Ph.D. student examines the relationship between technology, conservation and public opinion

Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar

Populations of the Hawaiian honeycreeper, a colorful bird native to Hawaii, struggle to survive due to bird malaria transmitted by non-native mosquitos. Gene-editing and de-extinction techniques could offer promising avenues for adapting the species to adversity—but how does the public feel about these interventions?

The relationship between public opinion and scientific interventions is exactly what Patrice Kohl, a doctoral student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, is working to understand. Kohl takes an interdisciplinary look at how the public reacts to conservation efforts to prevent extinction, much like the Hawaiian honeycreeper.

Patrice Kohl

Patrice Kohl

Kohl was recently awarded an Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship from the National Science Foundation. IGERT funds graduate students across the country, encouraging research that fosters strong collaborative bonds across disciplines while their advisor participates in interdisciplinary activities. The UW-Madison IGERT program that Kohl is funded through, which involves her Ph.D. advisor LSC chair Dominique Brossard, focuses on novel ecosystems. While the exact definition and parameters of novel ecosystems are debated, they can generally be described as ecosystems whose historical trajectory has been influenced and changed by human intervention.
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Students learn the essentials of journalistic writing at Capitol press conference

The day-to-day role of a news writer entails many tasks, from conducting interviews to investigating stories and writing articles.  One such task is attending and participating in press conferences.  Yet, for a novice writer this can be intimidating.

Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5 for a mock press conference.

Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5th for a mock press conference.

Not so for the students of LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting.  Continuing with tradition, Department of Life Sciences Communication instructor Michael Flaherty arranged a mock press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol just for the students of LSC 111.  These prospective writers will feel more comfortable heading into future press conferences having participated in a practice press conference in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol.

The mock press conference, which took place on Wednesday October 5th, featured Frank Frassetto, director of the consumer protection division of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).  The focus of the press conference was DATCP’s recent warning to consumers that they’ve discovered credit card skimmers at gas pumps around the state that enable thieves to steal credit card information.
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WPT and UW-Madison’s “Wisconsin’s Homegrown Farmer” highlights LSC grad Daphne Holterman

UW-Madison and Wisconsin Public Television are partnering for “Wisconsin’s Homegrown Farmer“, a show highlighting three different farming families in Wisconsin.  The program explores the passion each family has for farming, the challenges each has faced, and how each family has collaborated with university researchers to make modern farming a success.

Daphne and Lloyd Holterman. Photo: Morgan Strauss.

Daphne and Lloyd Holterman. Photo: Morgan Strauss.

One of the families highlighted is Daphne and Lloyd Holterman who have been farming for over 30 years. Daphne graduated from UW-Madison 35 years ago as an Agricultural Journalism major, now Life Sciences Communication.  Soon after graduating she used her science communication skills to work in agriculture and food communications.

“I [worked in communications] during the week and farmed on the weekends.  And I loved every minute of it.  I loved working on the farm and getting my hands dirty. Then during the week, I would go to the office and work with other creative people to create communication plans where I would draw on my agricultural experiences,” Holterman said.

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Flooding creates extraordinary Tribal Youth Media Workshop experience

Each year LSC Professor Patty Loew and LSC Faculty Associate Don Stanley make the trip to the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation to lead the Tribal Youth Media Project.  The workshop, which is hosted by LSC, works to educate tribal youth on video production and storytelling techniques with the goal of helping participants communicate environmental stories and share tribal cultural practices with the outside world.

Donovan and Zach interviewing a couple from Ottawa, Canada who were stranded at the Bad River Lodge.

Donovan and Zach interviewing a couple from Ottawa, Canada who were stranded at the Bad River Lodge.

This summer the workshop unfolded a bit different than years past. During the first week of the program rains swept through northern Wisconsin depositing 11 inches in Bad River creating a state of emergency. “Bridges have collapsed, roads have washed away and Bad River is an island. The tribe is shut down, the casino is closed and lodge visitors are stranded.” noted Loew in an email on July 12th.

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LSC highly involved at the 2016 North American Congress for Conservation Biology

The Department of Life Sciences Communication was happy to contribute to the 2016 North American Congress for Conversation Biology.  The 3rd biennial congress’s theme was “Communicating Science for Conservation Action” and highlighted the importance of successful communication strategies in conversation science.  More and more scientific organizations are realizing the importance of communication in turning research into action and LSC is continuing its strong involvement in conversations across disciplines.

Jamie HoNACCBgberg, the organizing committee chair for the conference, noted “We are excited to collaborate with Life Sciences Communication faculty, staff, and students, and greatly value their contributions to the conference. Integrating perspectives from the LSC Department will surely enrich our dialogue during the conference, and provide meaningful impacts to conservation scientists’ work in the future.”
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Announcing the winners of the first “My LSC” contest

The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) is happy to announce the winners of its first “My LSC” contest. Molly Sequin earned first place, Travis Senn second place, and Olivia Riedel third.

The My LSC contest started this semester as a way for students to tell their story about the people, places, experiences, and memories that have shaped their time in the department. Students could submit entries in the form of a blog, photographs, or video. Submissions needed to speak to their time here and beyond, such as what LSC means to them, why they chose it as their major, what they want to do with their LSC degree, and more.

To reward their hard work, the top three winners will receive multiple prizes. The top three students will receive $500, $300, and $200, respectively. Their work will also be showcased on the LSC website and social media channels, as well as displayed on the first floor of Hiram Smith Hall. Anyone is invited to stop by and view the students’ work. Continue reading

Spring 2016 Colloquium still delivering exciting lineup

Mark your calendars: The LSC colloquium is once again bringing an exciting lineup of speakers for students and faculty alike. Attendees of the colloquium will hear from experts in risk, science communication, health communication, science and technology studies, science policy, and new information technologies, among other interesting areas.

The colloquium will take place each Wednesday from 12:05 to 1 p.m. in 137 Hiram Smith Hall. This semester the colloquium was organized by LSC chair Dominique Brossard. Check out the list of speakers below. All faculty, staff, and students are welcome to attend. You can click each speakers’ name for more information about them. Follow @UW_LSC or #uwlsc700 on Twitter for live tweets from the talks  Most importantly, after each speaker, a link by their names will take you to a video of their talk.  Continue reading

LSC remembers alumna Jean Fewster, gracious donor and friend

Members of the Department of Life Sciences Communication are remembering fondly all that Jean Fewster — successful alumna, gracious donor, and great friend of LSC — did for the department before passing away on Oct. 15, 2015 at the age of 91.


Jean Fewster, LSC alumna and donor.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Fewster’s career began with the Dairy Farmers of Canada. She went coast-to-coast spreading knowledge of the importance of dairy in the home through avenues like recipes, brochures, and radio shows.

She then came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison for a master’s degree in home economics journalism and nutrition and earned a Ph.D. in mass communications in 1969 in the Department of Agricultural Journalism, which is now known as the Department of Life Sciences Communication.

“She just filled up the room wherever she went and was so positive and upbeat,” said LSC professor emeritus Larry Meiller, who knew Fewster. “I don’t think those qualities diminished one bit during the 30 years I knew her.” Continue reading

Writing students practice interviewing at Capitol press conference

State officials and experts gathered at the Capitol to help LSC students practice interviewing and writing by being part of a press conference just for the students. Students in LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting got to interview the assistant state veterinarian about avian flu in the mock press conference.


Students and experts gathered in a room in the Capitol on Monday, Oct. 5 for a mock press conference. LSC students asked the assistant state veterinarian questions about avian flu.

The Oct. 5 press conference was conducted just like a real press conference that reporters would attend at the Capitol. Department of Life Sciences Communication senior lecturer Mike Flaherty organized for assistant state veterinarian Darlene Konkle to announce the state’s latest actions to combat avian flu, a devastating new strain that has badly damaged Wisconsin’s poultry industry. The issue is an important one that has affected Wisconsin in the past. Those involved said the opportunity was really a win-win for everyone.

“The students asked great and engaging questions and this is such a great way to utilize a class like this,” Konkle said. “These types of things are always helpful for me too because I get to practice working with the media.” Continue reading

Undergraduates apply LSC skills and theories to excel at summer internships

Lots of LSC undergraduates had very exciting summers, interning everywhere from a UW-Madison Center for Limnology field station to a weather station in Chicago.

Undergraduate classes in LSC give students the theoretical base and skills to work in many areas of science communication. For example, senior Morgan Strauss was a marketing intern for Didion Milling in Johnson Creek and Cambria, WI.

Morgan Strauss

Morgan Strauss

“I’ve been able to learn a lot about numerous communication methods in LSC and have been able to improve my writing and oral communication skills immensely, which was especially helpful for all the blog posts and press releases I wrote,” Strauss said. “LSC has also expanded my knowledge of social media marketing, web design, and print/electronic design, which was relevant to a lot of projects at Didion.” Continue reading