Research is relevant.
Broadly, my research seeks to understand how people consume, process, and discuss various narratives in science, the environment, health, and politics. Some questions that I consider are: How can we have more effective dialogue about delicate issues? How do media influence our attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and knowledge, and how do identity and emotions facilitate that relationship? How can we encourage individuals to identify misinformation?
To answer these questions, I use social scientific research methods, including experimental design, survey design and public opinion research, quantitative content analysis of media coverage, and advanced statistical analysis for the social sciences. I also use qualitative methods as well, including focus groups, scenario workshops, and interviewing. I use analytical programs (e.g., SPSS, MAXQDA), content management systems (e.g., WordPress; I also know HTML and CSS), project management software (e.g., Confluence, Microsoft Teams), and creative design software (e.g., Canva, Adobe Creative Suite, Audacity).
My research encompasses communication, media, campaigns, narrative persuasion, interpersonal influence, identity, psychometrics, and emotion. For example, my most recent research examines the communication strategies that online health influencers use to connect with audiences, build credibility, and increase their followers. This has direct implications for how health communication practitioners can more effectively build a social media following and influence audiences’ health decisions and outcomes. In brief, this research can inform the development of health campaigns delivered digitally and via social media.
Another current project addresses the communication and narratives surrounding climate and water in Wyoming and in the West. I work with interdisciplinary teams at the University of Wyoming to research how to most effectively build community resilience in the face of these challenges for Wyoming people. I took the featured photos above during my travels to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Improving Science/ENR Communication and Journalism
Currently, I am the communication expert on a $20 million NSF EPSCoR grant at the University of Wyoming’s EPSCoR office. I coordinate the science communication and science journalism project elements of the grant, which is called WY-ACT (Wyoming Anticipating Climate Transitions). I work with an interdisciplinary team of economists, ecologists, data scientists, atmospheric scientists, and hydrologists. We seek to build trust with the Wyoming public, ranchers, water rights users, policy makers, and industry so we can collaborate to better prepare for the impacts of climate change and water disruptions.
As a lead social scientist and communication expert, I am designing a campaign to increase communication and trust surrounding these critical issues of climate change in Wyoming. As an example, I am designing a climate-water ambassador program that will use interpersonal influence (grounded in communication, political psychology, and counseling literature) to overcome psychological biases that complicate rural individuals’ processing of scientific evidence and risk perceptions of climate change and water disruptions.
Our interdisciplinary efforts are grounded in coproduction of knowledge, where we engage with the public and stakeholders at each step of the way in order to learn, design, and implement the most effective communication efforts.
From 2017 to 2022, I served on the previous Wyoming EPSCoR Track-1 grant on microbial ecology. Specifically, I worked with media editors and journalists in Wyoming to provide workforce development in science journalism. The grant also provided science journalism education to students and provided paid science journalism internships at Wyoming media outlets. I also created the Wyoming EPSCoR Best in Science Reporting Award that awards the best science journalism produced at Wyoming newspapers each year.
My work has been called truly innovative by NSF because it focuses on training better science journalists, who are largely responsible for educating the public about important science issues, from public health to technological innovation to climate change.
Beyond this grant work, I have published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, 6 book chapters, and 41 conference presentations. I serve currently on the editorial board of Mass Communication & Society and I recently concluded my editorial board service at Journal of Communication in Sept. 2022.
According to my Google Scholar profile, I have an all-time total of 1,720 citations, with 724 of those citations being since 2017, which shows evidence of my international reputation and leadership in the communication discipline.
I regularly engage in statewide service, outreach, and engagement activities that benefit Wyoming K-12 students, Wyoming residents, and Wyoming journalists. Many of these interactions focused on increasing media literacy, understanding political communication and fake news, and improving science/ENR/health journalism. From attendance at these events, I have reached more than 500 Wyoming residents in an outreach and engagement capacity. Additionally, I was a faculty fellow with the UW High School Institute from 2013 to 2018, teaching multimedia storytelling & media literacy to Wyoming high school students during the summers.