By Amanda Proscia
With noses running, bodies shivering and faces smiling, three Knight Center student journalists recently snowshoed to a session of an environmental journalism workshop.
The Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources (IJNR) hosted the two-day “Talking Science, Telling Stories” workshop in South Bend, Indiana, for reporters mostly from the Midwest.
Kevin Duffy, Amanda Proscia and Jenna Chapman – all reporters for the center’s Great Lakes Echo news service – were among the 18 journalists who learned about environmental issues affecting the Great Lakes region
The first day the journalists traveled to Etna, Indiana to explore a new “two-stage ditch,” developed by Notre Dame researchers. It helps curb nutrient pollution from water runoff into rivers and streams – the same issue causing algae to bloom in Lake Erie.
They then returned to South Bend to snowshoe to Notre Dame’s Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility, a partnership with St. Patrick’s County Park.
The research station is composed of artificial ponds linked to streams and wetlands to simulate real world conditions for experiments – giving a much more accurate result than ecosystem experiments conducted in a lab.
After slogging through the snow-covered fields, the group headed inside to discuss the perils of writing about risk in a session led by David Poulson, the Knight Center’s senior associate director.
The second day the journalists visited Notre Dame’s science labs to learn about environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling. The technology allows researchers to detect the presence of species such as the Asian Carp in a body of water from just a water sample.
The group learned about extracting eDNA and what it means for the future of identifying invasive species in bodies of water.
They then discussed reporters marketing themselves as journalists and building their brand in a talk led by Dave Spratt, IJNR’s chief executive officer, and Mike Scott, the group’s digital media trainer.
Next they traveled to the Indiana Dunes State Park to see how Notre Dame scientists are protecting the Karner Blue Butterfly. Last summer only one of the endangered butterfly was found in the usual Karner habitat within the park.
The journalists learned the possible causes of the Karner’s population decrease – one of which is climate change. Scientists and rangers also explained their options to give the population in the park a boost – like relocating a few butterflies from established populations in other states to the park.
After a brief Karner Q&A follow-up session, the journalists parted ways with new friendships and networking connections.