage agents, the climate control, the gas exchange headquarters, the biodiversity libraries and the spiritual and cultural meccas of many societies. My recent work in Ethiopia was just published in a short piece in Science Magazine (hooray!) and has seen some great success with the simple solution of working together with the local priests to build stone walls around their church yards which house the last remaining forest patches in Northeastern Ethiopia (read more on my website). Read more in my recent nature column.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I am totally excited about using social media as a “hook” to get young people engaged in science at our NRC. Our new and amazing Science Communication Director, Dr. David Kroll, is awesome in creating these pathways and it is a privilege to work with him on this. With his blogging and all of our staff’s global research and outreach, we should be twittering and facebooking and blogging our way into many K-12 classrooms as well as into folks’ everyday lives with exciting science and more science!

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

The best part of Sci Online is always the people – I would also love to see a Techno-Geek table next year, where those of us in mid-career can get a tune-up to make sure our mobile phones are tweeting and facebooking to our best capabilities. Little things like image size and how to transmit videos make a big difference in our science communication. I would also love to host something at our SECU Daily Planet technology theater at the NRC next year, where we actually take some of the rock-star attendees of the conference, and broadcast our own TED series to students around the state and the country, using our internet capabilities and cool visual technologies.

Looking forward to 2013!

Thank you! See you at the NRC opening and at ScienceOnline2013!



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