Alum Ben Landis to Lead Science Communication Workshops Sept. 30-Oct. 2

September 21, 2015

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

By Kati Moore (MEM ’16)

DURHAM, N.C. – The Nicholas School will host its first Alumnus-in-Residence program on Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

Ben Landis (MEM ’09), a science writer and communications consultant who formerly worked as a science communicator at the U.S. Geological Survey, will serve as the inaugural alumnus-in-residence. He will lead a series of free workshops and discussions about science communication.

Staff, faculty, and students in all programs are welcome to attend. Registration for all events is available through Career Link.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Landis will host a workshop titled “Getting People to Care About Science,” at 5:45 pm in Field Auditorium. During this hour-and-a-half interactive workshop, participants will practice crafting emotionally appealing messages that accurately explain environmental concepts. Seating is limited to 30 participants.

The following evening, Thursday, Oct. 1, Landis will host a dinner discussion titled “Ecology, Art, and Spirituality” at 6:00 pm at Blue Corn Cafe in Durham. This discussion, inspired by a “Spirituality and Ecology” seminar Landis took during his time at the Nicholas School, will explore the abstract elements and personal contexts in “communicating the environment”.

Also on Thursday, PhD and professional masters students are invited to two workshops on promoting their research and themselves. The first will be a two-part workshop. Attendees will learn how to better work with media relations teams at universities and directly with media to promote their own research.

The second workshop will focus on marketing  yourself as an environmental professional. Attendees will learn how to effectively communicate their professional interests, cultivate an online presence, and use social media tools to engage with potential colleagues and partners.

On Friday, Oct. 2, Landis will host a lunch panel with members of the professional network Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC) at 11:30 am at the Nicholas School. Four representatives from SCONC will answer questions about the professional world of science communication, from working with the media as a researcher to pursuing science communication as a career.

Landis will also be available at the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) in between scheduled sessions for individual or small group conversations.

“The unifying thread for these workshops is to help people become better storytellers,” Landis said. “That’s what makes us human – we tell stories. I hope that during these two and half days we all take some time to think about storytelling and communication as something that is part of us, something that makes our lives richer and brings us all together.”

This is the first of four alumni-in-residence programs to be held this year. All four programs are funded by CPDC.

In November, the program will host Erik Fowler, a graduate of the Nicholas School’s Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) Program and a manager at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, CO.

“These programs are a way to engage our alumni, capitalize on their expertise and experience, and train our students,” said Karen Kirchof, assistant dean of CPDC.

Landis graduated the Master of Environmental Management program with a concentration in environmental economics and policy. While here he started a 10-week seminar for students on science communication. He has since worked as a newspaper journalist, then as a public outreach specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. In 2013 he founded Capital Science Communicators, a professional network of science communicators in Sacramento.  He now works as an independent writer and communications consultant, and also produces the website “See. Food. Write.”

To contact Landis and learn more about his work, visit his website.