It’s the last week of the month, which means … It's time to focus on another amazing Science Communicator!
For December, I want you to know about the brilliant Corina Newsome.
Holding a Master of Science in Biology from Georgia Southern University, Corina began her career as an intern at a zoo, motivated by meeting a Black zookeeper during her senior year of high school in Philadelphia.
While she was studying biology, she took a class in ornithology with an enthusiastic teacher who inspired her to shift her focus to birds. It was then she also realized the power of a great science communicator. Earlier this year, she completed her degree with a concentration on avian conservation.
Calling herself the “Hood Naturalist” to emphasize that not all naturalists come from rich, rural areas, Newsome hopes to foster diversity in science as well as advocate for environmental equality. As a community engagement manager for Georgia Audubon, she inherited the burden of a legacy of racist overtones that are deeply ingrained in the industry, but works hard to promote inclusivity despite that problematic history.
Because she does field work out in salt marshes and outdoor spaces, Corina takes measures to look “official” for safety reasons, such as always making sure her binoculars are visible. Though she hasn’t suffered any specific racial incidents at these locations, she has had vehicles approach, park and observe her. While it’s unfortunate, it’s probably for the best that she takes these precautions.
After an incident in Central Park in 2020, where a white woman falsely alleged that a Black birdwatcher was threatening her and called the cops—only to have a video of the incident go viral and bring light to the truth—Corina, along with fellow Black community members on Twitter mobilized into action. They turned something negative into something positive and sustainable, and formed #BlackBirdersWeek, which is now an annual event that features activities and discussions that celebrate black birdwatching.
Additionally, a collective Corina is part of, BlackAFinSTEM was formed to “support, uplift, and amplify Black STEM professionals in natural resources and the environment through professional development, career connection, and community engagement.” This unifying group for black scientists features informative livestreams, in-person walks and more.
As the Director of the Malone University Wildlife Program, Corina is instrumental in encouraging students passionate about wildlife to enter into careers in the field. Through camps, guided tours, nature hikes, field work, guest speakers and animal care, kids from all backgrounds—who may not otherwise be exposed to such opportunities—get to explore the possibility of a future in zoo and wildlife biology.
Did I mention Corina also made a science-themed rap video?! “Anything for the Count” centers around the importance of avian conservation and her love of birdwatching. Like me, she believes that science communicators should use their passion and skills from other arenas (like music) to convey their messages and achieve the greatest engagement possible. She also emphasizes the importance of scientists coming from all races, gender identities, faiths and socio-economic backgrounds so it isn’t just one set of people talking to those in their own peer group.
Corina’s brilliance has been featured on podcasts and radio shows such as NPR’s Short Wave and Science Friday. She also appeared in the 2017 documentary, Behold the Earth, which centered around the modern church’s engagement with environmental issues.
In an interview for Inverse, Corina explained how crucial it is in the context of climate change, to have inclusivity in science. “When you're talking about the engagement of people in outdoor exploration, you have to have a diversity of people involved, because the nature of the biodiversity problem we're facing globally means we need all hands on deck, and therefore, as many diverse voices as possible.”
I couldn’t agree more!
I’m curious about which Science Communicators inspire you? Tell me about them in the comments section.
Photo: Wikipedia (Creative Commons License)