Bridging the gap between our community and science with Film

Michaela Rose works as a Laboratory Technician in the Haddad lab at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station, and studied Zoology and Film Studies at North Carolina State University. She recently produced a series of films capturing the ecology and research of the KBS LTER.

All of Michaela’s videos can be viewed on the Kellogg Biological Station YouTube page!

Michaela capturing images of the LTER.

Although there are many media forms where we consume information on the daily, film remains one of the most influential. Short snippets or stories on social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram are viewed by people all the time; so what better way for the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) to reach out to the surrounding community than by making science videos? That was the goal of my 2020 film fellowship project – to create fun and exciting videos to share beyond KBS and into the surrounding community, hopefully increasing the community’s interest and knowledge of ecological studies conducted at our field station. Our videos ended up reaching an even wider audience than we first anticipated. I hope they will continue to impact the community in a positive way and that KBS can continue to create fun learning experiences through this media. 

Throughout the summer and fall, I had the opportunity to produce and record short films showing researchers from different KBS labs conducting their projects in the field. Many of these projects are not only important for ecological research, but also address some of the world’s most pressing sustainability questions; specifically in reference to agriculture and its impacts. I wanted to give the community a chance to get an inside look into the work going on at KBS, right from within their homes. This access is especially important during a global pandemic, a time where people cannot come visit the fields of the KBS LTER (Long-term Ecological Research) in person. By providing a closer look into the scientific processes behind these studies, we can provide an educational and fun experience for viewers.

A moment with a praying mantis, captured in the fields of the LTER.

Since I am also working as a lab technician in the Haddad lab, I thought portraying the field tasks I was helping grad students in my lab conduct every day would be a great start. This idea helped Kara Haas and me to create the ‘Moments From The Field’ video project, a series of short clips giving overview information on different research techniques in the Main Cropping System Experiment fields of the LTER site. Whether we were catching insects in pitfall traps or conducting butterfly surveys, I found that it was very important to portray this research first hand, allowing others to both learn more about projects going on at KBS, and inspire them to possibly pursue careers in a similar field. The fields of the LTER, and the research done in them, provided such an interesting backdrop and context for these videos and others we have created.

After collaborating and brainstorming ideas with my colleagues in the beginning of summer, we set out to the LTER fields to film. From videos discussing the importance of prairie strips, to examining the ecological differences between plots, I found that everyone I was filming had so much passion surrounding their research and were super excited to share their studies with the community at large. It was very exciting to film, even during days where one line would take 10 tries to get right; or when catching that perfect camera lighting meant setting out to the field early in the morning. Everyone’s willingness to help me create these outreach videos was amazing and I truly appreciated all the hard work and support.

Michaela filming in main cropping system experiment of the KBS LTER.

After filming, I would gather and watch clips, thinking about how I could put them together in a way that told an interesting and informative story. I have learned so much about editing software through this fellowship and how to use it to display this research. I know this knowledge will definitely be something I use in the future, as I hope to continue with my passion for film and science communication. Once the videos were edited and finished, we were able to post them to the KBS youtube page to be shared on zoom seminars, social media posts, and other platforms.

These videos have reached audiences far beyond our expectations to people I hadn’t imagined before, including teachers, potential future KBS researchers, and even National Science Foundation officers. Current KBS researchers who had been missing the field work experience due to COVID-19 were even able to use these videos to take a little trip back to the field. This virtual access is so important during this challenging time, and I am so glad I was able to contribute my work to that level of information sharing. Thank you to everyone who was featured or helped in the process of making these videos; you are greatly appreciated. And thank you to everyone who viewed and shared these videos, I am glad to have gone on these field trips with you!