29 July 2018

By Marina Joubert

Communication is all about making connections, science populariser Dave Pepler told the MPhil class of 2018 during a guided tour of the Stellenbosch University botanical gardens on Friday 27 July 2018. “Read voraciously”, he told the group, “because it is trough reading – as much and as widely as possible – that you make these connections”.

“Aim for supreme simplicity,” was his advice on the topic of writing about science for a non-specialist audience. “If you can’t find a simple way to convey a complex idea, you have not thought about it long enough!”

Throughout the tour, Dave stopped at rare and unusual plants to explain why botanical gardens are unique spaces for engaging people with science. In addition to playing a key role in conservation and education, these gardens also have a social and spiritual role, he said.

Drawing on examples from nature, emotions such as beauty, horror and hope become the arrows in your science communication quiver, he added. He believes that science communicators can use nature to ‘earth’ people and to help them experience awe and wonder, but also sadness about the ongoing loss of biodiversity.