One of the most prevalent challenges in communicating about conservation today is social media. Social media is one of the most effective ways to reach an audience, but it comes with limitations. How do you cite a source on social media? How do you retain an audience? How do you prompt someone to take action, or click a link?
Still, the most important challenge of communicating science over social media may be communicating complex ideas accessibly and helping people to care. One of the platforms I have used to communicate science is Instagram, with captions containing relevant scientific information and photos that complement the content.
There’s blue ice up by the bridge again, but this photo is from last year— last year in early April, not early March. While I realize this is mostly anecdotal and not indicative of much, it does seem telling that blue ice pileup happened about a month later last year. Anecdote aside, average temperatures in the Great Lakes Region have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and are projected to continue increasing (umich’s GLISA team). This has affected precipitation, ice melt, flooding, storm intensity, and promoted the growth of algal blooms. It’s easy to look at 2 degrees and ask why you should care, but this is already damaging crop yields and clean water— that’s water you drink, and crops our economy depends on. And excuse the pun, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. But I guess the real question is what should you do, and the answers not easy. The answer is work to enact policy that protects our environment, be conscious of what you are consuming and try to consume less, and ultimately, talk about it, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. And none of that is easy, but it’s really, really needed. Don’t believe me? Check out http://glisa.umich.edu/climate to get a summary of current and expected impact.
This post on Great Lakes ice melt uses a photo highlighting blue ice in the Straits of Mackinaw to address the impact of increasing global temperatures. The issue of ice melt is explained on a larger scale, and facts are cited. An important part of science on social media is referencing other sources; it increases the speaker’s credibility, allows interested readers to do further research, and can help set a standard for facts and science on social media. Citing sources helps keep facts objective rather than subjective.
In honor of Earth Day, check out the link in bio to a blog I wrote for @michiganoverboard on keeping the Great Lakes Watershed clean and healthy!! Protecting the earth is great, but remember both who we are saving it for, and who we are saving it from. We depend on the Earth to live, and freshwater is a huge part of that.
Communicating about conservation on social media can also call for external linking. Instagram captions aren’t always the best way to flesh out an entire issue— in the case above it made more sense to prompt readers to the blog itself rather than attempt to flesh out the intricacies of freshwater politics in a brief Instagram caption. The caption contains both a prompt to the blog post as well as to the organization involved, Michigan Overboard, who work to spread awareness about conservation and responsible recreation.
As cool as it is to be able to get this close to a deer, it's really important to remember that the reason you can get this close is because people have been feeding them. It seems harmless, and even kind, to feed wildlife. Not only does feeding wildlife effect natural diets, but it teaches these animals to trust humans and beg for food, which can have greater affect on the ecosystem. It puts the animals being fed at risk, and it puts you, feeding them, at risk. Wild animals are wild; let's keep them that way
Another thing to keep in mind is the implications of Instagram posts on the environment. Posting pictures of wildlife can inspire people to bait other animals, or otherwise endanger animals or themselves. Posting photos that involved hopping fences, illegal campsites, or otherwise damaging nature can also influence others to do the same, so it’s important to discuss what exactly went into making a photo.
Once hunted to near extinction, Bison (American Buffalo) can now be seen in the National Bison Range, where a herd ranging from 325-350 bison is protected. The National Bison Range is also home to Bighorn sheep, Pronghorn antelope, Elk, Coyote, Black bear and more. I didn't know what to expect visiting the Range, or even if we'd see any wildlife at all- on the scenic drive we saw coyotes, antelope, deer and countless bison, including the gorgeous guy pictured here.
For example, providing the backstory behind a photo can encourage other people to respect the work that went into said photo, and the ethics behind it, including respecting wildlife and following Leave No Trace.