The School of Biology Public Engagement Committee is pleased to announce the winners of our 2021 Public Engagement Awards. These awards recognise a sustained commitment to high quality public engagement with research and are open to all students and most non-academic staff in the school. Congratulations to Haley, Hannah and Natalie! You can see details below about the incredible work they have been doing.
I am a PhD student researching forest ecology and biodiversity, with a passion for nature and environmental conservation. I enjoy communicating my findings and the practical applications of my research to a wider audience through public presentations, workshops with children and social media, as well as supporting and organising community projects. I have volunteered with many local environmental initiatives, including those run by Transition University of St Andrews. I am looking forward to participating in a new meadow creation project, and working with the university and local residents to create habitat throughout St Andrews while reducing our collective carbon footprint. The project I have been most involved with, however, is the annual BioBlitz. A BioBlitz is a 24 hour citizen-science biodiversity monitoring event where experts and the public work together to conduct wildlife surveys and find as many species as possible. The aims of a BioBlitz are to collect annual biodiversity data, increase public engagement with science, foster appreciation for nature and to bridge the gap between ‘town and gown.’ With the help of the University’s Public Engagement team and a dedicated group of volunteers, Calum McAndrew and I adapted the usual BioBlitz to an online format following the outbreak of covid-19. We organised three Backyard BioBlitzes in 2020 and 2021 which reached over 3,000 people and recorded over 700 species. Through these events, we strive to provide a fun pastime for those stuck at home, and to support young families and teachers who face the additional responsibilities of home- schooling and creating online curriculum.
I’m a project manager within the Scottish research pool Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) based in SOI, and since the beginning of the pandemic I have wanted to ensure our Scotland wide members felt like they were a part of a community despite working from home, and to promote an open marine science discourse for all stakeholders. Last spring and summer, I coordinated and chaired a series of internationally attended weekly webinars that provided MASTS members the opportunity to showcase their work to new and interested marine academics and decision makers. These were so popular, I’ve done it again for 5 months in 2021! I also ran weekly video casts throughout 2020 to provided additional exposure to those in the marine science sector. A large proportion of my time now has been advising and supporting many marine science online events that are attended by academic, decisions makers and the public including 10th MASTS Annual Science Meeting, the Scottish Marine Energy Research 4th Symposium, 28th Reef Conservation UK Annual Meeting and the launch of the Scotland Marine Assessment 2020, plus multiple workshops. Plus, I make funny social media posts when I can for MASTS.
I am a PhD candidate researching the cultural evolution of humpback whale song in the Northern Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, supervised by Dr Luke Rendell. My passion for public engagement and diversity in science is evident in my voluntary work across Scotland and abroad, including co-organising the 2018 International Women and Girls in Science Lecture at the University of St Andrews and as the evaluation lead with the Dundee Science Centre exhibition Sea Symphonies in 2019. I am a 2019 National Geographic Explorer and was additionally awarded a National Geographic outreach award in 2020 to lead a community focused science engagement project in 2021 in my hometown of Bannockburn. I was selected to attend the National Geographic Science-Telling Bootcamp in Munch 2019 and when carrying out my 2019 research fieldwork in the Cook Islands, I sought to update Sea Symphonies project materials and activities to enable participation of both children and young adults in workshops and to enable facilitation of primary school pupil connections across the world. I am currently working in an interdisciplinary team to create a public engagement and conservation awareness exhibition with i3S Hybrid. I enjoy creating online videos to explain my research to a wide audience and was invited to speak at online events during the last year, including ‘Excel in Science’, a collaboration between University of Nottingham and National Geographic, which aimed at inspiring people from underrepresented backgrounds to forge long lasting careers in science. I am including the evaluation of two public engagement projects as a final chapter in my research PhD, which will be a first at the University of St Andrews.