My Science Videos

fieldwork_MRD_klmckee_usgs

Public domain image (U.S. Geological Survey)

On this page, you will find links to some of my science videos. I’ve created and published several peer-reviewed videos through the science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey. These videos mainly focused on my research and were designed for a broad audience. In a few cases, I spotlighted the work of colleagues. In general, I tried to show how scientific research contributes to better conservation and management of our natural resources and how such information relates to the interests of the general public.  Also included on this page are videos showing other types of activities that scientists and students are involved in (for example, mentoring and conference attendance).

My other objective in making these videos was to show what it’s like to do scientific research and what real scientists look and sound like. I feel strongly that the average scientist needs to become more visible and familiar to the public. The average person is acquainted with doctors, lawyers, police officers, and other professionals, but most people have never met a scientist. Science videos are a great way to promote the value of scientific research while at the same time familiarize the public with the people behind the science.

Out of necessity, I did all of the story development, camerawork, narration, and editing and many of the animations for these videos. It was (and still is) a learning process. camcorder_klmckeeAfter an initial reluctance to spend time acquiring these skills, I found that I quickly and easily learned the techniques, which did not require expensive equipment/software or specialized training. What surprised me most, however, was how the process of making a short video about a topic forced me to reexamine what I knew about it (or thought I knew). New insights often occurred to me, for example, during interviews, researching background information, or putting the story together. Most of all, it was fun, and I rediscovered the passion for science and discovery that had become buried during years of competing for funds, for space in journals, and for recognition of technical accomplishments.

Note that all of these videos are free for anyone to use; all you have to do is grab the embed code (click on “share”, then “embed”, and copy the code) and insert the video into your website. All of the USGS videos went through an extensive peer and administrative review before they were approved for public release.

For best viewing, select the HD version and full-screen options (see menu bar at bottom of player window).

Sea-Level Rise, Subsidence, and Wetland Loss:

Chasing the Mud: The 2011 Mississippi River Flood:

The Floating Marshes of Louisiana: A Unique Environment:

What Lies Beneath: Using Mangrove Peat to Study Ancient Environments and Sea-Level Rise:

Brown Marsh Apocalypse:

Nutrient Impacts on Wetlands: Field Studies in New Zealand

Coastal Louisiana: Impacts of Hurricanes on Salt Marsh and Mangrove Wetlands:

Potential Effects of Elevated CO2 and Climate Change on Coastal Wetlands:

Effects of Sea-Level Rise on Coastal Wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta:

Oil Impacts on Coastal Wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta:

The Camargue Wetlands (France):

Coeur de Voh Mangroves (created with iPhone):

How to Collect a Mangrove Peat Core:

What’s Behind the Dunes at Kauri Mountain Beach?:

SWS Mentoring Program:

Recent Posts

Use Video To Tell Interesting Stories About How Science Works

When I first began making videos in 2008 about my scientific research (published on the U.S. Geological Survey’s YouTube Channel), my objective was to more widely report the findings of my projects and to help advertise my journal articles. For example, the video “Chasing the Mud” was designed to explain how I and colleagues studied the effects of the historic 2011 Mississippi River flood and to summarize the results of our paper published in Nature Geoscience. When I was interviewed by a news agency about the paper, I provided the link to the video, which the journalist then embedded in the news article. The video, which has had almost 12,000 views, thus served to augment the academic article in a format that was more accessible to the general public.

However, beyond reporting the results of our study, that video also featured the unique wetlands we visited during our sampling surveys and showed how we used a helicopter to access remote study sites in the Mississippi River Delta Complex. In later videos, such as this one about a study conducted in mangrove forests in Belize, I often emphasized my experiences doing fieldwork and the methods required. In other words, these videos showed the viewer how science gets done and some of the interesting places where scientists work.

Since those early videos, I’ve tried to encourage colleagues to make videos highlighting interesting aspects of their work and to avoid boring the viewer with a lot of data. Another point is that you can make a video about your work even before the final results are in or before you publish the paper. For example, you can make a video about why your research is important to society, to describe your field of research, obstacles you’ve overcome, your unique research setting or methods, or to overturn stereotypes about scientists. All such videos can be done without research results and are likely to be more interesting to the average viewer.

A recent essay and video illustrate my point nicely. Adrian Smith, who studies ants, filmed himself being bitten. In the video (see below), he basically answered the question as to whether it would hurt to be bitten by a trap-jaw ant, which can shut its jaws “faster than almost any other recorded animal movement”. In the essay, Smith said that this experience changed his outlook on communicating science. He realized that, by mainly focusing on conveying the results of scientific endeavors, he had missed opportunities to tell more compelling stories about his experiences doing science. By emphasizing a fascinating observation or answering a question that viewers might have, it’s possible to reach a wider audience and interest them in your research topic. His video below shows an example of this approach.

You, too, can take advantage of this approach and make a video about an interesting or inspiring aspect of your scientific research. Below, I repeat a list of suggested topics to use as the focus of a brief video.

  • Share your joy about doing science.
  • Describe what you like most about being a scientist or your particular science discipline.
  • Talk about a challenge that you faced and how you overcame it.
  • Describe a failure and what you learned from it.
  • Show where you work (laboratory or field) and explain what you like about it.
  • Demonstrate your passion for your scientific topic and why you think it is important.
  • Describe how your curiosity led you to a discovery.
  • Talk about scientific integrity and how you strive to avoid bias.
  • Point out the challenge of finding sufficient funding to conduct your research.
  • Show how your research is helping a local community cope with a health or environmental issue.
  • Have citizens, resource managers, farmers, doctors, or other end users of science information describe the importance of your research to them.
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