The Importance of Communicating Applied Science

Jan. 11, 2022
Jennifer Smith holding two bear cubs.

This profile is a part of our consortium profile series, highlighting the people that make up the SW CASC—what inspires them, makes them passionate about their research, and gives them hope for the future. For this profile, Bryson Mineart (SW CASC communications student assistant and undergraduate student in the University of Arizona Computer Science program) interviewed SW CASC Climate Adaptation Specialist, Jennifer Smith, UC Davis.

Having the skills to accurately communicate science to decision-makers, resource managers, and the public, is rapidly becoming increasingly important in the climate world. Jennifer Smith believes that we will continue to see this field develop. Together with increasingly prominent and collaborative interdisciplinary research teams, science communicators can support highly skilled environments to collectively have a positive impact on the climate crisis. Jennifer began her career conducting research in wildlife ecology. As she matured in this field, Jennifer found herself not only passionate about the research, but the process of translating the results for whoever may need or be interested in the implications. This interest in translation and communication of science continued to grow, until she ultimately decided to shift her trajectory to focus on translating relevant research for decision-makers and improving its accessibility for diverse audiences. 

Today, Jennifer works as a key liaison between applied forestry science and different stakeholder groups. She strives to ensure that relevant scientific information is considered in decision-making by state and federal agencies and policymakers.  

In her position, Jennifer takes complex information and converts it to more synthesized, succinct or user-friendly formats to account for the limited bandwidth of many decision-makers. She has worked alongside several resource management groups, including but not limited to the US Forest Service, various arms of the USDA, both state and private landowners, and several state agencies. 

The resilience of Earth’s natural systems has given hope to many in the climate industry, including Jennifer. In addition to the Earth’s natural ability to adapt, Jennifer finds hope in the progress she has seen humanity make in rectifying our wrong-doings to our planet. Alongside the incredible scientific research being done, awareness of the dire consequences of humanities' actions continues to increase and we are seeing individuals taking a stand to create change. Jennifer chooses to remain optimistic in the face of climate change and hopes science communication, interdisciplinary research, and novel collaborations will help turn the tide against the negative impacts of climate change.