Coaching, Community-building, & Communication Confidence: How Our Trainings Help Scientists

By Brooke Smith

Sep 27, 2016


Minute Read


By Brooke Smith. Published Sep. 27, 2016
Categories: Interviews, Communication, Reflection
Tags: collaboration, community, connecting, convening, knowledge, networks, opportunity, outreach, passion, So What, story, tools, training, transform, Wilburforce

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been sharing stories from the 2015 Wilburforce Fellows about the role the fellowship has played for them over the past year. If you’re considering applying to be a 2017 Wilburforce Fellow, we hope these stories have motivated you to get started (remember, applications are due by this Friday, September 30!). If you’re considering hosting a training or fellowship, we hope these stories inspire you to explore how to make that happen. Individually, they are powerful arguments for the value of training scientists to communicate; collectively, they’re a call for more scientists to have the kind of opportunity the Wilburforce Fellowship provides. More people telling their stories, and more opportunities for scientists to participate in trainings and support networks, can contribute to the culture change many of us are seeking – one in which scientists are supported and empowered to get out into the world and engage.

In case you’d like a big dose of inspiration all at once, we’ve gathered the seven interviews with 2015 Wilburforce Fellows here. Enjoy!

Sergio Avila, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Sergio Avila: The power of vision and goal setting
“I have a photograph from the very first day of the training, where we were making mental maps and putting up post-its of what we wanted to do…That photo captured exactly what I’ve accomplished now – the partners, the process, the vision. Vision for our work is very important”

Jonaki Bhattacharyya, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Jonaki Bhattacharyya: Empowering applied scientists with diverse skills
“The gateway to access career-enhancing and skill-building opportunities for people doing conservation is competitive — and often the doors are closed from the start to people who don’t fit the conventional model of natural scientists. But real conservation depends upon tremendously diverse skill sets, and the Wilburforce Fellowship made itself available to people with a variety of skills and backgrounds who do top-notch conservation science..”

Robert Long, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Robert Long: Leading with the “So What”
“I was kind of a classic scientist—when someone asked me what I was working on, I would approach things from the details and methods, and then say what wouldn’t work, and then finally get to what I was actually doing. I’ve learned to flip that around, leading with what I’m doing and then getting into the details later.”

Matt Williamson, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Matthew Williamson: Building community with hope and inspiration
“It’s easy to get down into dark places when you work in conservation, so it’s been refreshing to share in the successes of the other fellows. It feels like it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom, and you can see how we might actually start to predict conservation success and build on those successes…You’re not talking about conservation if you’re not losing something. But we don’t have to only document the losses.”

Aerin Jacob, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Aerin Jacob: Showing authenticity and personality
“The fellowship helped me embrace the kind of scientist that I am and the kind of work that I do. Society still has narrow ideas of who a scientist is, like stiff egg-heads who never leave the lab. That’s just not me…The fellowship was empowering – it still is! It keeps challenging me to do bigger and bolder things professionally, and I have more tools and a larger network to help make it happen.”

Kyle Artelle, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow. Image by Howard Humchitt.

Kyle Artelle: The power of the Message Box
“[A fellowship colleague] told me about an upcoming paper that he wrote from the ground up with the Message Box, and said doing so helped immensely. This kinda blew my mind. My go-to-approach to writing papers to this point was to dump an amorphous blob of words into a document and then hack these down for months until a coherent story emerged – the possibility of having a clear story from the beginning was revolutionary.”

Erin Sexton, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

Erin Sexton: Pushing your personal boundaries
“Lots of people shy away from communications and media naturally. They don’t want to grab the microphone or pitch a journalist—but that’s a perfect reason to do this. Don’t be intimidated by the things you don’t know.”

This post was transferred from its original location at to, April 2017.

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