The Girl in Boots
Finding a career that lifted and promoted my farming heritage, interests and hobbies was easy once I discovered the path that Agricultural Communications would take me at the U of I. The world of Ag communications is broad and exciting. The state of Illinois and all the small towns in Illinois depend on agriculture, our world depends on agriculture. In May 2021, in just 3 years, I received my B.S in Agricultural Communications with a concentration in Advertising.
However, I am not stopping there. I want to continue to increase my knowledge to pursue this degree to use the skills I am acquiring to educate and make a difference in the world of agriculture. With that being said, I am pursuing my master degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) with an expected graduation date in May 2023. I plan on promoting the importance of agriculture and shaping the future of rural and urban communities. Agriculture is more than corn and cattle; it is the knowledge of sustainability and environmental science. For example, sustainability, subsistence, farming, GMO, organic, viticulture, barn restoration, windmills, nutrition, conservation, urban agriculture, and more! I am learning to teach the latest agricultural topics through communication. I am eager pursue a career using my education from the University of Illinois in Agriculture Communications. I don’t know if I will be working for a large company or have my own magazine, but I do know my career will promote the importance of agriculture and help shape the future of agriculture.
Hi, Calyssa Richie. I am a first year graduate student at the University of Illinois pursuing my master’s degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. I want to use this blog as a place to write down my thoughts on interesting topics I find about agriculture, communications, science, and a place to reflect on my courses!
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One of the courses I am taking this year is called Communicating Science. In this course I will learn how science is, and is not, communicated to the public. I am looking forward to learning more about the differences between good and bad science communication and its effects. I want to know how to effectively communicate science. In my recent years, I studied a lot on how to be a great agricultural communicator, but now I want to go more in depth and learn how to enhance my science communication skills.
Projects that I am looking forward to include creating communicating outreach campaigns and understanding the theories within science communications. It is my turn to learn how to be the mediator of those who do not understand science and those who do. By the end of this course I hope to know how to explain science using the communication techniques and approaches I have been taught, execute a strong science-based campaign, and be able to describe the theories within communicating science.
I want to use this blog as a platform to write down any thoughts I have towards science communications. I may see a hot topic in the science field and want to write about it, I may have a bucket load of thoughts from a class session and need to write down my thoughts, or I may be contemplating how cool science is and need to share my feelings. Follow me along on this blog as I do all of that!
The Art in Science Communications
Today I stumbled upon an article, ‘All my art is curiosity-driven’: the garden studio where art and physics collide, written by Amber Dance about a woman named Geraldine Cox who mixes art and physics to create something outstanding.
Geraldine uses her art to ask and answer questions with different research groups. One project she did included pencil drawings that illustrated an experiment that has been in progress to create super-cold molecules. Currently, the project Geraldine is working on is based on the experiment, Young’s slits, which is light that splits and travels into separate paths. She transfers this experiment to her work by creating a series of large paintings. Using triangles and semicircles, she creates a representation of light and matter.
I find this article interesting because when most people think of science, they do not think it is artistic. I love the idea that art can be a way not just to communicate but can communicate science. Science communications are in more places than we observe. I want to encourage my readers to pay closer attention to what they do or see throughout their day. What forms of science communication do you notice?
To the right I have one of Geraldine’s artwork called Sun Space Art. If you are interested in reading the article, you can find it at this link: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00399-z
Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Today I learned about fixed and growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets often avoids challenges and give up easily. People with a growth mindset believe their intelligence will develop overtime and has a desire to learn. Phrases associated with fixed mindsets include “I can’t” and “This is too difficult. I am done”. Phrases associated with fixed mindsets include “I need to keep trying” and “I can do it”. There are times where I have a fixed mindset and then there are other times when I have a growth mindset. Overall, I believe I am an optimistic person and love to accept challenges.
One learning struggle that I have experienced is getting overwhelmed with my weekly tasks. This sometimes results in procrastination and a fixed mindset. To improve this, I have started making weekly checklists. The checklists keep me on task, and it feels very rewarding to cross projects off the list. Now with my checklists, I now have more of a growth mindset. I feel like I can conquer anything!
In class we watched a video on fixed and growth mindset. It compared the hare and the tortoise. The hare had a fixed mindset because he came off more intelligent and successful than the tortoise, but only in the short run. The tortoise had a growth mindset because he believed he could finish strong in the long run and did not give up. I encourage you to watch the video below!
mRNA Vaccine Story
A vaccine is a medical product created to help protect people against dangerous diseases and viruses. Vaccines do not cure any diseases. They stimulate a person’s immune response and produce antibodies to prevent one from obtaining the disease and getting sick. When someone receives a vaccine, they receive medicine that will help create immunity to the specific disease associated with the vaccine. Specifically, their immune system recognizes a foreign germ in their body, and in response, their body produces antibodies that aid in destroying the germ. If they get exposed to the disease after their vaccine, their body will remember that germ and know how to beat it before getting sick. The vaccine gives them immunity before they get sick. The first vaccine was created in 1796 and was used to fight against smallpox. Today there are many vaccines available to receive. Common ones include Influenza, Tetanus, HPV, Varcella, Zoster, and now COVID-19 Vaccines.
After decades of research, the COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA (messenger RNA), was introduced in late 2020. The mRNA vaccine is one of the four types of vaccine production platforms. Two similar vaccines are now available, Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna. Unlike other vaccine platforms, these do not contain the virus.
The technology of mRNA copies the coding sequence for the expected viral protein. When the vaccine enters your bloodstream, your body notices that it is a foreign protein sequence. Its goal is to make antibodies and recognize that if it ever reencountered the foreign protein sequence, it already has the antibodies ready to fight it off. If you get infected with COVID-19, your body has already seen that sequence before. It has the memory of what it is and has antibodies to go and attach to that spike protein. By linking to this spike protein, COVID-19 cannot enter the cell and replicate. Instead, the antibody neutralizes it, and it dies.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the mRNA Vaccine, Pfizer (renamed Comirnaty), for 12 years or older. The FDA protects the public’s health by assuring that foods, drugs, vaccines, and other biological products and medical devices are safe and effective. The FDA does what they can do to provide safe foods, but it would not be possible without the help of the millions of men and women working in food and agricultural jobs. So, if these essential workers in agriculture get exposed or infected with COVID-19, it could cause harm to our food supply and slow down the process. This situation is where the mRNA vaccines play their role. They were created to be distributed to the public and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mRNA vaccine has saved millions of lives worldwide and has enabled agricultural workers and others to keep working.
World News Day
Today, September 28th, is World News Day! What is World News Day you might ask? Well, it is a day to recognize and support journalists and their audiences who are taking their time to use facts and their communicating skills to make the world a better place. It is important to recognize journalist and all of the time and hard work they put in to educate our world on current events. If you know a journalist, reach out to them and thank them for all of their hard work and trustworthy information!
Reconsidering the Deficit Model
In the 1980s, an English social scientist named Brian Wynee studied how the public viewed science communication. He understood people had more beliefs that hid below the public communication of science. His studies led him to invent the deficit model. The model indicates that the public may have a wrong idea, or deficiency, to science due to the lack of information and science communication. However, one may be open to the concept of a scientific explanation under careful consideration.
There are faults in the deficit model. In The Science of Communicating Science, Dr. Craig Cormick states that the lack of information is not why people are concerned about science. He continues to inform the reader that it is hard to change concerning opinions, and everyone thinks their personal information is worth more than others, even if it is a credible scientist.
To move beyond the faults that arise with the deficit model, we need to change how the public views science. Let’s say there is a group of people who have ideas and beliefs regardless of scientific evidence. Instead of forcing them to try to change their mind by telling them scientific facts, I want to subtly communicate to them in a way that they think they came up with the idea themselves. With my background in advertising, I believe advertising is one of the most effective forms of communication. So instead of someone telling another person what to think, why don’t we show them? If people saw advertisements, they might start to generate other ideas without feeling the pressure of someone else changing their mind. The advertisements I am thinking of include less text and more of a visual explanation. Let’s show the public the scientific evidence and not tell them.
Modified Genes in Wild Cotton
Below I am going to discuss an article that I found on sciencenews.org about modified genes in wild cotton.
The author, Emiliano Rodriguez Mega, introduces the issue within the first few sentences of the article. She informs the reader that the cotton plants native to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula all look the same. However, genes have escaped from genetically modified cotton crops and have altered the biology of some of the native plants and affected the way they interact with insects. Escaped genes have made wild cotton exclude less nectar or produce excess nectar. Less nectar means it will not attract ants that protect it from plant-eaters that consume the cotton. Extra nectar attracts too many ants and prevents other beneficial insects away.
In the fifth paragraph, Emiliano discusses the new development a team is working on to explain this issue. Scientists have conducted controlled tests, but scientist Ana Wegier was motivated to try something new. She decided to observe and sample cotton in its natural habitat. Back in her city lab, her team extracted the DNA of the collected cotton. Results found 21 had a transgene resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, seven that can produce a lethal toxin that kills destructive insects, and nine that had had both genes in their genetic code. After using a stress-inducing chemical to coat the plants, they found that the plants with the insecticide gene exuded more nectar than the wild plants. There were not as many in the researcher’s plants with the insecticide gene, which means either the ants or transgene itself were scaring the insects off.
What happens now? Emiliano writes that Mexico is the reservoir of cotton’s genetic diversity at the end of the article. Mexico must decrease the use of more genetically modified variants to save the natural ecosystems. With the presence of transgenes and the irreversible ecological effects, the public can prevent this from occurring in the future.
If you are interested in reading the article follow this link: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/modified-genes-distort-wild-cotton-plant-insect-interactions
Addressing Mental Health Among IL Farmers
Roughly over 40 percent of Illinois farmers faced at least mild symptoms of anxiety or depression in the 2021 planting season, according to a recent research study.
Within the agricultural industry there are thousands of injuries that occur, making it seven times more likely to die in agriculture than in any other occupational industry. This includes injuries from equipment, transportation, construction, technology, etc. Not only are these things greatly putting the agricultural population at risk, but so is mental health.
As this topic is becoming more prevalent, Josie Rudolphi, an Ag Bio-Engineering Researcher at the University of Illinois, wanted to conduct a study to look at the stress, health, and injuries among farmers. She sent out a paper survey to 1000 random addresses that included: a paper survey, letters from PI’s, basic research information, and a five-dollar incentive to complete the survey.
“We do not have a final response rate yet, but we know it is going to be over 35 percent. We consider that to be pretty good considering the population!” said Rudolphi.
The survey screened farmers for anxiety and depression using the GAD-7 and the PHQ-9. They responded to seven symptoms and how often they experienced it within the past two weeks on a scale from zero to three, zero meaning not at all and three meaning nearly every day. Rudolphi found that 40 percent of respondents experience at least mild symptoms of anxiety. Rudolphi found that 54 percent of the population reported experiencing mild symptoms of depression.
“We sampled the farmers during the summer, and we don’t know how that might have impacted given the seasonality of ag. We are not sure how that might have impacted mental health,” said Rudolphi.
Evidence suggests that farmers have worse mental health than the general public. However, we cannot fully conclude that statement due to Rudolphi’s sample being homogeneous by only having mostly aging, light-skinned males. More diverse studies are going to be conducted in the future. With these studies, Rudolphi and her team want to develop resources and programs to address mental health in rural or agricultural populations.
Mental Health of Farmers
Life of a farmer can be challenging and stressful. According to a recent research study, over 40 percent of Illinois farmers faced mild symptoms of anxiety or depression in the 2021 planting season. Farming is a demanding occupation that often carries economic uncertainty, exposure to weather events, and isolation. Farmers face economic stressors that include falling commodity prices, natural disasters, and an increasing level of farm debt. Due to these stressors, it is not a surprise that more farmers are experiencing mental health concerns. Farmers need the support others to help them get through their stressors. A healthy farm starts with a healthy farmer. What can one do to help?
- Acknowledge what they are going through
- Give them genuine care and empathy
- Do not wait for them to ask for help
- Let them know you are listening
The five steps to help someone in emotional pain include: ask, be there, stay connected, keep them safe, and help them connect. There are developed resources such as the National Farmers Union’s Farm Crisis Center and the Farm Bureau’s Farm State of Mind that are available to help a farmer’s state of mind. Let’s turn 40 percent into zero!