by Jen Collins
Creating new relationships with enthusiastic, creative, and highly engaged people, many of whom I would not have contact with otherwise, has been a highlight of my participation with COPUS. Never before have I been able to sit down with an MIT scientist, art and science professors, the Science Cheerleader, the head of geology for an entire state, a mom and a former shoe maker, a public media specialist, the two masterminds behind COPUS, and other people from equally diverse backgrounds to actively pursue ways to engage the public in science. The connections, new ideas, and energy that result from these interactions are astonishing.
Ocean connections and explorations is one of my cups of tea. Because of COPUS, I was empowered to coordinate and facilitate the development of the Year of Science Ocean/Water website and DC COPUS HUB Ocean/Water group. To have an excuse to contact professionals that do amazing aquatic education and outreach has broadened my knowledge of activities, and helped to forge some new collaborations and contacts.
Prior to COPUS, I did not always have a means for pursuing ideas outside the scope of my paid job. COPUS changed that. For example, when a casual conversation with a scientist sparked the idea of a public Species Naming Contest, COPUS provided the platform, encouragement, and non-monitory resources to pull it off. Three hundred submissions, and over 800 votes later, the Bonaire Banded Box Jellyfish was publically named and published in the literature. It was a thrilling experience to get so many people involved in the process of taxonomy and to pursue a novel idea.
Understanding COPUS took me awhile. I came to COPUS as a classroom teacher on maternity leave. Connecting to amazingly accomplished, bright, and motivated people can be a bit intimidating. But being part of COPUS is not about being part of a nationally recognized institution, or doing things that need to reach X number of people, or creating something large and complex. Being part of COPUS is about personal connections, expanding your horizons, and working within the scope of your own parameters. It feels good to know that there is such a diversity of people reaching a range of audiences in so many different ways. It makes me optimistic that we can raise the level of science understanding and appreciation.
So no matter who you are, if you have a passion for science communication, education, and/or outreach, COPUS is a network worth being a part of.