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A guest post by Conservation Optimism about their recent podcasting mentoring programme for the Department of Zoology (part of a project funded by the Departmental Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund). Conservation Optimism is "a global community dedicated to sharing stories and resources to empower people from all backgrounds to make a positive impact for wildlife and nature".

We recently ran a podcasting mentoring programme for the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford as part of a project funded by the Departmental Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund. As part of the programme, the Good Natured Podcast hosts and producers Julia Migné and Sofia Castelló y Tickell, mentored four students and staff members in telling a three-minute nature-related story and recording it on audio. They had the opportunity to attend two workshops: one on positive communication and another on storytelling and podcasting tips. They were then tasked with drafting their stories and recording their mini-episodes with Julia and Sofia mentoring them throughout the process. The mini-episodes were then released as Nature Notes on the Good Natured feed. The four mentees reflect on their experience joining the programme!

Joe Woodman - PhD student from the Sheldon Group

“It’s been really great fun taking part in the podcast mentoring scheme led by Julia and Sofia for the Good Natured Podcast and I feel like I’ve learned a lot! It was a really exciting and useful process learning how to transform a personal experience into an engaging story that is interesting for others to listen to who have not themselves had that same experience. I believe this is a crucial skill for broader science communication.

The scheme itself has taught me a number of new techniques that I will be sure to use in any future science communication that I do, both in terms of choosing a story to share, as well as specific tips on how to make it more engaging to listen to/read by incorporating certain details and techniques. I am very grateful to the scheme, Julia & Sofia for teaching me all this, and I am also thankful for having the opportunity to share with others my experience with the introduction of red squirrels on the Good Natured Podcast!”

Listen to Joe's episode of Nature Notes - "Searching for Red Squirrels in Tresco with Joe Woodman".

Lara Semple - Alumnus from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit

“The mentoring scheme with Julia and Sofia was really eye-opening. They were really supportive throughout the process. I found it a lot harder than I was imagining it to be as I have never done any voice recording before. I enjoyed the initial workshop as it was great to learn about the process of having an idea and turning it into a concise, but intriguing, interesting piece for listeners. We learned about splitting your story into different visual pictures and being very descriptive. I also enjoyed helping the other volunteers with their ideas and giving feedback in the workshop.

Recording the piece itself took a lot of attempts and was quite frustrating at times, but I learned a lot about projecting your voice, using emotion in your voice, and speaking (much more) slowly and clearly. Overall the mentoring scheme was very enjoyable and I am proud of the final version of my episode.”

Listen to Lara's episode of Nature Notes - "Monitoring Scottish wildcats with Lara Semple".

Mike Clark - Postdoctoral Researcher at the Nuffield Department of Population Health and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science 

“The mentoring scheme led by Julia and Sofia focused on helping participants record a three-minute mini-podcast episode focusing on a personal experience in nature. During the one and a half-hour session, I went from “Deer in headlights, oh my gosh, what did I get myself into!?!” to “Ok, I might actually be able to do this”. The principles I learned – creating a storyboard, being aware of the audience when communicating, and using simple yet vibrant language – helped me synthesise wandering thoughts into a single (hopefully) clear three-minute story. These principles have already been incredibly helpful in a variety of contexts including other podcasts, media interviews, public engagement events, and paper framing and writing.

If Julia and Sofia offer another mentoring session, I highly recommend participating in it. The skills and principles you will learn are portable and applicable to everyday contexts, and will also help you frame your research to more effectively communicate your findings (and besides, you get to make a blanket fort).”

Listen to Mike's episode of Nature Notes - "Smelling Sage with Mike Clark".

Danny Nane - Diploma candidate from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit

“I personally liked the scheme because I have learned some important lessons on framing and storytelling techniques, presenting your research to the public, and on how to raise awareness, and disseminate information to the public on your species of interest. Apart from this, it also helped me to develop my confidence in communicating my research findings with the general public and improved my ability to frame my research to reach a specific audience. Coming from a biodiversity-rich country, I believe in inclusiveness and equal participation, information sharing, and effective communications through different platforms such as social media and podcasts. I believe those formats can get the attention of the public very fast and efficiently, and help people to join hands in protecting and conserving the earth’s environment and wildlife.

I would like to thank the Conservation optimism team, Julia and Sofia, for their advice and continuous support in helping me record this podcast. I hope the listeners will enjoy it and learn about the Endangered Matschie’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei) in Papua New Guinea.

Listen to Danny's episode of Nature Notes - "Spotting tree kangaroos with Danny Nane".