Of Ants, Audio-Visuals and Science Writing

In most cultures, when the queen dies, the next closest relative takes the throne, but then in human royalty, the fate of all reproduction does not rest on the new queen (or king).  Among Indian jumping ants, when the queen dies, the females compete and the winner changes hormonally and physically and becomes a Gamergate.  She supplies all the fertile eggs for the brood.

That little tidbit is what I learned from Matt Shipman, a science writer from North Carolina State University during a one-day workshop in science writing. 

The workshop, “Sharing Science: Writing and Communications Skills for the 21st century” was supported by a grant from the National Association of Science Writers, co-sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, Wisconsin Discovery Institute andUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison, and organized by me.

Getting speakers to agree was easy.  Established science writers seem to like helping new science writers.  Getting the local arrangements was easy because Wisconsin has a meeting planner who was great.  I only had to worry about getting people there and mediating between committee members.

Matt conveyed the ant info during a session on science writing that focused on explanations that was led by retired UW professor Sharon Dunwoody.  Matt was at the conference to do a session on social media.  Also on the program were sessions on crisis management, audio-video stuff and the institutional environment.

The conference was intended as a regional conference, and most were from a three-state area, but there were attendees from the Pacific Northwest, Atlanta and New England.

A good time was had by all.  Every session was full and the Q & A segments were lively. But it seems, that what science writers like the most is to talk to other science writers.

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