OceansOnline Plenary Speaker Danielle Brigida: Social Media Maven

By Keni Rienks

With such accolades as “one of 10 People to Follow Who are Saving the World” and “Social Media MVP”, Danielle Brigida is the perfect addition to OceansOnline. As one of the plenary speakers for the special IMCC 5 add-on day, Danielle’s experience with promoting conservation through social media has led her through a decade of successful outreach and communication.

I asked Danielle to paint us a larger picture of her career path and strategies before we have the pleasure of hearing her speak next month:

How do you use social media to communicate your research?

I’ve been using social media to engage people around conservation issues for the past 12 years, and I’m always learning and meeting fascinating people. While the platforms and techniques have changed, some of these tactics still help me day to day:

  • Listen. All. The. Time. We often strategize how much to post when we’re talking about social media. But the truth is, I think a lot of social media success can come from being a good listener. I have found listening or monitoring keywords, friends, thought leaders and topics to be one of the best ways to understand and engage with the communities I am a part of. I prioritize listening over talking, and follow and engage with conversations of current and desired audiences so that I can better identify ways to engage and help bridge their connection to wildlife.
  • Be present daily, even if just for a short time.  I try to check in daily and find this builds trust but also expectation (so be careful!). I use social media and aim to be a reliable member of the community.
  • Own what you don’t know. I work to show that I’m there to curb misinformation and be a resource. Of course I make tons of mistakes doing this! But the key is to apologize, correct the errors and work to prevent future issues.
  • Share what you know.  I use social media to connect with experts and leaders in different areas, whether business, government, nonprofit, etc. I want to be the first person they think of if they need help around an issue about wildlife so that I can direct them where they need to go.
  • Tap into creativity and everyday life. There’s so much to be in awe of and draw inspiration from—don’t limit yourself! Use tasteful humor, art, and others to inspire you and play online. When you’re enjoying yourself, that passion translates and makes others enjoy your company.

Bobcat shark

Being creating when sharing messages on social media is one good way to help reach more people! (© Twitter)

 What advice do you have for someone who is interested in online communication but isn’t sure where to start?

Whether you’re communicating about your personal research or on behalf of an organization, what has worked for me is remembering to always add value and passionately participate. Follow people you want to learn from, interact with them where you see fit and determine how you’ll be a perspective that is meaningfully unique. If you’re just getting started, learn the technology and the communities that exist within each platform, but never forget your humanity and to have fun!

Where do you see science communication in 10 years from now?

In seeing how people document wildlife and nature, I’ll be interested to see how we continue to blend online and offline experiences. We bring our phones out into nature often now, we watch bald eagle webcams, we are constantly learning and perceiving new information based on technology enhancements that make our research stronger and deeper. I’m definitely interested in how our realities shift to incorporate AI, AR, and VR but also how those can become knowledge sharing platforms for researchers and scientists as well.

There is already a trend toward humans seeing animals as individuals, more than just broad species. I see this playing into research and how we track and follow wildlife in interesting ways. Maybe in how we discuss research or how we connect to the public.

Danielle 4

The common use of technology, like smart phones, in the field makes connecting with people easier these days. (© US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Have you had any run-ins with “trolls”? If so, how did you handle it?

Representing a government agency online, I very much want to encourage peaceful unrest on our channels. We make decisions, and often someone is unhappy or displeased. When we receive negativity around decisions online, I want to give people a place to express themselves, but in a respectful way.

We do receive a lot of negativity and some trolls, but most of the people I interact with are just very passionate. I try not to dismiss anyone, but see most conversations as an opportunity to clear up misinformation. That being said, when someone is just trying to get a rise out of you, keeping your cool, responding with factual information and dropping it is my best advice.

I think a lot of people don’t realize that a real person reads their comments, and I hope to convey that when I respond. Their yelling on Twitter or Facebook isn’t actually influencing decisions. You can be rude or mean to our social accounts all you want, but the way to enact change is through the more traditional channels still.

Where do you think the largest gaps are in science communication?

I think science communicators are doing a great job connecting with one another and forming a tighter bond online—I see this on Twitter and I’m heartened by it. However, I think there is still opportunity to reach out to people who don’t yet know they love science (everyone!). It’s a fine balance between fostering a curiosity in people and remaining accurate. Sometimes we forget how far encouragement goes. Often I see scientists pointing out flaws over encouraging people. The more we can jump into conversations by adding value, the better—but just remember that sometimes the message will be better received if done in a gentler way.

I think there is a lot of room to make research and our work relevant, but sometimes that means going outside of our current comfort zone and having the challenging conversations that not only relate to people but that inspire them in hopeful ways.

What role should scientists play in science communication, particularly online?

I think scientists can help shape a lot of the discourse online in a positive way. There’s currently a lot of misinformation out there, and by engaging in conversations and helping to provide logic, reason, and the wonder and passion that got you into your field, you can provide a huge value to the online space, and to science in general. Scientists can help represent their field, and remind people that supporting the brightest minds and supporting the scientific method will keep us focused and continuously learning as a society. I want us to continue to be supportive of one another, and I have great reason to hope we will.

What are you hoping delegates take away from your plenary talk at OceansOnline?

I hope they feel inspired to explore and empower people on social media. We need their voice. We need their curiosity. I want them to see that by being human beings online, we have a great potential to make incredibly important relationships and help represent scientists in a very positive way that inspires others to support or join the field.

What are you most excited for during IMCC and/or OceansOnline?

Meeting the attendees and learning from everyone! I love meeting people in this field. From what I know, it’s such an incredible group and I think the more we can work together the more successful we will be.

Follow Danielle on Twitter (@starfocus) and tune-in to her blog!

Keni Rienks (@kenirienks) is the Communications Chair for OceansOnline and one of the organizers for the 1st International Marine Kids Congress. She is a high school science teacher in Wilmington, NC, USA, and a graduate student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.



New IMCC5 Field Trip: Visit the turtle nesting ground of Talang-Talang Besar


A final opportunity to see Borneo’s unique wildlife has been added to the official field trips for the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5). Bespoke for conference delegates is an opportunity for a TWO DAY visit to Sarawak’s most important turtle conservation site.

figure1.pngThe field trip will take place on the tiny island of Talang-Talang Besar, 7 kilometers offshore of Borneo’s North Coast (Source: Google Maps).

This field trip allows participants an up close and personal experience with marine animals which are on the brink of extinction. Volunteers get the chance to actively participate hands on in turtle conservation work at the uninhabited Talang-Talang Besar Island in the Talang-Satang National Park, Sarawak’s first marine protected area. Participants will join a team of dedicated local professionals in their efforts to save the turtles. The conservation program aims to create awareness and to impart knowledge on the importance of sea turtle protection.

figure2.pngThe turtle nesting site on Talang-Talang Besar and the ranger station where you will be staying (Source: Sarawak Forestry).

Visitation to the turtle nesting site is highly restricted. Only a set of slots per year are provided by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation during nesting season, running from the months of May to September. This is a very special opportunity. Sign up quick on your IMCC5 registration form* before the field trip becomes fully booked!

(*If you have already registered you can still log back in and add this trip. If you need to cancel a different field trip to attend this one please email us).

figure3.jpgA green turtle nesting on Talang-Talang Besar (Source: Sarawak Forestry)

The field trip is inclusive of full board meals as indicated in detailed program (below), transfers, Boat Fees, Entrance Fees, Basic accommodation at Ranger Facilities, English Speaking Guide. The sum of RM300 per person included in the package will go directly to the conservation fund. The field trip is also listed on the IMCC website.

figure4.pngTurtle hatchlings on Talang-Talang Besar (Source: Sarawak Tourism)

Talang Talang Turtle Conservation Program – Field Trip (2 Days, 1 Night)

Day 1 – June 30

Pick up at 8 am from Kuching for a 1.5hrs transfer to the quaint town of Sematan.
Upon arrival at TT Island:

i.                    Welcoming/safety briefing & registration for the program  – mid-morning
ii.                   Lunch break
iii.                  Turtle conservation activities (afternoon till evening)

Day 2 – July 1
Before leaving the island:

i.                    Turtle adoption certificate presentation ceremony (early morning)
ii.                   Depart the island (mid-morning)

Transfer to Kuching to arrive close to midday.



Storytelling Workshop Opportunity at IMCC5




Registration for the IMCC pre-workshop Tales from the Sea: Communicating Science and Conservation through Storytelling, held on 22-23 June 2018, is now open. This workshop is co-organized by scientists and science communication specialists at COMPASS, Oregon State University and Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions.

Storytelling is a powerful way to transfer information and knowledge, evoke emotion, and build trust with an audience. Join us as we discuss key elements of oral storytelling and help you build the skills you need to craft powerful stories to share your conservation science experience.

JoshParticipants from the Storytelling Workshop at IMCC4 shared their personal stories with local peoples from St. John’s, Newfoundland. (© Keni Rienks)

This workshop is geared towards scientists who are conducting research and want to share their findings with diverse audiences. IMCC participants with accepted abstracts are invited to apply for this lively, hands-on, 2-day pre-meeting storytelling workshop. As a participant, you will 1) identify and distill your conservation science message, 2) develop an engaging oral narrative for public audiences, and 3) contribute your video-taped story to an archive of marine conservation stories. Workshop participants will also have the opportunity to tell their stories in a special live event during IMCC.. Please note that participants will be contacted in mid-June with a pre-workshop assignment to complete in advance of the workshop.

To register for this workshop, please complete the following online application form here (https://goo.gl/forms/NHPcpso9BGKOlUF03). Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible.


For more information, please contact Heather Mannix (heather.mannix@compassscicomm.org). For more information about the IMCC Workshops (including fees), please see the conference webpage (https://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/program/short-courses/).


The Organizing Team:

Stephanie Green, Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solution

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, Oregon State University

Heather Mannix, COMPASS