By: Ryan Fuller, OTS PhD Student from the University of Chicago

Atop the wetlands of Palo Verde National Park and the apex of Sendero La Roca (‘The Rock Trail’).

I’m sitting in my San Jose hotel room on the final day of our six-week journey, surrounded by the highest level of city sound pollution since May 21, 2017. It’s a tad bit hard to concentrate as we’ve been blessed with pristine views and peaceful soundscapes for longer than I can grasp. Our travels have taken us to almost every portion of Costa Rica’s majestic landscapes, all while performing small scientific studies and revealing her small secrets along the way. We dipped our toes in tide pools of the Pacific Ocean, witnessed the raw beauty of Palo Verde’s wetlands, walked among the clouds of Monteverde, discovered the power of the rainy season at La Selva, survived the Cerro de la Muerte, and danced in the Jardín Botánico Wilson of Las Cruces.

Ghost-like Oaks rise out of the mountain mist at Cuerici near Cerro de la Muerte.

But, let’s shift gears for just one second. Despite the awe-inspiring views, beautiful creatures, and endless botanical wonders, we also immersed ourselves into the processes of modern science. Science, as a body of evidence-based inquiry, is finding itself at the mercy of lesser informed skeptics, political bias, and corruption of facts. It’s important that we arm ourselves with the best evidence we can in order to inform policy making. But, one could argue that scientists currently collect evidence with extreme precision. So, what’s the issue? How are we finding ourselves in this harsh, highly skeptical environment? One piece lies in our inability to communicate the importance of our findings! We tend to disappear into the exciting and interesting parts of our research, failing to disseminate knowledge to the general public once we find our fascinating conclusions.

Tide pooling in the Pacific Ocean — CIRENAS.

A portion of our course was dedicated to sharing our research findings through creative means like blogs, podcasts, and short films. It was an incredible experience for me as I was able to work with people from around the world (USA, Costa Rica, India, and Peru) on a podcast and a short film. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be the main character of a kid’s-style video about the Red-eyed Tree Frog and the research we performed on their anti-predatory behaviors at the La Selva Biological Research Station (click here to watch the videos our course produced). Combined, the two workshops and experiences gained therein have impacted my outlook on sci-communications. As the course winds down, our lives return to what we might define as normal, and we disperse to our respective homes, I feel as though my scientific toolbox has been enriched. Not only have I learned a diversity of scientific tools such as statistics, ways to be a better writer, and more efficient project design but I have also learned many ‘left-brained’ skills as well. My creativity, wonderment, and excitement for storytelling have all received a boost from my course leaders who encouraged us to broadcast our messages.

A clip from the short film “Scott’s Science!” at La Selva Biological Station.

I’ll leave you with a little thought that hopefully inspires you in whatever you do — even if you are not a professional scientist. If you feel like what you are doing could never be interesting to the ‘outside world’, think again! What you do has the power to inspire others and further the causes you believe in. I never thought I would have the capacity to put together scientific communication in a fun and creative way but, I did, and my fellow course members did too! We need that enthusiasm and confidence to spread throughout the scientific community. For me, it started here at OTS 17-3. I’ll forever be thankful for the experiences, skills, and friendships this course has gifted me. To quote the final line of my podcast:  “Get out there, learn something new, and then go tell the world about it!”

Silver Throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) from Jardín Botánica Wilson at Las Cruces.

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