I’m also working on a chapter for the upcoming Routledge Handbook of Science Communication. Ed. Hanganu-Bresch, Cristina, Stefania Maci, Michael Zerbe, and Gabriel Cutrufello.

“Visual Rhetoric, Science Communication, and eBird: The Role of Science Communication and Citizen Science in Fostering Empathy for Species”

Public participation in scientific research projects, or “citizen science,” constitutes an important component of science communication practice; citizen science allows scientists to accumulate “vast amounts of data” and build “a constituency for conservation … that is often required to bring about action in the political arena” (Bonter and Hochachka 456-457). The Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a long-standing citizen science program in which participants, typically birders, communicate scientific information by adding to “a global database of bird populations” (Audubon). The Backyard Bird Count has clear implications for science communication, as birders can play a role in shaping knowledge about climate change and its impact on bird populations, especially through the use of visual information. For example, participants can upload their data and accompanying photos to eBird, a popular online app also created by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. This chapter then considers how eBird, specifically its photographic content, helps foster the geographical concept of “caring at a distance” (Silk, 1998), as well as “entangled empathy” for vulnerable species (Gruen, 2015). It demonstrates how endeavors like eBird constitute productive modes of science communication. It also considers how visual rhetoric and scientific communication can paradoxically illuminate the vulnerability of species while simultaneously fostering possibilities for interconnection and enactments of ethical responsibility in an age of climate change (Propen, 2018).