The So What? Section

What does your audience value? How does this impact them or something they care about?

Side-by-Side Example

See the full side-by-side of Kathy’s Message Box here.


By not accounting for connectivity between protected areas, many species of wildlife will become endangered—adding to an already overburdened ESA/USFWS and making the ESA even more contentious than it already is

For example, my dissertation work is focused on mountain lions in southern California. This is one of the most populated areas in the country  with a projected human population of 40 million people by 2050. Mountain lions here are getting hammered by roads and human development. In fact, my population is one of the most isolated in the US and is showing troubling signs of inbreeding. We are scrambling to identify and restore connections to this population, when, if some forethought and planning was done as development was increasing, this situation could have been avoided. This is one example of one population and one species, just multiply this across the country and # of species and you can start to see what a problem this can become. And how a visionary corridors plan at the national level would be key. Healthy populations less likely to get into conflict with people

Another example that may hit closer to home—our kitchens and human health is of pollinator species. By not providing connectivity for these species it can hinder the maintenance of wild plan diversity, narrow ecosystem stability, and reduce crop production. Pollinators contribute more than 24 billion $$ to the US economy. It has been shown that providing just one strip of pollinator vegetation can promote their movement between crops and foster pollination.


Initial Feedback

This includes a lot of detail, such as statistics on human population growth in one region of the country, inbreeding in mountain lions, the issue of land use planning, a variety of impacts on pollinators, and some acronyms that her audience might not understand. The essence of why her audience should care can get lost in the details.



Wildlife provide recreational, aesthetic, spiritual, and economic value to Americans and support healthy ecosystems. Each year, wildlife viewing, hunting, and fishing pump over $145 billion into the US economy. 

Wildlife survival depends on day-to-day movements, seasonal migration, or the shift of a species’ geographic range in response to climate change. This includes species such as elk, pronghorn, mountain lions, salmon, and more.

Refined Feedback

Here, Kathy makes two main points: that wildlife are important and that their survival depends on their ability to move across landscapes. In discussing why wildlife are important, she frames her message in a way that includes a diverse range of values that members of Congress and their constituents might care about, including economic, recreational, aesthetic and spiritual.


FAQs for the So What? Section

Can I include more than one reason to care in my So What?

Yes. Just be sure to keep each example succinct, and remember to stick to three to five ideas total.

How can I be sure my audience will care about my work?

Do some research on your audience to gain insight on what aspects of your work will be relevant to them. But it’s helpful to remember that most audiences will not be as interested in the scientific or theoretical aspects of your work, and certainly not the details and nuances. They are typically more interested in practical applications—what might your results mean for livelihoods, health, well-being, or security?. Consider how your work can affect their lives—if not now, then in the future—and how you might appeal to their hearts as well as their minds. Sharing your own passion for your work, and why you care, can often help you reach others.

What if I’m doing basic research?

If your audience is other scientists, then adding to the scientific foundations of your field might be the primary relevance of your work. If your audience is non-scientists, then consider what aspects of your work might resonate with them. Those aspects might include some of the practical applications of your work that could emerge in the future. Or it might address how increasing our understanding of X could lead to better understanding of Y—assuming that Y is something that resonates with your audience. Alternatively, you might emphasize the awe-factor of your work, what’s new about it, or how it changes our understanding of the world. Do you have a discovery to share that would be amazing and inherently interesting to an audience of non-scientists? It’s important to be mindful of what your audience cares about—how can you connect with what they value, their concerns, or their hopes for the future? The bottom line is to find the intersection between what you care about and what your audience cares about.

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