Science Communication: So many species, so many ways to study them

By Rosemary Mosco

I have the best job in the world. I encourage people to get excited about nature. I’m a science communicator — someone who bridges the gap between scientists, the media and the public, helping us understand each other better. One way that I do this is to make charts like Which Living Things Should You Study?


Illustration by Rosemary Mosco, bird and moon

The idea for this chart came from my own experiences as a naturalist. When I was first learning about nature, I found myself drawn to birds. I voraciously devoured every bird book, and learned to distinguish species in my neighbourhood by their remarkable variety of feather patterns, behaviours and calls.

Then I went to graduate school and studied botany. Suddenly, I found myself obsessed with ferns. I loved their delicate shapes, their varied habitats and their amazing reproductive techniques (the fronds burst up from a tiny structure — called a gametophyte — that looks like a green heart).


Blanding's turtle (Photo by Rosemary Mosco)

Blanding’s turtle (Photo by Rosemary Mosco)

Next, my advisor encouraged me to take a class on something I knew nothing about. It was a great suggestion! I chose to study reptiles and amphibians. Again, I fell in love. Soon I was standing by roadsides on rainy nights, helping pudgy spotted salamanders cross the road to reach their breeding grounds.


After school, I took a summer job in Washington, D.C. It was a hot, dry summer. To my dismay, the reptiles and amphibians were hiding in cool places deep underground. But a coworker gave me a guide to butterflies. Once again, I was in love. Butterflies led me to moths (which moth enthusiasts call The Dark Side). Moths led me to dragonflies…and so on.


Harvester butterfly (Photo by Rosemary Mosco)

Nature is like a building with infinite rooms. No matter where you enter, you’ll find endless interconnected worlds awaiting discovery. You’ll also encounter communities of scientists and naturalists who are devoted to each type of species. There are butterfliers, birders, moth-ers, mushroomers, and more. Look for them online (in communities like iNaturalist) and at any of the thousands of nature clubs around the world. You’ll also discover tons of citizen scientist projects and other ways to turn your love of a species into meaningful conservation action, from advocacy to creating new habitats.


Of course, these areas of interest come with some pretty serious benefits and drawbacks. Love salamanders? You’ll probably get rained on. Love birds? You’d better like early mornings too — and coffee. Adore snakes? When you pick up a serpent to measure it for a study, you’ll get sprayed with stinky musk; that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.


Ornate-stalked bolete (Photo by Rosemary Mosco)

You may decide to turn your particular interest into a job. There are numerous options here as well. You can become a scientist who examines a certain type of life form or natural system. That’s a popular career route, but consider other possibilities too. You can do conservation, education or advocacy work for the government or a non-profit. You can become a consultant who helps people and businesses manage their land. Or, like me, you can be a science communicator.

There’s no clear career path for a communicator. You’ll find yourself doing many different things. I make comics , create graphics and write books (my first one is coming out today). To get here, I studied science communication and wildlife in school. I also kept my heart open to new experiences and new species.

Which creature is my favourite? It’s constantly changing. Really, they’re all my favourites. I work hard to foster a love for all life, from the smallest tardigrade to the biggest whale, to, yes, even the muskiest snake.



A science communicator, Rosemary makes books, cartoons, graphics and field walks that connect people with the natural world.  Her work has been featured by Boing Boing, IFLS, Audubon, Upworthy, io9, Science News, The Huffington Post, It’s Okay to be Smart, The Mary Sue, The Times of India, Laughing Squid, and more, and was the subject of an award-winning museum exhibit. Find interviews with her on The NWF’s blogMother Nature Network and The Birdist.

She’s a graduate of University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Program. Her favorite glacial landform is the esker.


This post originally appeared on Land Lines and reposted with permission on My Little Green Foot.