ScienceOnline'09 - interview with Danielle Lee

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline'09 back in January.

Today, I asked Danielle Lee from the Urban Science Adventures! © blog to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?

I am Danielle Lee and I am a biologist. Specifically, I study animal behavior from an ecological point of view. I am also African-American, which in and of itself isn't particularly interesting, but matters in the sense that less than 3% of the PhDs awarded to scientists are held by persons of color. The likelihood of meeting a Black scientists is still uncommon, so I often look at the field of science as not only an interesting field of study, but also one aiming to become more diverse.

What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?

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An outreach scientist - great title, but the job description changes often. Sometimes this title refers to an academic position responsible for coordinate broader impact projects for a department. I would coordinate undergraduate research efforts as well as coordinate public outreach programs for researchers and students. I would help them prepare for public presentations to facilitate activities that would engage the general public such as hosting science expeditions or summer science camps for youth and their educators.

I really enjoy how informal science programs, such as those offered by museums and science-related agencies participate in public education efforts. I think there is an overwhelming need to dedicate outreach resources to under-served communities, such as minority communities, immigrant communities, and inner-city/rural communities. Mobile learning labs, citizen-science projects, and scientists and students doing hands-on community service can go a long way in enhancing public perception of science and efforts to attract talented people to the field.

Related to this idea of outreach to under-served communities, what I would REALLY love to do is
produce and host a science television program about urban ecology and nature appreciation in cities that specifically targets young urban kids as an audience. As popular as nature shows are, I have never known one that has had an African-American host or a female host or that routinely features a person of color as the science expert. Plus, urban television markets don't have enough education programming in my opinion and a science show like this might be appealing to their audiences.

What is your Real Life job?

Right now my job is writing my dissertation, which includes analyzing data and interpreting data, and editing manuscripts for my committee to review. I am not compensated for this activity and I am not teaching labs for the university because I want to put all of my attentions into preparing for my defense. When I am done I feel optimistic that I will secure a teaching position or a post-doc fellowship that gets me even closer to one of those dream occupations listed above.

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

Blogging was my first online communication and still is my favorite. I like the ease-of use and simple formats that websites and blog sites offer. You can find information relatively easy, tabs and tags are used to organize information, you click and there you are. What I like about blogs, specifically is that readers can comment and interact with me and each other. It creates a conversation of the information which mimics real-life teaching except the interaction happens over time and geographic space.

If leverage properly, the web is a great way for me, and scientists in general, to interact with the public in a direct and informal way. Readers, ho might be school kids or curious adults, can simply ask a question and hold a conversation with a scientist. What other medium offers that kind of one-on-one access? None, not even our great informal science programs at museums or state conservation/wildlife departments.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?

It can be hard to reconcile my attentions - blogging and doing primary science work - such as doing my research projects and writing up the results. As often as I can, I try to share what I am doing on the blog. I find it personally rewarding and I justify my efforts as meeting broader impact goals. I am sharing science - the culture and ethos of science - with people. I imagine it all matters because too few people (that I know who aren't scientists or academics) truly understand what science is or how to appreciate nature and my blog guides them.

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

For a long time, I was unaware of other science blogs until I discovered - which is a community of independent bloggers who can post original content or cross-posts entries from other blogs. I simply wanted an outlet and a way to interact with other people. I cross posted some of my posts there for a while. Soon after than discovery, I attended a workshop at a science meeting, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, 2006 I think - in Phoenix. There was a workshop about science blogs featuring two science bloggers, and one of them was GrrlScientist. It was then that I learned that there was a and it was nothing like the other site. It was great finding this one-stop location for all science blogs.

Some of my favorite science blogs include:
Science To Life by Karen Venti - I was so excited to discover I was not the only Black female science blogger in the universe
Scientist, Interrupted, - I love her photos and quizzes
A Blog Around the Clock - I just love your vibe, so kind, so patient and informative. I think of you as the Papa Smurf of ScienceBlogs- yeah there are some smurfs in the village who aren't that easy to like but you seem so accepting of them all.
Isis - so straightforward and witty
The Oyster's Garter
Since the conference I have started reading Thus Spake Zuska, Greg Laden, ScienceWomen, The Fairer Science, Southern Fried Scientist and Deep Sea News - marine bloggers are so funny!

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?

A lot of small things that add up. In general I appreciate the importance of science communication and I am a strong advocate for science sharing - whether it be a scientist, a student, a university media officer or a science journalist. Science news and information is too important and there are still too few science communicators. The public needs these outlets, whether they know it/appreciate it or not. Plus, the more traditional science culture is not addressing these needs. So I continue to promote science blogging (and science communication) to the two most disjunct and seemingly under-served audiences I know: 1) the African-American community and 2) Academic Scientists.

It was so nice to meet you and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.


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A shout-out to Danielle, who has my Antarctica vote. I really, really admire people who DO SOMETHING productive and creative and for others, as she does. I am also thrilled that the non-white community has a role model like Danielle. It is troubling that the face of science isn't changing to reflect the composition of our population. Science is losing out on a large number of great minds, and great minds are missing out on a great opportunity. Women like Danielle play a big role in fixing this problem.

Thanks Bora.

GL - at first glance I thought you asked about sweet tea...haha - yeah there's something in it and it's good. But the seawater - yes rum!

Thanks Janet, that's really sweet! I appreciate the vote!

Most people who have been diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety have probably been prescribed modern anti-depression and anxiety medications such as Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil and other SSRI related medications which seem to be the favorite choice of every modern doctor of the 21st century. Is this findrxonline in article.

BLOGGING BFF! We're totally going to recruit you for your postdoc, you just don't know it yet. I can see the paper now: "YARRR: Effects of naughty sea shanties and copious alcohol on the ability of ocean bloggers to navigate a maze".