Conveying Your Message

North Carolina Sea Grant will offer several travel scholarships for prospective symposium participants.

A documentary filmmaker and a leader in citizen science are among experts who will help graduate students convey the stories within — and the impacts of — their research.

“Conveying Your Message,” North Carolina Sea Grant’s graduate student training symposium, will be held April 6 and 7 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. The sessions will help graduate students enhance their communication skills, with a focus on real-world contexts, including interview preparation and grant writing.

“It is open to all graduate students in the state, until we reach our maximum capacity,” notes John Fear, deputy director for Sea Grant as well as the state’s Water Resources Research Institute. “We realized these skills are needed not only by the students we are funding, but also by many others.”

• The program opens on April 6 with Holly Menninger, who leads public science efforts in the NC State University College of Sciences. She will focus on developing and presenting an elevator pitch — how to quickly summarize research highlights.

Her talk will be followed by a poster session in which the students will share their findings with partners from universities and government agencies.

Menninger has worked in the intersection of science and society in policy, natural resource management and public engagement in science. Since obtaining her doctorate in biological sciences at the University of Maryland, she has worked as a senior public affairs associate with the American Institute of Biological Sciences, as well as in extension and natural resource management at Cornell University.

Menninger was named the first director of public science for the College of Sciences at NC State in 2014. There she oversees a series of initiatives to build science literacy beyond NC State’s campus, including citizen science, informal science education, science communication and innovation in public science. She also directs the Your Wild Life outreach program.

The April 7 sessions will focus on creative communication strategies and audiences.

• Documentarian Art Howard will deliver the keynote address. Howard owns multimedia production company ARTWORK Inc. His many awards include an IRIS award, a Robert Kennedy Journalism award, an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and honors from the Council of Advancement and Support of Education.

Howard’s session will include his experience producing Beneath the Blue, a documentary that captures deep-sea exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, developed in conjunction with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The Telly Award-winning film is a permanent exhibit at the museum.

Although Howard’s work has taken him to all seven continents, more than 40 countries and 3,000 feet below ocean’s surface, he deems his greatest honor is to broaden the viewer’s awareness of the world.

Also speaking on April 7:

Kerry Irish heads communications for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences. She will discuss online professional branding, including through blogs and social media.

Pam Whitlock is a research consultant, formerly at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She will focus on grant writing, where applicants must clearly explain project objectives and the value of the proposed research.

Deb Wojcik is the associate director for counseling, training and programs at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. She will offer strategies for successful interviews, including presenting research results and experiences in that setting.

Katey Ahmann and Brian Malow, both with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, will share outreach strategies. Ahmann heads the museum’s Featured Experiences program, which includes Science Cafés. Malow, known as the science comedian, is a media producer and curator of the SECU Daily Planet at the museum.

The symposium is free, but registration is required. The agenda and registration details can be found at The site includes hotlinks for the speakers.

Some travel scholarships will be available. For sponsorship and other information, contact John Fear at

This article was published in the Winter 2016 issue of Coastwatch.

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