When the Universe Chirped – Detecting Gravitational Waves

Posted 12 February 2016 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Joe Betzweiser giving a tour at LIGO. Photo by Paige Jarreau.

When Joe Betzweiser found out that that a bright signal had been detected from the control room of LIGO Livingston, a Laser-Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Louisiana, he was just glad that he wasn't working. Just an hour or two before an instrument operator saw a squiggly wave run across a monitor in the LIGO control room, signaling gravitational waves or "ripples in spacetime" for the first time ever, Joe was making calibration measurements on the instrument. If he had been working... Read more

Using Twitter to Interact, But Science Communication to Preach

Posted 3 February 2016 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Image Credit: Matt Hamm,

“Science blogs were heralded for their potential to transform dialogue between science and society, yet studies suggest they have failed to do so.” – Alison Smith Can Twitter do any better? In a paper recently published in the Journal of Promotional Communications, Alison Smith investigates the ways that scientists use Twitter for science communication. Twitter, Smith proposes, may provide a medium for true public engagement with science by “allowing users to have conversations, form communities, share content, and build relationships.”... Read more

You don’t really know how to write a science STORY. Yet.

Posted 10 January 2016 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Stories. Image by Elias Ruiz Monserrat,

All is not as it seems. This week, I realized something incredible. I realized that until now, I didn’t truly know what a story was. I mean, I could recognize a good story when I read one, and I encouraged my students to tell good stories when writing about science. But if you’d asked me to define story, I would have gotten the definition all wrong. Myth: A story is plot. Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading Lisa... Read more

Key Points from SciCom15

Posted 14 December 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Quentin Cooper talking about the image of scientists at SciCom15.

On Wednesday December 9, 2015, SciCom15 took place in Athlone, Ireland. This conference on communicating (Irish) science was sponsored, in part, by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Below are some of the key points from the conference. These key points are based on my own impressions, detailed conference notes provided by LSU colleague and SciCom15 attendee Peggy Miller, and #scicom15 tweets. Ireland has a rich culture of storytelling. Science communicators (including scientists) should be able to tell a science story. What does a scientist look like? Quentin Cooper delivered... Read more

Where were you when you heard there was water on Mars?

Posted 6 December 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Image credit: (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Here is a fun little poll I'm doing for an upcoming conference - Where did you first hear about the September 2015 announcement of hydrated salts, evidence of liquid water, on Mars? Take the poll: Please share this with your friends! ... Read more

Science Communication Echo Chambers – Now What?

Posted 17 November 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Anechoic chamber - This room has long wedges of foam all over the walls so there are no echoes. Image credit: Gillie Rhodes,

Echo chambers are a hot topic in the online science community of late. I recently wrote a blog post about whether science blogs are echo chambers, and that post continues to get a lot of play on Twitter and elsewhere. And then just this last weekend at #SciCommCamp, we had an “un-conference” session on “Echo Chambers” in which a group of scientists and science communicators discussed how to break out of them, so to speak. “It is well known that when... Read more

Best Practices in Environmental Communication – A Scientific Paper

Posted 8 November 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Infographic created by Paige Jarreau.

When it comes to communicating about environmental issues, it turns out we have a lot to learn from psychologists and audiences alike. Along with colleagues Zeynep Altinay and Amy Reynolds, I recently had a paper published in the journal of Environmental Communication, in which we used Louisiana's coastal crisis as a case study for best practices in environmental communication. In our study, we interviewed communicators and psychologists, and surveyed Louisiana residents, in order to identify gaps in what we should be doing vs.... Read more

How would you make better coatings for medical implants? Sushi!

Posted 7 November 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Wakame. Image credit: Loozrboy,

They say opposites attract. But this isn’t just a romantic phrase. Materials scientists have long used layers of oppositely charged chemical compounds to create coated surfaces with desirable properties for various applications: biomedical implants, engineered bone tissue, “anti-stick” medical devices – you name it. This sandwiching of oppositely charged compounds into films that stack up on a surface, known as polyelectrolyte multilayers or PEMs, can be accomplished with natural compounds such as fucoidans, sugar polymers found in species of brown... Read more

Have you ever read any of these science blogs? Take their reader surveys!

Posted 21 October 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

Have you ever read one of these science blogs? Then head on over to fill out a readership survey for their blogs! We will learn much more about why people read science blogs, and you'll get awesome prizes for participating, from science art to cash! (Note - you have to completely fill out a readership survey for one of these blogs before taking the survey for another one of these blogs - but the survey will be shorter for the second... Read more

A living boat full of stingers? The crazy survival skills of red fire ants!

Posted 21 October 2015 by Paige Brown Jarreau

A young fire ant queen (Solenopsis invicta) tends to her first eggs. Image by Alex Wild, @Myrmecos on Twitter.

If you live in the southern United States like I do, you probably know the red imported fire ant - especially if you've ever been stung by one! This little ant packs quite a sting. But, do you really KNOW the red imported fire ant? If you are like me, you might not know that the red imported fire ant can accomplish the zombie-like feat of creating a living raft that literally floats a colony to safety if a flood comes along. That... Read more