Beer and biodiversity

This week I’m sharing an example of how a group of Irish post-grad students attempted to raise public awareness of biodiversity.

A little while ago, a colleague of mine returned from a trip Ireland with three gorgeous beer mats decorated with pictures of animals and a biodiversity fact. Intrigued, I looked into the story behind the beer mats. The three beer mats pictured below are part of a set of four that were designed and distributed by a group of doctoral candidates at Trinity College Dublin. Their aim was to raise awareness of biodiversity and the daily benefits we gain from it, and they did it by putting facts printed on beer mats under the noses of people visiting pubs around Dublin.

biodiversity beer mat back
One side of the beer mat features an interesting fact about biodiversity
The other side has a fun safe drinking message – know your limits!

The mats feature a biodiversity fact, for example, ‘It takes at least four bees to produce the apples to make your pint of cider!’ The mats also include a safe drinking message such as, ‘The pen-tailed shrew can drink continuously and not get drunk. Everyone has different limits – know yours.’ The launch of the beer mats was accompanied by a series of pop-up talks where the students presented short, informative talks to the people drinking in the pub. Together the talks and beer mats aimed to spark conversations about biodiversity and if people wanted to know more, an address for a  website set up by the students was printed on the mat along with a QR code.

I’ve seen beer mats used to advertise health warnings in other countries, but this was the first time I had seen them used to communicate science facts. I think these beer mats are fun and eye-catching so I hope they have sparked conservations as the students intended. I know I’ll be keeping the ones I have!

If you have ever used beer mats to communicate science information, or seen another great example of it being done, do let me know in the comments below.

Find out more about the biodiversity in our lives project at their WordPress site or at their Facebook page.


How to be a better blogger

I often think about how I can write a better blog. Writing more frequently is an obvious answer but I often wonder if my style is right, or if my subject matter is interesting enough to hold your attention.

In search of inspiration, I recently attended a Guardian masterclass on Science Communications. One of the sessions was on blogging and it was led by the enthusiastic Jenny Rohn who launched She introduced the different kinds of science blogs you can write – reviews of research, confessional blogs, cartoons and video blogs.

Jenny’s own blog is the confessional kind. She writes about her life as a scientist, both in and out of the lab. Using humour, Jenny brings people into her life in an attempt to show people that scientists are not aliens and rebuild the trust in science that has been lost. Her personal approach to blogging really appealed to me. I came away with the feeling that my own blog should offer something more than a rewrite of news that is already online. If you blog, you should add to the conversation too and add your own experience and ideas to the mix.

For those of us at the seminar who weren’t expert bloggers, Jenny had some tips that you might find helpful too if you are starting out in blogging. First up, blog frequently, at least once a week. Second, write good content. Make it a story and make it great! Thirdly, pretend you are writing for your gran. If she can get it, everyone will. You can always test your ideas on a friend, if their eyes glaze over you should write about something else. Jenny encouraged us to show our personalities and in her own blog she uses humour. It was obvious from her first few words on stage that Jenny is funny and she’s not afraid to show it in her writing. This makes her so much more engaging and very un-alien like. She’s a real person and her writing shows this.

I came away from Jenny’s session feeling inspired to re-start my own blog which has been neglected for many months. Using advice from other sessions during the Masterclass, I decided to plan first, write later. I’ll still write about the best wildlife conservation success stories but I want to explore great examples of science communications. I hope to highlight powerful video campaigns and pick apart what makes them so effective. I want to share the moments when I flick through a magazine and an advert for WWF makes me stop turning. Most of all, I want to write something that gives you inspiration for your own conservation-related communications.

A great story can attract money, public support, and influence people into making better choices for the environment. A few words have the potential to change the world, they just need to be delivered in the right way. If you are excited by the power of communications, let me know, I’d love to follow your blog or on Twitter. Leave comments below if anything you’ve read has left you with something to share!

If you’d like to know more about Jenny, check out her website or follow her on Twitter!