Rachael Vorwerk ASC Science Communicator Scope Interview

Why did you choose to study science?

Growing up in sunny Mildura played in a big part in my love of nature and the outdoors. We’d kayak, bike ride and swim in the summer and we’d go away every year to the Great Ocean Road. My Mum was a primary school teacher and she would often practice her experiments on my siblings and I first, before she’d take it into the classroom the next day. Pairing all that together, along with a very dedicated and supportive Year 12 biology teacher, I was off to study ecology and zoology at University.


Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in SciComm?

I’ve got a couple of highlights. After Christmas one year, I worked with a polymer scientist and we took over CSIRO’s Instagram account to follow the story of a Christmas bon bon toy called Polly Myrrh, who was having an identity crisis and wanted to find out where she’d come from. So we did various experiments to test what kind of plastic she was, and finally reunited her with her family (in the correct recycling bin). On a more personal level, a highlight was presenting my Masters research at the Waste Education Conference last year. I researched how the first season of the War on Waste had so much impact, and along the way found out that ‘edutainment’ is a new passion of mine. I’ll be sharing the results at the ASC Conference in February.


Where has your career led you?

I’ve worked on a campaign to combat child labour in Fiji at Save the Children, published a story about how CSIRO scientists made the strongest material on earth (graphene) with soybeans, handled social media for scientists around Australia, written for the Australian Institute of Physics newsletter and helped increase the sightings of sawfish saws to help scientists identify past and future numbers of the species. Today I’ve moved into broader social change communication. I’m currently working as a Research Assistant on a project called 64 Ways of Being – which is like Pokémon Go, but for languages (stay tuned for the augmented reality app released in October 2020!). Alongside that, I am currently working as a communications consultant.


What excites you most about your work?

I love the potential that communication has to change the world for the better. My favourite process in any project is thinking about ‘okay, so if we could change people’s behaviour, what would that change in behaviour look like, and how can we use communication to make that happen?’. At the moment I’m interested in virtual reality, augmented reality and interactive games. These emerging technologies have so much potential to engage the public, to change their behaviour for the good.


What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in SciComm?

Take any opportunities you can. For me I offered to write an article with two PhD ecologists at my university about socially acceptable conservation planning. It was later published in the environmental magazine Decision Point with my name on it. That was my first ever published article, and went straight into my portfolio (and yes, you should buy a portfolio, I use this.)

I also worked in internal communication at CSIRO (which at the time wasn’t in the ‘direction’ I wanted to head in because it wasn’t science), but this experience really helped me realise that I loved designing campaigns that changed people’s behaviour, regardless of whether it was science-related or not. Always take opportunities to broaden your skillset, because the worst that can happen is you don’t like it, then you can tick that off the list and refine what you do want to do in the future.


What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your SciComm career?  

I used to say to myself that I could make any science story go viral if I tried hard enough. I still believe this today to some degree, but I’ve had to reign in my expectations a little. Sometimes this just isn’t realistic, but also, sometimes getting a story to go viral may not even be the objective. I’ve learnt this through working with scientists who want to get the attention of a particular industry, appeal to fellow researchers in their field, or get their fellow employees to better understand their work. I’ve come to learn that science communication isn’t always about the communication between the scientist and the public, it can be for many other audiences too.

The other challenge is to be realistic and take the time to acknowledge that you may have only been working in a job for three months, and maybe that’s why you don’t know everything yet. It’s not because you’re stupid, but it’s because you’re still learning, and that’s okay. And the most important thing to remember is to be nice to yourself!


President’s Update, January

Frequently ASC-ed questions

Most ASC activities happen at the state level through our branches.  So as we start 2020 and planning ahead, based on feedback from state branch organisers we’ve put together a handy short guide with answers to some basic questions that help make branches run, like:

  • How do we get funding?
  • How do you run an AGM?
  • Do we have public liability insurance?
  • What kind of communications channels are open to ASCers?

I’ve put together a first draft of a guide to help answer these questions, with links to lots of templates (e.g. treasurer’s report) and how to guides (how do you run an AGM?)
I hope you find it useful, and if you think of something missing, drop me a line to let me know president@asc.asn.au
Download the guide here

Also a reminder to:


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President’s Update, December

As science communicators there are not many chances for our community to recognise and acknowledge the great contributors to Scicomm in Australia.  There are very few awards especially for science communication, with categories like the Eureka Prize for Promoting Science Understading going to researchers who actively engage in communication.  This is wonderful, as the work of STEM researchers who do this should be recognised and rewarded, but there’s not a lot of opportunity for recognition of science engagement practitioners per se.

The big exception to this is to congratulate Dr Karl on his outstanding achievement this year of being awarded the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularisation of Science – the first Australian ever to receive the award.

But there’s so many people that work above and beyond at what they do, making huge impacts in the communities they work in.  These are the people that the ASC Unsung Hero of Science Communication award wants to celebrate.  So if you know of someone who maybe hasn’t got the recognition they deserve, nominate them now for our 2019 award, which will be announced at the ASC2020 Conference in February.

Details on nominations, including forms, can be found on the ASC website here. Nominations close 31 January 2020.


Written by Lisa Bailey

Vanessa Fuchs ASC Science Communicator Scope Interview

Why did you choose to study science?

I am completing a Master of Environmental Science at the University of Sydney and I only have one subject to finish in semester 1, 2020. The countdown is on! It’s been over four years of juggling part-time studies with full-time work but it has complimented not only my professional career, but also fulfilled my curiosity for learning on a personal level. I should clarify that I didn’t start my academic studies with science. I completed a dual Bachelor of Journalism and Business degree with a major in Advertising at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane in 2010. I chose these areas of study because I’ve always loved storytelling and influencing people to change the way they think. I grew up in an area which Google Maps calls a ‘rural village’ on the east coast of North Queensland called Alligator Creek. Needless to say, apart from the bush and the beach, there wasn’t a whole lot to do there. So my passion for nature and science began very early on as I loved to use my parent’s home video camera to create my own nature documentaries. Unfortunately, these embarrassing videos have resurfaced at my 18th and 21st birthday parties. Cringe! I always knew very early on that I only wanted to use my storytelling skills to create positive change – particularly in the environment space. That’s why I decided to compliment my communication studies and skill set with a Master of Environmental Science later on. I wanted to improve my scientific literacy and critical thinking and delve deeper into some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time on a technical level.


Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in SciComm?

The best part of my career in SciComm has been launching, producing and presenting the science podcast at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney called Branch Out, which encourages people to discover the surprising world of plants. I started at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney as a Science Communicator in March 2018 and two months later I launched episode 1 ‘No Plants No Medicine’ which landed at #5 in the Apple Podcast Top Charts in the Science & Medicine category. I received amazing hands-on training with one of Australia’s best podcast producers, Miles Martignoni, for the first five episodes and now over 1.5 years later, I’ve made 25 episodes with over 68,000 downloads (and counting). Being presented with the opportunity to create this podcast has allowed me to interview all sorts of fascinating people both inside and outside of the organisation, including a NASA astronaut. I have been able to learn an entirely new skill set in podcast producing, interviewing and audio editing. Being able to get out of the office and immerse myself in all sorts of fascinating topics that I am interested in on both a professional and personal level is so rewarding.

Where has your career led you?

As I explained above, I knew very early on in my undergraduate studies that I only wanted to use my storytelling skills to change people’s attitudes, perceptions and behaviours to create positive change. I have predominantly worked for not for profit and government organisations that align with my own values throughout my career. I have only recently officially started my career in a Science Communication role but every career step I took throughout my professional journey brought me closer and closer to it. In 2016 and 2017 I was working at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage in a Public Affairs Officer role and I worked closely with the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the Science Division to create stories to highlight their projects. It wasn’t until I met a Science Communicator in the organisation that it clicked that this is the role I wanted and was always working towards. So, I became a member of the Australian Science Communicators, set up SciComm job alerts, kept working on my science stories and enrolled in the Master of Environmental Science at the University of Sydney. In March 2018, I landed the Science Communicator role at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney!

What excites you most about your work?

I have a particularly unique SciComm role at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which allows me to present and produce podcasts, host Facebook live shows and set up amazing stories with media that receive national and international coverage. I really enjoy the challenge of bringing plant science to life as plants are often the runner up when it comes to stories about animals. So finding the story or the angle in new research that is going to captivate people is really fun. One of the most exciting stories I recently did was about a plant known commonly as ‘dog’s balls’ because it produces two red berries covered in soft hairs that hang from a short stalk – you get the picture! It was finally given a correct scientific name after almost 250 years but I used the hook of the cheeky name to capture people’s attention. Ladbible, Pedestrian and Brown Cardigan featured the story as well as a variety of other mainstream media across Australia. I really struggle with repetitive tasks so being able to have so much variety in not only the type of work I do but the content I get to unpack is so exciting.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in SciComm?

I think it’s important to remember that while having a degree in communications and science is extremely helpful, I don’t think it is completely necessary to have both. For example, I work with so many scientists that are naturally amazing communicators and they just need to refine or learn a few new comms skills. Secondly, even though science communication is a niche field, it can still seem quite broad when you’re first starting out. There are so many different fields of communication you can specialise in and there are so many different areas of science to focus on too. For example, at the moment my main focus is plant science and using the podcast to tell those stories. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re not sure what direction to go in, think about what you are good at and what you enjoy on both the communication and science side to help narrow your direction down.

What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your SciComm career?  

As a media and communications professional, stepping into the science world can often be a little bit challenging when it comes to developing the trust and respect from scientists. This is where having the Master of Environmental Science has really helped. It has given me a little bit of what I always describe as ‘street cred’. Some scientists can be particularly challenging to work with because they either don’t see the value of media and communications or they are scared of it. I organised professional media training for science staff which helped to alleviate some of these issues. It also demonstrated to them the power of great communication to create awareness of their research. It’s also important to build up the scientists media skills for interviews slowly. For example, starting with written questions they can answer in their own time and building up to radio and television interviews. Being able to break down complex concepts without watering them down too much is another challenge but the Branch Out podcast engages everyone from the 7 year old to the scientist. I have overcome this by keeping a fun and curious approach to the sort of questions I ask and I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from the podcast RadioLab.

ASC President’s update November 2019

President’s Update

25 years old!

The quarter-century milestone has prompted a time not just for reflection on the past, but consideration to the future challenges science communication faces in Australia.  I’ve had many interesting discussions in the last couple of months about the impacts of media fragmentation, how to engage audiences around new and emerging technologies, or what even the role of science communication is when it comes to averting environmental catastrophe.  Over 25 years there have been many ASC presidents, and I’ve reached out to collect some of the thoughts, hopes and fears of our illustrious alumni in response to the question

What are the biggest science communication challenges Australia faces right now and over the next decade?

Over the next couple of months, these will be published as a series on the ASC website, you can read the first in the series from our most recent past president, Craig Cormick, by pressing here.


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  • What Jobs Can I Get With A Technical Writing Degree
  • Where To Find Writing Jobs
  • How To Select Jobs When Writing Checks In Quickbooks
  • What Are Writing Jobs

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