Susan Hassol’s recent Ted Talk is about the need for better science communication skills

We’re stymied in solving the climate change problem because of an underlying challenge – a communication failure – rooted in language and ideology. Aspects of this failure include how scientists communicate, how some people confound the science with the solutions, and an active disinformation campaign designed to cast doubt. Resolution of the communication failure is essential, as it can unleash our ability to solve the climate problem.

Susan Joy Hassol is a climate change communicator, analyst, and author who’s been making climate science accessible for 25 years. Director of Climate Communication, she helps scientists communicate more effectively and provides information to policymakers, journalists, and others. She has authored and edited numerous reports, written an HBO documentary, and appeared on national media. She has been honored by scientific societies for her exceptional contributions to communication of climate science.

IGC Fellows attend elementary school science fair

The Interfaces of Global Change Graduate Student Organization participated in a recent science fair at Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg. Some of the IGC Fellows served as judges ( or “mad scientists”) and had the difficult task of evaluating about 70 Gilbert Linkous poster presentations.  Others operated a photo booth called “Kids Curiosity”. Equipped with plenty of lab and field gear, our graduate students encouraged kids to dress up as scientists and check out some of the cool tools they had on hand.  See the photo gallery below.

The IGC Fellows thank Dr. Ann Stevens, from the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech for the invitation to staff this incredible event.

Click on any photo to open the gallery.

Laura Schoenle and Heather Govenor judge science fair posters
Fun in the Scientist's Photo Booth
Fun in the Scientist's Photo Booth
Fun in the Scientist's Photo Booth
Leah Novak helps out with the judging
Angie Estrada grabs a swab sample from Daniel Medina
Fun in the Scientist's Photo Booth
Zach Martin evaluates the student research
Tamara Fetters and Maya Wilson at the Science Fair
Fun in the Scientist's Photo Booth
Daniel photobombs the Photo Booth
Practice using field gear

Lisa Belden’s research on Bd reveals new information about amphibian disease resistance

From VT News

BLACKSBURG, Va., March 26, 2015 – A team of scientists including Virginia Tech researchers is one step closer to understanding how bacteria on a frog’s skin affects its likelihood of contracting disease.

A frog-killing fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, has already led to the decline of more than 200 amphibian species including the now extinct-in-the-wild Panamanian golden frog.

In a recent study, the research team attempted to apply beneficial bacteria found on the skin of various Bd-resistant wild Panamanian frog species to Panamanian golden frogs in captivity, to see if this would stimulate a defense against the disease.

They found that while the treatment with beneficial bacteria was not successful due to its inability to stick to the skin, there were some frogs that survived exposure to the fungus. These survivors actually had unique bacterial communities on their skin before the experiments started. The results were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The next step is to explore these new bacterial communities.

Dr. Lisa Belden

Dr. Lisa Belden

“We were disappointed that the treatment didn’t work, but glad to have discovered new information about the relationship between these symbiotic microbial communities and amphibian disease resistance,” said Lisa Belden, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and a faculty member with the new Global Change Center at Virginia Tech. “Every bit of information gets us closer to getting these frogs back into nature.”

Studying the microbial communities of Panamanian golden frogs was the dissertation focus of Belden’s former graduate student Matthew Becker, who graduated with a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Virginia Tech in 2014 and is now a fellow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

“Anything that can help us predict resistance to this disease is very useful because the ultimate goal of this research is to establish healthy populations of golden frogs in their native habitat,” Becker told Smithsonian Science News. “I think identifying alternative probiotic treatment methods that optimize dosages and exposure times will be key for moving forward with the use of probiotics to mitigate chytridiomycosis.”

Read the full article:

Composition of symbiotic bacteria predicts survival in Panamanian golden frogs infected with a lethal fungus

Matthew H. Becker, Jenifer B. Walke, Shawna Cikanek, Anna E. Savage, Nichole Mattheus, Celina N. Santiago, Kevin P. C. Minbiole, Reid N. Harris, Lisa K. Belden, Brian Gratwicke

Story by Lindsay Key, Communications Officer at Fralin Life Science Institute

Photo Credit: Panamanian Golden Frog: By Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons

IGC Science Communication Workshop is led by Susan Hassol and Michael Mann

On March 20, 2015, Susan Hassol, Director of Climate Communication, and Michael E. Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, led a climate communication workshop for the fellows of Virginia Tech’s Interfaces of Global Change program. The day long communication workshop, which addressed framing and messaging, scientists and social media, media training and tips, and much more, was followed by a public lecture delivered by Dr. Mann at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg, VA.

View Susan Hassol’s recent Ted Talk here.

A recording of Dr. Mann’s talk can be viewed here.

Sue Hassol workshop

Climate change scientist Michael Mann to visit Virginia Tech and Lyric Theatre

From VT News


Dr. Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn State

Michael Mann, a climate scientist and central figure in the political debate over climate change, will visit Virginia Tech next week.

He will give a 4 p.m. lecture on March 20 at the Lyric Theatre, followed by a brief  question and answer session and signing of his book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.”

The event, sponsored by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program, is free and open to the public.

Mann is a distinguished professor of meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the departments of geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. His research involves the use of theoretical models and observational data to better understand earth’s climate system.

During his visit, Mann will also co-lead a science communication workshop for doctoral students with Susan Hassol, director of Climate Communication and a leading expert on effective techniques for communicating science.


Susan Hassol, Director of Climate Communcation

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Mann to Virginia Tech,” said William Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center and professor of fish and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.  “A major part of the Global Change Center’s mission is to provide unique training opportunities to Virginia Tech faculty and graduate students. The all-day workshop led by Mann and Sue Hassol will allow the students to learn effective techniques for communicating science to the public and policy makers, and will enable them to spend intimate time learning from leading authorities on climate change and science communication.”

Mann has received a number of honors and awards including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) outstanding publication award in 2002, and selection by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002.  He was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2012 and the National Conservation Achievement Award for science by the National Wildlife Federation in 2013.

Mann made Bloomberg News’ list of fifty most influential people in 2013. In 2014, he was named a Highly Cited Researcher by the Institute for Scientific Information and received the Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education. He is a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

“Dr. Mann’s visit to campus is an exciting opportunity to learn from a world-renowned scientist at the front line of both research and public engagement,” said Quinn Thomas, an assistant professor of forest resources and environmental conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, who teaches courses in climate science on campus. “Through his peer-reviewed research, which provides historical context for recent temperature changes, and his writings, which are more geared toward a general audience, Dr. Mann’s work challenges us to think critically about our changing planet while not losing sight of the larger picture.”

Chartered earlier this year, the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech seeks to raise awareness about climate change and other global problems such as pollution and invasive species that threaten the environment and society.

For information on the event, email Gloria Schoenholtz, Global Change Center coordinator.


Story by Lindsay Taylor Key, Communications Officer at Fralin Life Science Institute