<i>Lloyd</i> <i>Spencer</i> <i>Davis</i> <i> — </i> <i>science</i> <i>communicator</i>
<i>Lloyd</i> <i>Spencer</i> <i>Davis</i> <i> — </i> <i>science</i> <i>communicator</i>
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Lloyd Spencer Davis science communicator

Science Communicator

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Elephant seal in a colony of Erect-crested penguins, Antipodes Island.
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Ronald B. Tobias Award for Achievement in Science and Natural History Filmmaking Education
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Foundation for Research Science and Technology Merit Award for Excellence in Scientific Communication


In 1998, while researching the behaviour of Erect-crested Penguins on Antipodes Island – about as far as it is possible to get from other people and civilization on this planet – LSD had an epiphany. He had been spending up to six hours a day, sitting in the rain, recording the behaviour of the penguins when, in one of his breaks, he saw an elephant seal lying asleep amidst a colony of the penguins. Knowing that when the seal woke up, it could only move forward through the closely spaced penguin nests, LSD set up his cameras and waited. Eventually the seal rose from its slumber and the little 5 kg penguins took on the intruder which was 400 times their size. Capturing the moment on video and in photographs, LSD was on a high. It was only later, after the adrenaline subsided, that he reflected that he had used exactly the same skills that he had been using to study the behaviour of the penguins: he needed to sit still, out in the elements for hours, focused on the behaviour of the animals in front of him. Yet, playing the scientist had never given him the same buzz. He realized then that capturing moments rather than data about the natural world was what he found most satisfying.

World's First University-based Natural History Filmmaking Programme

In 2001, LSD founded and became the director of the world's first tertiary-based course devoted to natural history filmmaking, the Postgraduate Diploma in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication. While remaining part of the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, he developed the course in association with NHNZ and, in particular, one of its Producers, Richard Thomas. The course proved immediately successful, attracting 103 applications for its first intake, which was limited to 12 students. The students produced mini documentaries as part of their coursework and, over the next decade, they won more than 50 international awards for them.

Stuart Professor and New Zealand's Centre for Science Communication

In 2007, LSD was appointed to an endowed chair as part of the New Zealand government's Leading Thinker initiative: he became the inaugural Stuart Professor of Science Communication and established and directed the Centre for Science Communication, which opened in 2008 as New Zealand's first university programme in science communication. It expanded quickly, with its associated Master of Science Communication degree (MSciComm) becoming the third-most popular of the University of Otago's 22 masters qualifications by both enrolments and completions. In 2015, the Centre became the equivalent of a department in its own right, shifting out of the Department of Zoology. The transition from scientist to science communicator was almost complete.

Storytelling and Science Communication

During a visit to South Africa in 2016, Dr Marina Joubert of the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University interviewed LSD about storytelling.

Science Communication Internationally

In 2017, after a decade at the helm, LSD stepped down as the Director and Head of Department in order to concentrate on his own research programme about aspects of science communication and his own projects designed to popularize science.

His research and that of his students cover the use of imagery and online videos to convey science, the role of storytelling, science education, and behaviour change. And, just as penguins proved to be the passion for his life as a scientist, LSD is similarly passionate about the roles of national parks and wine as vehicles for communicating science.

He continues to teach creative nonfiction writing and takes a prominent role in promoting science communication internationally. He is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Science Communication and, since 2014, he has been an elected representative for Asia and Australasia on the Scientific Committee of the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Network, the world's largest international organization for science communication researchers and practitioners. He was also its Vice President from 2016 - 2021. In 2018, he was the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee that hosted the biennial PCST Conference in New Zealand for the first time.

You can see more of Lloyd's thoughts on science communication at the blog he maintains, ScienceCommunication.blog.

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