Say it with Pictures: Visual Science Communication

Join the SOBA community to discuss the opportunities and challenges of visual science communication.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


June 13, 2013 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Scientists produce data, results, and knowledge every day. But how are their findings visually represented, and are those representations successful in communicating the concepts at hand?

Join the SOBA community to hear from visual science communicators including scientist Joe Hanson, who shares the philosophy behind his imagery-rich videos, It’s Okay to Be Smart, for PBS Digital Studios. Ryan Wyatt, Director of the Morrison Planetarium and Visualization Studio at the California Academy of Sciences, talks about how his team creates stunning digital representations of scientific information for the public. And traditional illustrators explain how they tackled bringing fictional animals to life for an image gallery edited by Wired Science reporter Nadia Drake.

With the help of moderator Perrin Ireland, senior science communication specialist for the NRDC and active livescriber, interact with the panel to answer questions about the important role of illustrations, comics, videos, and other visual devices in understanding science.

This event takes place at swissnex San Francisco, where the gallery of nonexistent hybrid animals, created with Wired Science and the Science Illustration Program at CSUMB, will be on display.

Presentations are followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Continue the conversation at a nearby bar (to be announced at the event). Presentations and discussion livestreamed. Follow the event on Twitter (@sciobayarea, #sobay), and like SOBA on Facebook.


6:30 pm   doors open
7:00 pm   talks and panel discussion moderated by Perrin Ireland
8:30 pm   event ends


Katie Bertsche

It was a toss-up between going to study art or biology, but ultimately Katie Bertsche went to university to study zoology and to chase birds, lizards and tree-kangaroos around Australia. After returning to the states and working as an architectural designer, she renewed her original love of drawing from nature by studying science illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and in the Science Illustration Graduate program at CSU Monterey Bay. Subjects she specializes in drawing include but are not limited to: skeletons, megafauna, birds, proteacea, sea slugs and particle physics. She is currently working as a freelance illustrator and fine artist in Berkeley, California.


Lucy Conklin

As the child of two biologists, San Francisco based illustrator Lucy Conklin assumed all adults knew the scientific names of wildflowers. She grew up with terms like “rigor mortis” and still can’t cross a footbridge without checking the river below for fish. This early introduction to the sciences led her to pursue physics in college. After a brief diversion to New York City, she returned to the sciences by way of the arts through the Science Illustration program at California State University at Monterey Bay. She hopes that her illustrations encourage young people, especially young women, to get excited about the sciences. @lucyconklin


 Nadia Drake

Nadia Drake is a science journalist at Wired. After finishing her PhD in genetics from Cornell University, she swapped the lab for the newsroom and headed off to UCSC’s Science Communication program. After graduating, her first job was as the astronomy reporter for Science News, based in Washington, D.C., where she traveled to places like Alaska, Beijing, and Nantes, France in search of astronomy stories. Now, Nadia is happy to be back on the left coast, and relishes the opportunity to write about planets and animals and everything in between (especially spiders), especially if it involves Iapetus, Saturn’s strangest and most awesome moon. @slugnads


 Joe Hanson

Joe Hanson is a PhD biologist, host/writer of the PBS Digital Studios web series “It’s Okay To Be Smart”, and creator of the award-winning blog of the same name. He is currently a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Wired Magazine. After ten years at the lab bench, he decided to talk to people about science for a living, since that’s his favorite thing to do. @jtotheizzoe


 Perrin Ireland

Perrin Ireland is Senior Science Communications Specialist for the NRDC in San Francisco. She’s been a self-professed “doodler” her entire life, a learner who needs to visualize concepts in order to understand them. When classmates began asking for copies of her college biology notes to hang on their refrigerator, she realized she was on to something and has been a professional science doodler ever since. Her job at NRDC is to help tell the story of how science plays a part in their work. @experrinment


Michele Johnson

Michele Johnson is the public affairs officer for NASA’s planet-finding Kepler Mission based at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Bio coming soon. @michelejohnson and @nasakepler


Ryan Wyatt

Ryan Wyatt, Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences, wrote and directed the Academy’s three award-winning fulldome planetarium features, Fragile Planet (2008), Life: A Cosmic Story (2010), and Earthquake: Evidence of a Restless Planet (2012). Prior to arriving in San Francisco, Ryan worked for six years as Science Visualizer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and opened technologically-advanced planetariums in Phoenix, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ryan has also worked to develop standards and “best practices” in the planetarium community; along with Dan Neafus and Ed Lantz, he is one of the Founding Directors of IMERSA (Immersive Media Entertainment, Research, Science & Arts), which celebrates and promotes immersive digital experiences for education and entertainment in planetariums, schools, museums, and attractions. On an informal level, Ryan’s rarely-updated “Visualizing Science” blog provides a look at his ideas and opinions related to visual representations of science.



Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos