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

But I’m Not Artistic!

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, public domain

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

That quote by Van Gogh is about our internal censor—the voice that erodes our confidence and prevents us from trying something new or challenging. Whenever I talk to a group of students or colleagues about making videos about their scientific research, someone invariably responds by saying that they aren’t very artistic and thus cannot be very good at videography. So, why even try?

I understand why they might think this way. Many people are reluctant to engage in any activity that presupposes creativity or artistic ability. Musicians and artists are believed to be somehow different—that they possess inherent talents the average person lacks.

However, as children, we all happily and unselfconsciously draw vivid pictures and make up imaginative stories. Then something happens. A teacher or parent says something discouraging, or our peers make fun of us. Or, as we grow older, other activities draw our attention, and that artistic spark fails to evolve.

I was lucky in that I continued to draw and sketch through childhood. I was an aspiring scientist and spent a lot of time drawing plants, insects, and protozoa that I could see with my microscope. I knew that such detailed drawings were important records for a biologist or ecologist to create. Even after digital devices came on the scene, I continued to sketch in my field notebooks and in the personal journals I kept. My ability to capture an image using only pencil and paper matured. Each drawing was better than the last one. I even became good enough to work as a free-lance scientific illustrator for a while.

My point is that any skill, whether artistic or not, improves over time with practice. With videography, your first attempts will likely not be great, perhaps even terrible. But it doesn’t matter because you will improve with each succeeding video you make. This point  is especially relevant for scientists and other professionals who want to use video as a communication tool. We’ll likely never be as good as a trained filmmaker, but we can still produce effective videos.

In fact, the scientist videographer’s goal is not to be a professional filmmaker but is instead to be a more effective science communicator. Scientists must still learn to communicate using traditional means such as writing articles for publication in journals and speaking at conferences. But we must also be able to use other media to communicate, such as video, which is now a popular way for people to get their information.

And by the way, there is no right way or wrong way to make a video. Worrying about making a technical error or being judged from a filmmaking standpoint is paralyzing. I always advise students who suffer from writer’s block to, “Just write and get your ideas down first; go back later and polish.” Most find that once they are freed from the fear of making a technical error or of not writing the perfect sentence, the words begin to flow.

That approach also works for videography. If you find yourself paralyzed with doubts, just start filming—yourself or others conducting field research or working in the laboratory. Film with the thought that you’ll not necessarily use all of the footage in your video. That view will likely free you to capture a variety of footage and give you some much-needed confidence about filming. I think you’ll find that once you’ve got some footage in hand, the creative juices will begin to flow.

So, if you are disappointed in your first attempts at videography (or are hesitant to even try), remember that even the best videographers were once novices. The difference is that they ignored their internal censor, which was gradually silenced as they made each succeeding video.

For more about this topic see: The Stages of Learning Videography (and Other Skills)

  1. How to Handle Negative Comments about Your Videos Leave a reply
  2. Using Screenshots and Published Figures in a Video Leave a reply
  3. Video Recording with a Webcam: How to Use a Script and Keep Your Eyes on the Camera 1 Reply
  4. Recording a Video with a Computer and a Script Leave a reply