Reaching Out for Outreach

Most paleontologists consider outreach to be a good thing, and we often have a few typical activities in mind: elementary school classroom visits, a table at a fair, a public lecture, or maybe some blog posts. But what if we want to try something a bit different? Or, maybe public speaking, chats with schoolkids, and Twitter aren't our thing. What can we do then?

Sometimes, I think the most useful and rewarding outreach we can do is just being ourselves in our "civilian" lives outside of science. What connections can we make in those moments when we aren't at a dedicated outreach event? People are often thrilled to meet a scientist in a casual setting, and even more thrilled when they learn that the scientist is a paleontologist. By making ourselves known as paleontologists, it humanizes our profession and helps to crack stereotypes about scientists. We're not people who dress in pith helmets and chase after Velociraptor skulls (although if that's you, rock the look as best you can!). We're just friends, neighbors, and family, who happen to be involved with an amazing profession.

I had a cool opportunity recently to share my life as a paleontologist with a new audience. My passion alongside fossils is making beer--homebrewing provides endless fun, relaxation, and challenges that help me unwind from the "real world." As I've gotten more involved in the hobby, through festivals, conferences, blogging, and homebrew clubs, I've also noticed that many fellow homebrewers are excited to learn I study fossils. Why not combine the two?

So, I decided to dip my toes into the waters of beer writing. What better topic for a first article was there than some introspection on life as a homebrewing paleontologist? I pitched my idea to the editor at Zymurgy magazine (the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association), and was invited to submit a full article. In this piece, I talk about the many surprising ways that fossils and beer intersect (including some beers brewed in honor of new fossil discoveries). It was officially published a few weeks ago, and reached an audience of over 70,000 readers--many of whom don't necessarily subscribe to science periodicals. The experience has already led to other opportunities to share more about my life of beer and fossils.

I've enjoyed my forays into unconventional science outreach. It has me really excited as I think about new venues for sharing the field of paleontology. What might you be able to do? What non-science organizations or groups that you belong to have opportunities to share a little paleontology? With some creativity and careful planning, the world is wide open!

Above: My first article as a paleontological beer writer, featured in Zymurgy.

--Dr. Andy Farke is the Augustyn Family Curator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California.
Posted: 9/20/2016 11:20:34 PM by andyfarkeadmin | with 0 comments
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