This month we are delighted to hear from Vicki Martin, writing to us a year into her US postdoc adventure.
It’s been a year since my family and I moved to beautiful Ithaca, N.Y. for me to take up a 2-year Rose Postdoctoral Research Associate position at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I’m here to continue research on science communication and citizen science in particular. So far, I’ve conducted interviews with young adults all over the U.S., to understand their perspectives on citizen science and the barriers to their participation in one of the Lab’s largest citizen science programs, Project FeederWatch. I also asked the interviewees questions about the social networks they use to discuss wild birds. This information has highlighted the importance of how we signal who our programs and outreach are for, through the images and messages we use (e.g. the young adults notice that many birding groups are made up of mainly older adults, so they feel these groups are not really “for them”). Another study currently underway is looking at how people’s confidence in their knowledge about birds influences the likelihood they will participate in bird-focused citizen science.
Working at the Lab and being based at Cornell University has facilitated some fantastic collaborations with experts in Science Communication (Professor Bruce Lewenstein) and Communication and Social Network Analysis (Associate Professor Drew Margolin), as well as leaders in the fields of Conservation, Social Science, Ornithology (of course!), Citizen Science and Statistics. These experiences are giving a great boost to the type of work I do, and the support Cornell and the Lab provide for my research has been astonishing. It’s a real privilege to be able to work in such an encouraging environment. I’m trying to make the most of every opportunity while I’m here so when I return to Australia in mid-2019 I’ll come home with a lot more knowledge, skills, and experience to share. In the meantime, my family and I are also enjoying the changing seasons, the spectacular scenery in the gorges and waterways around the area, and the warmth, friendliness and generosity of the people in Ithaca. It really is a special part of the world.