Category Archives: Communications Corner

Communications Corner

Florida State Fair 2020

The Florida State Fair in Tampa runs from Thursday, Feb. 6, to Monday, Feb. 17 this year and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute will once again be in attendance. FWRI’s display gives the public an overview of the diverse research that goes on at the Institute and a look at some of our current projects. Staff speak with fair attendees, explaining the Institute and their own role within the agency. Thank you to the volunteers from FWRI who make our participation a reality.

Communications Corner

MarineQuest 25

As many know by now, the 25th anniversary of FWRI’s open house, MarineQuest, was cancelled this year due to Tropical Storm Nestor, which brought severe thunderstorms and high winds to the Tampa Bay area. While the public open house on Saturday was cancelled, School Daze still went on without any issues on Thursday and Friday and many school-children were able to experience a day of fish and wildlife education and fun. There were some new editions this year, like the “Bat Bonanza” display that had visitors exploring a “cave” and examining real Florida bat specimens.

This is the first time MarineQuest has been cancelled in its history, which is itself something of an achievement. While it is unfortunate that FWRI had to cancel the event, the safety of staff and visitors takes precedence. We look forward to seeing everyone next year at MarineQuest 26!

Communications Corner

FWRI Celebrates 25 Years of MarineQuest this October

On Saturday, October 19th, FWRI celebrates the 25th anniversary of MarineQuest, our annual open house. This award-winning event is an opportunity for us to share with the public the depth of FWRI research. For newer employees who haven’t experienced MarineQuest, the main building and labs are open to the public where researchers guide them through each lab, engaging all ages with trivia and exercises designed to communicate science.

MarineQuest open house on October 19th runs from 10am – 4pm. School-Daze, which are two days before the open house, October 17th and 18th, is specifically for schools who sign-up ahead of time. School Daze is designed to give area schools the chance to tour FWRI before the Saturday open house, which is highly attended. Learn more here.

Communications Corner

On Location

FWRI’s Communications staff has been busy in the field this last quarter, shooting video for a variety of research projects across the state. As many of you know, we produce our videos in-house with footage we shoot, both with 4k digital film cameras and DSLR still cameras. Keep an eye out for a video documenting Kevin Enge’s mark-recapture study of the Florida scrub lizard, which translocated scrub lizards from Seabranch Preserve State Park in Martin County to Hypoluxo Scrub Natural Area in Palm Beach County.

We also recently completed filming at Ft. De Soto Park in Tampa Bay for Fisheries Independent Monitoring’s new training video. This was a large shoot, incorporating underwater GoPro footage as well as overhead drone footage to capture best training practices for setting a variety of different gears.

At the Research Institute, a shark ID workshop, led by Brent Winner, was also documented with photos and video.

The Communications staff extends a generous thank you to all FWC staff that assisted, explained, and generally put up with us and our cameras during field work. If you think you might have an idea for a video for your section, please let Communications know!

Carol Davis shooting video in Tampa Bay for FIM’s new training video.

Communications Corner

Media Training Seminar

On January 7th Doc Kokol, a communications specialist and Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, visited FWRI to give a presentation and training day on the ins-and-out of working with the media. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Bigger words are not always better. In a media interview, most of your audience does not have a PhD in biology, like you may have, so you must adjust your language accordingly. Don’t speak to the reporter like they’re uneducated, but also don’t give a high-level explanation with lots of technical jargon. Remember, you’re not dumbing down your subject matter – you’re putting it into layman’s terms. A true expert can explain complex aspects of their field to a sixth grader.
  • Anticipate and practice. If you’re an expert in your field, you can probably anticipate a lot of the questions a reporter is going to ask you ahead of time. Write them down and practice in front of a mirror, or even better, on camera. Pay special attention to the questions you don’t want to be asked, because you’ll probably be asked them.
  • 27 words is all you have. Doc highlighted a study where researchers looked at hundreds of interviews and determined that the interviewee had only 27 words, 9 seconds and three messages before the interviewer started cutting them off or paraphrasing what you said, raising the chances of getting something wrong. Try to pre-prepare a statement that is succinct, but fully answers the question.  
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Never try and answer a question you don’t know the answer to – it could get you into serious trouble. Simply give the reason why you don’t know or can’t answer and tell them you can follow up or connect them with someone who can give the answer. Remember: “No, but…” Always follow your “no” with a “but” of what information you can give them. “Unfortunately, I can’t answer that, but what I can tell you is…” This technique can also help you guide the conversation away from controversial topics.
  • When in doubt, ask the Communications Office. It’s what we’re here for.

Communications Corner

FWRI Wins ACI Awards

This past August, we received word that FWC had won several awards from the Association of Conservation Information (ACI). The most popular and successful of the ACI programs is the annual awards contest, which “recognizes excellence and promotes craft improvement through competition.” These annual awards are held nationwide every  year. Professionals from the public and private sector evaluate all entries and offer written, constructive critiques.

FWRI’s Communications Department received first place for “MarineQuest Logo” in the Graphics: Advertising/Display category!

Other FWC winners include:

Third place for “Reel in and Recycle!” in the “One-time Publication: Brochure” category.

Third place for “Northern Bobwhite Quail Sightings Webpage” in the “Success on a Shoestring” category.

Second place for “FLOW: The Chipola River Story” in the “Video Long” category.

Third place for “FWRI Monthly Highlights” in the “External Newsletter” category.

Second place for “Big Leap Forward for Florida Panther Conservation” in the “Conservation Post of the Year” category.

First place for “” in the “Website” category.

First place for “Coyote-Pet Safety Infographic Poster” in the “Poster” category.

New Employee Introduction

In lieu of new research into bonefish or manatees or trichodesmium, I was given the opportunity to introduce myself in this quarter’s Communication Corner. In an effort to keep things comfortable and concise I’ll be interviewing myself:

What’s your name and position?

My name is Jonathan Veach, although I go by Jonny, and work in the Communications Department as an Information Specialist.

What do you like to do? 

My favorite hobbies are hiking, backpacking and paddling. An ideal Saturday is grabbing a lox bagel from St. Pete Bagel Company, heading over to Weedon Island, hiking the trails, and paddling the mangrove trails in my canoe. I’m looking forward to finding some time to make it down to the Everglades for an overnight paddling trip. Best backpacking trip I’ve done was a week-long trek around Shoshone Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. I love cooking and gardening, and started getting into orchids after moving to Florida.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from downstate Illinois. Before I moved to Florida I lived in Mississippi for four years where I attended grad school at the University of Mississippi for an MFA in Creative Writing.

Any pets?

Two cats: Ouija and Luna

Who do you admire most and why?

Probably John Muir. The relentless energy he put towards preserving natural lands makes him larger than life, the ecstatic holy-man of the mountains. I love the (probably fictional) story of Muir getting picked up by a cab in San Francisco on arriving in the city for the first time, “Where do you want to go?” the cab driver asked, “Anywhere that’s wild,” was Muir’s response. Even though Muir’s writing is infused with the divine, he never loses a wry sense of humor: “The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.”

Mystery Creature

By Michelle Kerr

We receive some interesting calls and messages in the FWRI Communications Office. Sometimes inquiries require multiple experts’ input from a variety of agencies across the state. FWRI is the go-to for identifying unknown species, alive or dead, and on March 19 we received a photo from a news station in Jacksonville that stumped marine biologists and avid fishermen alike.

This ‘creature’ was sighted on the shore of Wolf Island, GA by a man and his son while out boating. Its long neck, small mouth, and distinct tail shape had experts stumped. The fresh-looking pink guts eluded to its authenticity. Biologists speculated it was a frilled shark, but it looked more like a dinosaur. Was this a well-done photoshop prank, or perhaps a movie prop?

Some said it looked identical to an Elasmosaurus – a genus of plesiosaur that lived in North America during the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous period (only about 80.5 million years ago). Layers of the story unfolded as others did more research. Someone stumbled on the Altamaha-ha: a legendary, mythical sea monster thought to inhabit the Altamaha River in Georgia. No one found physical evidence of the carcass, and the story was dismissed as a hoax.

Filming in the Field

By Jessica Prakke

Here are our top FIVE tips to remember when filming in the field:

  1. Follow safety protocol. Wear your PFD while on a moving vessel. Wear close-toed shoes when in the lab, etc. One of the main reasons our office can’t use a video clip is if someone is not following these protocols while being filmed.

    This is an example of what not to do. The vessel is moving and no one is wearing their PFD. These staff members identities have been blurred under the communications protection program.
  2. Wear an FWC shirt. We want people to identify you with FWC and this is an easy way of doing that, especially when we are working with other organizations who are heavily branded.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask to start over. The beauty of filming is that anything can be edited. Sometimes when someone screws up they have a tendency to get in their head. Take a minute and a breath, and simply try again.

    All staff members wearing their FWC shirts during a manatee release, an event that can attract news outlets.
  4. Dress for the camera. Avoid wearing white because it reflects too much light. If possible, take off your sunglasses for an interview.Don’t wear any copyright or branded logos (ex. sports teams).
  5. Assume the camera is always rolling. This especially applies when news outlets are involved. As a representative of FWC you don’t want to be caught in your own words.

MarineQuest 2017

By Michelle Kerr

Voyage into science at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at MarineQuest 2017!

Making nerdy cool since 1995, this free, family-friendly event features more than 60 exhibits from FWC and other conservation organizations. Visitors can explore and play throughout the indoor and outdoor activities, including touch tanks, face-painting, archery, and more.

Held in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Science Festival, MarineQuest visitors get an exclusive look into Florida’s latest fish and wildlife research.

This year’s event will feature a speaker series where guests can learn about manatee rescues, sharks, coyotes, and other interesting talks by FWC’s experts.

About the MarineQuest logo:
Focus in on fish and wildlife research through the eyes of a scientist at MarineQuest. Microscopes help scientists see the big picture. From seagrasses to grasshopper sparrows, the 43 unique icons of plants and animals that make up this microscope image represent the Institute’s five research sections: Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration, Freshwater Fisheries Research, Information Science and Management, Marine Fisheries Research, and Wildlife Research.