Giving a voice to the little guys: Raechel Bonomo
The field of science allows for many different career paths, including academia, policy, and research and development. For Raechel Bonomo, it is being a writer, a communicator of science, research and the environment. Raechel is the Editorial Coordinator at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). In addition to all of her other tasks, she writes a monthly series called Something’s Fishy, highlighting Canadian fish species for NCC’s blog, Land Lines.
In this new age of information, science communication is more important now than probably ever before. The increase in public interest in science and the environment generated, no doubt, by the crisis of global warming, also heralded an increase in the number of ways information is disseminated. Instead of focusing on the facts, priority is often given to the speed of dissemination. Along with many other factors, this has led to a degree of skepticism on the part of the public with regard to science and the environment and thus it has become even more important to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of current research and its relevance to society. For this reason, careers in science communication are critical to fostering a greater understanding of science and conservation to the public.
Raechel studied Fish and Wildlife at Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario. She entered into the program with a greater personal interest in mammals than in fish. Her intention was to work in a rehabilitation centre, cleaning up oil spills, and studying foxes. However, she soon developed a real love for fish and her dream job changed from working in a rehabilitation centre to working in a fishery.
Her favourite fishes are darters and mottled sculpins. “Sculpins have really chubby cheeks and are deep lake bottom feeders. They’re not as attractive as rainbow trouts or other prized sports fish.” Raechel’s love of mottled scuplins highlights their label as being an unlikely favourite by fish enthusiasts, anglers and marine biologists.
“Mottled scuplins, like many fishes of its species, are (in my opinion) the underdogs of Canadian freshwater. Sculpin are also great indicators of ecosystem health, and without them the “stars” of the river/creek such as trout or salmon would be absent. So often smaller species are overshadowed by impressive game fish. That’s why I set out to write Something’s Fishy, to showcase the little guys.
Standing waist deep in chest-waders in lakes and rivers, Raechel realized that she loved finding out the story of these species more than the actual fieldwork involved in studying them. Graduates of the Fish and Wildlife program all typically went on to do more fieldwork, however Raechel decided instead to study journalism at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario.
“There is something admirable to me about giving a voice to the underdog [laughs], especially one that can’t really speak for itself. Yes, it’s in-part about conservation. You can’t do your part to protect a species if you don’t know about them in the first place.”
Telling creative stories and making meaningful connections between the environment and species could be a vital tool towards developing an empathetic approach to conservation efforts by communities and society in general.
“I like to think I’ve turned many readers onto fish. Even if they read just one of my posts, it’s a win for me and even more importantly, a win for the species.”