Objectives: Public engagement is increasingly viewed as an important pillar of scientific scholarship. For early career and established scholars, navigating the mosaic landscape of public education and science communication, noted for rapid “ecological” succession, can be daunting. Moreover, academics are characterized by diverse skills, motivations, values, positionalities, and temperaments that may differentially incline individuals to particular public translation activities. Methods: Here we briefly contextualize engagement activities within a scholarly portfolio, describe the use of one public education program—March Mammal Madness (MMM)— to highlight approaches to science communication, and explore essential elements and practical considerations for creating and sustaining outreach pursuits in tandem with other scholarly activities. Results: MMM, an annual simulated tournament of living and fossil animal taxa, has reached hundreds of thousands of learners since 2013. This program has provided a platform to communicate research findings from biology and anthropology and showcase numerous scholars in these fields. MMM has leveraged tournament devices to intentionally address topics of climate change, capitalist environmental degradation, academic sexism, and racist settler-colonialism. The tournament, however, has also perpetuated implicit biases that need disrupting. Conclusions: By embracing reflexive, self-interrogative, and growth attitudes, the tournament organizers iteratively refine and improve this public science education program to better align our activities with our values and goals. Our experiences with MMM suggest that dispersing science is most sustainable when we combine ancestral adaptations for cooperation, community, and storytelling with good-natured competition in the context of shared experiences and shared values.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics