Plants & People

AoBP ECOS Awardee Elise Gornish

"The main reason more scientists don’t communicate their science effectively is a lack of formal training"

The AoBP ECOS Awards celebrate researchers who have dedicated considerable efforts to advancing the goals and ideals of open science. Today we focus on the achievements of Elise Gornish (University of Arizona), one of three recipients of the 2020 ECOS Awards. The judging panel highly commended Elise’s open research and scientific outreach efforts. Below you can read more about Elise’s work and her ambitions to make science accessible to all.

Reaching out to high school students

Elise has made concerted efforts to attract, support and encourage traditionally excluded scientists to run projects, make presentations and publish their scientific outputs. Studies have shown that encouraging the intelligence and potential of girls enhances performance in STEM subjects. Elise realised it was crucial to reach girls in high school and empower them to pursue their goals by strengthening science literacy.

Working with a science teacher at Tucson High School, Elise works with students to identify a project, design and deploy an experiment and write up and present the results. Recent students include two young women who completed a series of greenhouse studies investigating the utility of seedballs for ecological restoration. In addition to presenting their work (and winning third place!) at a regional science fair, the students are in the process of formally writing up the work for peer review.

Effective science communication

To ensure the scientific outputs Elise produces are available to anyone and everyone, including those without access to (or interest in) peer reviewed journals, she makes all of her work available in a range of formats. As well as publishing traditional scientific articles, Elise translates these results into layman’s terms in the form of blogs or podcasts. Elise recently featured on The Urban Farm podcast, talking about her research on seed balls and how they can “give nature a hand by restoring vegetation”.

“Making science more open”

Elise feels that the main reason more scientists don’t communicate their science effectively is a lack of formal training. To address this, Elise organizes science communication workshops for university graduates, undergraduates and local high school students. At these workshops, she provides an overview of her experiences, including successful and unsuccessful approaches used in her own work to extend science to a broader audience.

Elise says, “making science more open and accessible is critical in a world where environmental challenges can only be adequately addressed through the cooperation of the scientific community and the general public. I attempt to be an active contributor to the betterment of science for everyone every day.”

Useful links to Elise’s work

Elise’s Google Scholar profile

Elise’s website

Elise’s Twitter

Elise’s Instagram

Listen to Elise on The Urban Farm podcast

Researcher profile

Elise Gornish received her MS and PhD from Florida State University in 2013. She then completed two years of a post doc at the University of California, Davis before becoming a Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological Restoration at UC Davis.  In 2017, she moved to the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ to start her own lab.

Elise’s lab focuses on using integrated approaches to develop and deploy effective restoration and land management strategies in working and natural landscapes. They develop research and outreach programs on a wide range of themes to address questions related to ecological restoration and weed management in Arizona and the western U.S. region.

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