Category Archives: Research


Knight Center director speaks in Germany

Environmental journalists around the world face physical, legal, emotional and economic perils for doing their work. Meanwhile, more than 25 years after the USSR collapsed, the Soviet legacy of environmental degradation still plagues the 15 countries that emerged from its dismantled empire.

Eric Freedman with agroforestry workshop team members at the “me Convention” in Frankfurt

Those were the broad stories that Knight Center director Eric Freedman told during two presentations at the recent “me Convention” in Frankfurt, Germany. The convention featured a wide variety of international speakers on technology, education, futuristic visions, exploration, diversity, entrepreneurship, story-telling, science fiction and societal changes.

In “At Distant Ends of the Soviet Empire: Environmental Challenges Today,” Freedman focused on major ecological problems in three parts of the former Soviet Union – overfishing in the Baltic Sea, poaching and illegal logging in the Republic of Georgia and the near-death of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The presentation drew on his teaching, professional trainings and research as a Fulbright Scholar in Uzbekistan, Lithuania and the Republic of Georgia.

Those problems are representative of wide-ranging environmental legacies of the 70 years of the Soviet regime, including nuclear contamination, toxic wastes from industrial facilities, soil salinity, deforestation, habitat destruction, oil and gas drilling, mining and overdevelopment. Policies, practices and mindsets of that era remain huge barriers to environmental sustainability, and most of the 15 new countries that emerged from the ruins of the USSR lacked the financial means, political will, public support and technical expertise to stem, let alone reverse, decades of the spoliation of natural resources, destruction of habitats and crumbling infrastructure.

For Freedman’s second presentation, he used the experiences of four journalists to illustrate the dangers environmental journalists confront around the world. Rodney Sieh was imprisoned and fined for reporting on corruption in a public health project in Liberia. Bartholomaeus Grill was detained and threatened with death for reporting on rhino poaching in Mozambique. Miles Howe was arrested for reporting on First Nations protests against oil and gas exploration in Canada. Abeer Saady was physically attacked for reporting on toxic dumping into the Nile River in Egypt.

Some of their colleagues have been killed for their work. Those who survived arrest, assault, threats, self-exile, lawsuits and harassment have suffered physical, emotional and financial ramifications. Some have left journalism as a result, although others discovered that adversity strengthened their sense of mission.

During the me Convention, Freedman participated in other sessions, including a workshop on how to use “design thinking” to develop agroforestry projects that could promote sustainability and food security by replacing tree monoculture and overdependence on irrigation and chemicals. In that session led by Felipe Villela, the founder of reNature, teams of participants sketched out ideas that could integrate the growing of food crops, timber and biomass in a variety of countries.

In another workshop session, Ari Popper, the founder of SciFutures, demonstrated how businesses can use science fiction storytelling to envision and help plan their own futures.


Knight Center faculty gives advice on explaining research

Knight Center Associate Director David Poulson was cited recently in an article on expanding possibilities for STEM students.

His advice on explaining research: “You only need 2 sentences. Tell people the most interesting thing you do, then tell them why it’s important.”

The article was written by Ellie Louson of MSU’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. Poulson is a Hub Fellow this year.  He and Louson were on a recent science communication panel put on for MSU’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Knight Center faculty present latest research

Two Knight Center faculty presented some of their latest research at the recent Conference on Communication and the Environment at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Knight Center director Eric Freedman and University of St. Thomas Professor Mark Neuzil.

In one paper, center director Eric Freedman examined the state of environmental journalism in the Republic of Georgia, where he spent the fall 2018 semester teaching journalism at Caucasus University and conducting research through the Fulbright Program.

Based on interviews with journalists, representatives of environmental and multinational organizations, scientists and other experts, the paper identified major barriers to effective environmental journalism in the country: the environment’s lack of priority among news media owners and politicians; staff shortages at news organizations; journalists’ inadequate substantive knowledge about the environment; and the costs of coverage.

Freedman’s second conference paper examined the National Park Service’s media strategy and techniques after it announced plans to translocate wolves from the U.S. and Canadian mainland to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. His coauthors are Professor Mark Neuzil of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Alexander Killian, a Ph.D. student at Boise State University who earned his master’s degree in fisheries and wildlife at MSU.

Continue reading

Knight Center alum, research director win top paper award

Ran Duan presentation

Ran Duan, a Ph.D. graduate of the Knight Center and currently an assistant professor at the University or Reno, Nevada, and research director Bruno Takahashi won a top faculty paper award from the International Communication Association.

The award was presented by the Environmental Communication Division during the association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., in May. The paper titled “How Engaging Are Concrete Images? the Moderating Role of Construal Level in Climate Change Visual Communication” was co-authored with Knight Center’s affiliated faculty member, Assistant Professor Adam Zwickle of the School of Criminal Justice.