MONTREAL'S ECOSYSTEMS AT YOUR SERVICE Like cities and people everywhere, people at McGill and in Montreal rely on ecosystem services - the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems. Despite this reliance, people are often unaware of where these services come from, how important they are to their well-being, or how their everyday activities impact them. This is especially true for city-dwellers, who are relatively removed from the natural world. During my PhD, I led a project with other graduate and undergraduate students at McGill to fill this gap by creating a interactive, dynamic, bilingual, ‘blog’-style website to tell the stories of the ecosystem services of Montreal. The main goal of the project was to engage with, educate, and interact with McGillians and Montrealers about the ecosystem services they use everyday by:
Describing which ecosystem services are provided on the island of Montreal and where this takes place using a story-telling approach;
Providing diverse opportunities for McGill students to learn about ecosystem services and how to effectively communicate their knowledge and science to other groups inside and outside McGill;
Interacting with students and Montrealers to understand which ecosystem services they use each day and which they view as most important; and
Creating a ‘sense of place’ within McGill and on the island of Montreal that incorporates our connections to surrounding ecosystems.
Funded by McGill University’s Sustainability Projects Fund, the project focused on communicating the science of ecosystem services and making connections with McGill and Montreal environmental groups and citizens. At project end, it had posted over 100 stories about how Montreal's ecosystem services, and had been read by people in over 70 countries around the world. The project also had an active Twitter feed and Facebook page to compliment its main website.
SCIENCE COMMUNICATION & LEADERSHIP A fundamental part of a scientist's job is to communicate the work that we do to non-scientists and the public. Since most of our work is funded by the public, it's our job to relay this information to our funders. However, effective science outreach is difficult and is usually not a training focus for developing scientists. Science outreach and communication is an active focus for me, both through social media and public lectures, as well as personal and shared blogs, like the Montreal's Ecosystems At Your Service Project described above. From 2014-2015 I was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decision Making (CEED) Environmental Leadership Training Program. This year-long program focused on creating change for global conservation/environmental issues via intensive leadership, media, and facilitation training. As part of this program, I created and led a website/blog for the cohort. During my PhD, I participated in the McGill School of Environment Liber Ero Fellowship in Science Communication and Policy Engagement. This two-day workshop, led by COMPASS, a leading science communication organization from the US, taught me how to more effectively engage with the media and policy makers, use social media, and communicate my science. I'm looking forward to continuing to expand these skills using a variety of traditional and social media tools as I develop as a scientist.
Mitchell MGE. 2016. Understanding the effects of landscape structure on human well-being. Conservation Corridor Magazine. www.conservationcorridor.org.
Mitchell MGE. 2016. Connecting a fragmented landscape with human wellbeing. Decision Point Magazine 94: 10-11. Environmental Decisions Group, University of Queensland.
Mitchell MGE. 2015. Postdocs reimagined (Edited by J. Sills). Science 349(6243): 24-27. (Contributed one of 23 short letters on the future of the postdoc).