In today’s episode, Jo talks with Abigail Dean about her personal experience from working in the conservation and environmental research field to citizen science projects to web design and social media. Abigail shares her insights about the importance of being able to communicate research and science in a digestible way to the general public that doesn’t have a science background.
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In today’s episode, Jo talks with Abigail Dean about her personal experience from working in the conservation and environmental research field to citizen science projects to web design and social media. Abigail shares her insights about the importance of being able to communicate research and science in a digestible way to the general public that doesn’t have a science background.
At Access 2 Perspectives, we provide novel insights into the communication and management of Research. Our goal is to equip researchers with the skills and enthusiasm they need to pursue a successful and joyful career.
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Web design was not Abigail’s original path. Abigail Dean, the founder of Blue Fem Tech, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology from Colorado State University. After graduating, she earned a few dream internship positions. Abigail had the incredible opportunity to lead a citizen science project collecting sea turtle habitat data along the pacific coast of Mexico, then she worked on a marine wildlife rescue team on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Working in the environmental field, Abigail started to observe a disconnect. She was working with incredible organizations that were providing crucial services to helping our planet, but they weren’t always connecting with the audience they needed support from. Abigail decided to start a blog to write about marine conservation and intentional living. After she taught herself how to build the website and started blogging, she realized she enjoyed the process of designing the site much more than writing for the blog. So she started helping people she knew who owned incredible businesses, but ineffective websites. The first person she helped was a captain of an ecotourism sailboat charter out of La Paz, Baja California Sur Mexico. Then she built a site for a non-profit yoga retreat business that raised money for sea turtle research and conservation. Over the past three years, Abigail has been helping organizations and small businesses improve the way they visually communicate with their audience and how they implement their online strategy.
What is your favorite animal and why? My favorite animal is Tank, a white tiger currently living out his life at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation. His presence is profound. He is a beautiful product of an ugly world. There is something about his crystal blue eyes that lights a fire within me to do everything I can to preserve tigers from being able to live in the wild. Although Carson Springs is one of the best sanctuaries I have ever worked at, you can see in Tank’s eyes that he longs for something more. He yearns for something he has never experienced and probably never will. Freedom to roam in a natural world.
Name your (current) favorite song and interpret/group. Andrew Bird
What is your favorite dish/meal? Fried avocado tacos
Jo: You’re listening to Access 2 perspectives conversations. My name is Jo Havemann.
We’re here today with Abigail Dean. So, Abigail, welcome to the show. It’s a great pleasure to have you here.
Abigail: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jo: Yeah. And we met quite recently in networking community. And again, I highly recommend anybody who is listening to any communities and not just one or two, but whatever interests you. So we have a shared interest in business development and purpose driven, that is. In the prep talk to this conversation, you mentioned the term, which was new to me, triple bottom line businesses whom you’re aiming to serve as a web strategist, conceptualist, and designer with the services that you provide, which we came to learn more about. Maybe let’s get started with getting to know you because you also have a research angle or you started as a researcher or considered a researcher’s career and then figured that maybe entrepreneurship is more your thing. So how did this play out for you? Like, what was the trajectory in the past?
Abigail: Originally, I went to College for fish, wildlife and conservation and global environmental sustainability. So I’ve always been very passionate about our natural world and protecting it. A lot of people who go down that degree path end up in the research field, which is where I thought I was going to end up. After College, I landed two incredible internships. So the first one was working on a sailing fleet, teaching sailors about sea turtles how to identify sea turtles, and then log their data for a citizen science project, which was gathering a bunch of data about where sea turtles hang out all across the Pacific Coast of Baja. That was incredible. So I kind of got more interested in conservation communication there rather than actually doing the research myself. I loved watching people’s faces light up when we were talking about sea turtles or when they learned that they could be part of it, or when they were learning something that they maybe didn’t think they would be able to learn about. Because sometimes science can feel like this elusive thing and this overwhelming thing to people who don’t have scientific backgrounds. So that sparks my passion for conservation communications. And then I got a second internship in Hawaii. I was working on a marine rescue team, so we were working with the Hawaiian Monk seals, Seavers and sea turtles because they all kind of hang out on the beaches and hang out on the ground, which pose a lot of threats. And there’s a lot of people and stray cats. And Hawaiian wildlife has a lot of struggles. But mainly what I ended up doing there was a lot of education work, talking to people on the beaches, talking to tourists about the endangered species, what they can do to help, what they shouldn’t be doing. And after working with these incredible organizations, I started to notice that there was a disconnect between the incredible mission that they had and being able to communicate that to the general public. And I remember there was this eco tourism group I worked with. They had this beautiful sailboat, and they would take people out on eco tours. You could go swimming and snorkeling and see Dolphins and sea turtles and their reefs. And their website just looked like a four year old put it together. So there wasn’t anyone that was going to that website. Like, yes, this is so attractive and beautiful, and I want to work with them. It was also really difficult to navigate. So that kind of planted a seed in my mind. And then I was really passionate about starting to write about these issues I was seeing. I wanted to write about the disconnect I was seeing, and I wanted to bring more people into the environmental movement. So I started a blog. And sometimes when I’m interested in things, I’ll hyper focus and get way too deep into it. So I ended up building this really beautiful website. And once it was ready for me to start blogging, I realized I enjoyed the building of the website much more than actually writing the blog. So I remembered this eco tourism group, and I just offered to build them a website. I built one for a yoga nonprofit that was funding sea turtle research and just was kind of doing it to help some people out, to help out some business owners I knew. And then the pandemic hit, and my internship ended. And my plan had been to try and find a job in marine education, maybe at an aquarium, or maybe to try and go back to grad school or do something along those lines. But the pandemic, as for everyone, shook up my life. And I remember I sat down with my Journal, I made a list of all the skills I had, and I was like, how can I make money from my laptop? And I was like, what if I try web design? And yeah, it’s really turned into an incredible thing because I love thinking about the user that’s coming to your website and how they’re able to move through what you’re offering. A lot of websites aren’t always designed with the person that’s visiting them, even though that’s the whole purpose of having a website. So that is what I focus on today. Visual communication, conservation communication. And I also work with other small businesses, just helping them communicate better to their audience. That’s how I got into web design and graphic design.
Jo: Yeah, I mean, that’s a straightforward path, I would say, with fewer turning points, but one natural step to take, one after the other. And now the term, what was it? Triple bottom line.
Abigail: Triple bottom line.
Jo: Just share with us what that means. So one bottom line, like, the bottom line is usually making money as a business.
Abigail: Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of why our Earth is suffering so badly right now is a lot of business models, especially in capitalist societies, they focus on this bottom line that is just profit. So when your only focus is to make money and to make more of it and to have wider margins, things end up getting cut to save costs. So that’s how we end up having pollution straight into our water systems instead of paying to properly take care of it. And then it also becomes a human rights issue. As we know, a lot of things are still made outside, like at least here for the United States. A lot of our stuff is still made in other countries because we’re outsourcing to places where we can exploit really cheap labor. So something that’s really important to me and the businesses that I try to work with is called the triple bottom line, that’s people, planet and profit. We still live in this world where we need to have profitable businesses, the exchange of plenty of money. But to be able to set up your business and communicate your business in a way where you’re still putting people and the planet first, you’re not cutting corners that are putting people and the environment at risk.
Jo: Which makes a lot of sense. And I feel that research as an industry or as a sector in societies around the world is also discovering or rediscovering values based research, meaning making sure that the research approach is purpose driven for many disciplines, maybe not all, but at least has as little as necessary negative impact on the environment or societies in terms of societies. When I come to think about philosophical or psychological studies where we engage with local communities and sometimes Indigenous communities and wherever in the world like to make sure that there’s also benefit for them to share what they have to share or what they’re willing to share to make sure there’s a mutual benefit. And not only the excavation of knowledge for the sake of research, whatever that may be, but to actually have a reasoning behind that, holistic the approach and also invite the people being interviewed into the research design process. So in that sense, I think we’re still in the early stages. Our different disciplines are approaching this, and many individuals are urging us to approach this in a sustainable manner, both for humans and the environment at large, for the planet at large. And yet there’s also a lot of ways that’s being produced, a lot of suffering along the way, or no return of investment of the stakeholders of research who are participating in one or the other way. And we had an episode, for example, on helicopter research with a colleague, Nicholas Outa, in a previous episode about helicopter research where researchers from often Western countries come to, in this case, Kenya work with the local researchers and then the output is being generated exclusively under the Western researchers names. So there’s not much or very little or no benefit whatsoever in the local researchers in the global south to even participate in the first place. But there were a lot of hopes in building these partnerships, and that’s a recurring topic. And there’s also an increasing amount of talk and counter strategizing to counter that effect to happen, and that then can also easily have a negative impact on the environment. One of the other topics and discipline. So in a sense, like what I’m trying to say is that in research, I think we need and do have already similar mind shifts of how businesses or research should be conducted and can be conducted more sustainably, environmentally or planet friendly. So this is basically your niche, also your target audience or as a service provider to exclusively work with businesses who already have that ‘why’ clear to themselves and need your service and expertise in getting their messages out there. Have you found it difficult to position yourself on the market or like having such a clear scope or idea of your favorite clients to get to work and also generate sustainable income for yourself as a business?
Abigail: So, yeah, this is the mission that I originally started out with when I was trying to start my web design business was to work with environmentally driven companies and reaching them at first was really difficult. So I’ve kind of pivoted a few times, and I’ve definitely started to work with a lot of just small businesses in the St. Pete area and working with a lot of people who have more social driven missions, I guess. But now I’m pivoting the focus back to working with environmental companies. I think that there are some challenges that come with that because sometimes there’s not a ton of funding to do marketing. Sometimes they may not see the importance of communicating online exactly what they’re doing. But I also find that there are a lot of really passionate people, especially in blue tech startups, that understand the importance of their digital presence, of their online presence, and are really passionate and invested in getting online and having a cohesive brand, a cohesive front, and having a lot of places where people are able to find them online and get behind that mission. And I think that’s definitely something I connect with people over because these businesses have incredible missions and they’re incredibly important to this world. But they may not totally understand the purpose of what they’re trying to do with the website, but getting them to understand that we can inspire people with a really good design, like taking your brand and your mission and communicating it through a visual design can inspire people to take action. It can invoke certain feelings. What I’ve really been focusing on lately is just honing in on user experience. So when someone sees your online presence or sees how you’re presenting your research or your mission; what do they feel? Do they care about it? Does it draw their attention right away? People today have the shortest attention span. We have to grab them super fast. Being able to present what you’re doing is more important than ever.
Jo: Just briefly, to clarify, what is BlueTech?
Abigail: Bluetech is kind of like a new word. So the blue economy is the idea of ocean resources. So pretty much everything ends up relying on the resources of the ocean at some point, at least here in the United States, because we import so much stuff like computer, clothing, this desk, at least most of our stuff has something in it that was shipped on the ocean. So it’s kind of like the idea of the blue economy and blue tech innovating the way that we interact with the blue economy. So kind of pivoting and innovating how we’re interacting with the ocean in a more sustainable way. So some really awesome examples of BlueTech are some of the machines that are being invented to clean plastic out of the ocean, or BlueTech is also floating infrastructure, thinking about what we’re doing with our cities and like our coastal cities, as the seas are rising and we’re losing a bit of our shorefront, how are we going to pivot with that? There’s incredible stuff going on in Blue Tech.
Jo: There’s also lots and lots of research in that area and opportunities for collaboration between startups, entrepreneurs and companies, private entities of some sort, and research academia in oceanographics. I have a friend and colleague who works there. I hope to have him on the show sometime soon. Sam Depon, who works on ocean acidification as a side effect of climate change. And that’s really tragic because it shifts. Have you heard of that before I mentioned it?
Jo: It’s like the oceans getting more and more acid due to the rising temperatures. Yeah.
And that kind of destroys our changes for ecosystems, like areas.
Yeah. And he’s been blowing the alarm whistle for many years now, ever since I met him, like a decade ago. And I don’t know there’s been much change policy wise, but at least there’s more and more awareness. And it’s been a good starting point to take action on, which you also have to facilitate to get the message heard more widely and more effectively.
What do you miss about research? You said that eventually you discovered for yourself that you see more meaning in the work that you do and facilitate both the research and also the execution on a nonprofit organization side. Are there things that you miss about being a researcher on the research workflows? Or maybe it’s not overshadowed by all the activities. It was a network.
Abigail: I definitely miss being in the field, and I miss being more hands on. And I miss having more clear goals. I feel like things in my school and the research I was a part of, it felt very linear. Felt like there was a lot of procedure and routine. And sometimes being an entrepreneur is so chaotic and it’s all over the place and it’s just wild. Yeah, probably that. But probably being in the field is what I miss the most, being hands on. I feel like sometimes I’m just behind my computer a lot.
Jo: At the same time. It’s also your passion. It’s what you’re good at and where you can see being useful for good purposes and talking about which, like, what are you doing to still get out and away from the screen? Have you built some strategies or habits around how you organize your week or the day even to make sure you have enough off screen time?
Abigail: I think so. Today I was feeling like I could definitely use some more ocean time. So tomorrow morning I’m going paddleboarding, going to start the day out that way. But I also volunteer at a sanctuary, an animal sanctuary. So I try to make it out there at least once a month, and that ends up being like a whole long day adventure, just feeling like I’m being a hands-on part of things again. And I also teach yoga, so I end up having to get outside and move my body with people.
Jo: Well, that’s a clear yes. From what I hear, you do a lot of activities offscreen already that are built into your weekly agenda. When you spoke about sea turtles, I just wanted to share an experience. When I was scuba diving in Australia at the other shore of the Great Barrier Reef. Like every scuba diver’s big dream, the funniest encounter. I was also already quite conscious and aware of animal protection, especially of the sea creatures. And I was guiding a couple who were quite curious and also new to scuba diving. And they were keen on petting all the fish under the water and other creatures. I was like, no, you can’t touch the fish because that would destroy their protective layer there anyways. And then they came to the sea turtle, and they were going to pet that sea turtle as well. Just massive, like one and a half square meters tall. And I was giving them signs, please don’t touch it. Just leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Just look at it. And that’s enough of a joyful experience for you, for us. Then a sea turtle approached me. Apparently my hair attracted it, and I thought it was seagrass or something, but it came close to me. And then snapped my hair. And I was like what’s going on? I had to touch it just to protect myself.
Abigail: Oh, my God.
Jo: And that was such an embarrassment for me. It’s like after being such a lecturer to those people, and they were just right. What are you doing here? What they’re trying to tell us. We didn’t speak about it afterwards when we were above water, but that was like the funniest incident I had with that sea turtle. So huge and cute.
Abigail: It’s massive.
Jo: And it was so cute and kind when I went so closely right after watching them. Like, what?
Abigail: So when I worked on the rescue team in Hawaii, the sea turtles slept on land there. It’s the only place in the world the green sea turtles regularly sleep on land. Most people know that pretty much only the females go on land when they’re nesting. There are some other places where sea turtles have been sleeping on land, like in Australia. But regularly, Hawaii is the only place, and researchers really don’t know exactly why there. But before I started that internship with the rescue team, I thought most of what I was going to be doing was rescues, helping injured sea turtles, injured seabirds and Monk seals. But it ended up mainly being education in a way. I felt like I was babysitting people a lot. There are a lot of tourists that come to Hawaii, and they don’t know that these animals are endangered. And it’s really interesting to me because I feel like I grew up in the Colorado Rocky mountains. Like, I understand that there’s wildlife, and you respect it. And so when I was working in Hawaii, there was this one beach on the north shore. It’s very famous for tour buses stopping there to see the sleeping turtles because you can get right up to them. You’re not supposed to, but people do. And a lot of what I was doing was telling people that you’re not allowed to sit on the sea turtles.
Jo: Why would they even consider that?
Abigail: Well, it was really interesting because it was a trend for people to sit down and see turtles and take a picture of it and post it on Instagram. So one day I was working up there, and there was this researcher who, coincidentally, was working with the same College I went to, which is all the way in Colorado. But she was asking that I not interact with people for that day because she was observing their behavior, and she was a social scientist. So her goal was to observe how people were interacting with the sea turtles beforehand. So with this trend of, like, sitting on top of them. And then her goal was to implement this plan through social media to encourage people to take perspective photos. So instead of getting a picture of you sitting on the turtle, you’re doing something with your hands that makes you look like you’re making a heart around the sea turtle or that you’re, like, holding it with your hands. And so you have to be, like, 10ft away to make a photo like that work. And I love that. It was so inspiring. It’s a brilliant way of using the digital world and social media to try and affect how people are interacting with endangered animals.
Jo: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Is that hashtag still available, or can we link that in the kind of resources?
Abigail: I don’t know. I can try to find it, unfortunately. I think the project flopped because I met her maybe two weeks before the original COVID lockdown in Hawaii. So you weren’t allowed to be on the beaches. So the project got, as far as I know, it ended. Researchers had to go back to the mainland and people weren’t allowed to be out anyways.
Jo: It was never implemented on scale. But it’s a beautiful idea. Maybe whoever’s listening will kind of pull off a hashtag campaign similar to that with other critics from scuba diving. I know, like I said, most turtles sleep under riffs, so they tuck themselves under cliffs and underwater not to float up while they sleep. And then it’s very popular in Australia, warm water scuba diving to do night dives because it’s a whole different scenery at night and a lot of critters and fish going around at night are active or more crustaceans rather. Not so many fish. But then it’s one of the big things to see a sleeping shark or sea turtle. And then the tragedy is that when people shine their lights on them probably also heard about that, they are confused. They have no orientation. They don’t know where to go. And then if they don’t because when they sleep, their metabolism goes down so they don’t have to breathe as often. Like sea turtles are lung animals, so they have to breathe. And then when there’s torch light, when you shine your torch light on them, they are likely to wake up. And then it’s good practice, first of all, not to shine into their faces so they don’t won’t wake up. But some obviously do. And then if that happens, then you have to shine your torch in the other direction so they find a way up to the surface so they can breathe because that’s when they need to breathe. Otherwise they panic. And then like many drown in these incidents. And that’s just so sad. And the scuba divers wouldn’t realize that because it happens long after they’ve left. They just lose this orientation and then they’re drowned because they can’t find the way up because they’re stuck on the reef. Okay, happy talk now. A lot of do’s and don’ts. Also when we engage with wildlife the best thing to do is stay awake, keep your distance, take pictures, don’t interact physically with critters for our safety. And then everybody can remain happily ever after on this planet.
Is it now time to talk about Tank because you mentioned you are volunteering at a sanctuary.
Abigail: I’d love to talk about Tank. I love it.
Yeah. So every time someone asks me what my favorite animal is, I really can’t choose a kind of animal. But my favorite individual animal is Tank. Tank is a white Bengal Tiger that lives at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation. And he has these Crystal blue eyes. He was born at a facility that breeds Cubs for like cub petting, which is tragically sad. And I’m not super updated on Florida laws right now, so I don’t know if this has changed, but there used to be a weird loophole in the laws where you could have a Tiger without a permit if it was under a certain weight. So Florida had this huge problem with roadside circuses, and they would have these little Tigers, and they would starve them to keep them under this certain weight, and then they didn’t want, like, big Tigers. Carson Springs has. I should know how many Tigers they have, but I don’t. But, like, a handful of Tigers that came from situations like this, living in circus cars, from roadside petting attractions, from circus attractions, from people trying to keep Tigers as pets. So they’re doing incredible work. I think it’s always sad to see any wild animal that is in a cage or, like, an enclosure in an enclosure. I would love for them to just be running wild, but I love Carson Springs because they are one of the best animal sanctuaries I’ve ever been to ever worked at. But yeah. So getting back to Tank, he is just so adorable, and he’s very playful. He always comes to rub up on the cage. You can’t go in and can’t pet him, but you can tell that he was raised as a cub that was a pet because he kind of acts like a dog in a way or like a house cat rubbing up. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the chuffing sound that Tigers make.
Jo: But Tigers, for the longest time, the Asian Tigers are my favorite animal, but I didn’t listen to them a lot. I just admired their pictures. I quite laughed.
Abigail: So something I learned that I found was super interesting is the difference. Like, one of the defining lines of a big cat, like a Tiger Lion, is that they can’t purr. They make a weird chuffing sound. At least Tigers do. It’s kind of hard to try.
Jo: Please do, please try.
Abigail: So it’s kind of like a happy noise that he makes. And then he’s in his enclosure with Tabitha, who is a strawberry Tiger. So white Tigers are basically created through inbreeding, right? That’s how you get white Tigers. It’s sad because that ends up coming with a lot of other health complications most of the time. And that’s super rare to end up getting a white Tiger, especially with these beautiful Crystal blue eyes. But Tabitha, his partner, she’s a strawberry Tiger, so that’s the Orange color of a Tiger. That’s what she looks like. But her stripes are kind of like a darker Orange. So she’s kind of, like all Orange, like a tabby tat, in a way. And that’s even more rare, which means it requires even more inbreeding. But they’re very Lovy together. And I think that I love going to work there and just taking a moment to just be around those animals, because I think that animals teach us so much about staying in the present moment, and they just really motivate me to want to protect this world and the wild spaces that are left because these beings are so beautiful. I wish so badly that they could be living out their lives in a completely natural, wild free environment.
Jo: I need to share this. It has been on the top of my head. Since we’re talking about a lion here. Do you know Christian the lion?
Abigail: I’m not sure.
Jo: Okay, well, we will put the video, which is on YouTube, into the show notes or the blog post. The story is about a British captivated lion cub who was also bred from a zoo and then currently in the 60s or so was a thing in Europe, including Great Britain and England, in that case, to have cubs at home like dogs. Other people would have monkeys at home until they go wild because they go crazy when there are no babies anymore. So then the lion cub lived with two men in their private apartment. And I think they also had a camera team throughout to kind of report on that. But then for them, it was really important to find a sanctuary in Africa. So for him to live as much wildlife as possible, being from a captive enclosure and also so close to humans. So it was clear that he would never roam the Serengeti all by himself. But he was put under custodianship by a Ranger in the Serengeti so he could be semi wild and still have human protection, also against poachers. I think it was two years or so it’s being said in the video. And at that moment the then grown Christian the lion also met a lioness. They had cubs together. And then the two men came to visit Tanzania. And then the moment he saw them, he was still a tame lion and the Ranger could Pat him, could check on them. He was also showing the range of the Cubs. And the lioness was also kind of suspicious but okay with humans being around because Christian had kind of signaled that it’s okay, this human is a friend. But then the two men came and the moment, you have to watch it and again, it’s in the show notes, the moment they meet each other, like it’s just heartbreaking in the most positive way or hard. I don’t know what’s the opposite of heartbreak. So moving like the joy for their friends or their family to reunite. And then the guys, it’s not that they came to take him back to England, but just to say hi. And then Christian introduces a small family to them. It’s just so beautiful and it’s so interesting. Like on Facebook, I have a personal campaign with the hashtag. It’s also not my invention like other people use it; interspecies communication. And I find it so fascinating and also not how animals and humans as another species of animals can communicate with each other without language. And then for research is what pains me and why also I think I couldn’t study what I wanted initially ethology like animal behavior, the kind of research questions that are being asked any pet owner can tell you, of course they are capable of feelings. Of course they are capable of consciousness and self consciousness. I mean, how else would they survive in this world? But especially animal behavior studies make a great deal of bringing research. I mean, there’s also great research out there, but the way that animals have to be living is captured just to prove the most basic things that any pet owner can tell you, of course and testify. Why do we have to ask these questions? Okay. Why am I getting there about the lion? The feelings that are shared among these two very different species, like two human beings and the lion, and then the trust level that the lion can also build for the lioness for them to accept, to see the cubs too close.
Abigail: Yeah. I think that’s reminding me of this incredible movement that’s happening, at least here in the United States. I think it should have already been the way that we’re doing conservation and a lot of research. But there’s this new I don’t know how new it is because like I said, I feel like it should have always been the way. But a lot of people are starting to talk about Indigenous led conservation. So there are a lot of Indigenous people here in the United States who have this incredible wisdom and knowledge about the land and most of the biodiversity that is here in the United States is on Indigenous reservations, Native American reservations. And so there’s this idea of not only just, like, partnering with Indigenous people in Indigenous communities, but letting them kind of lead the way that we’re looking at the animals that are maybe on their lands or the biodiversity.
I like to kind of just think about that, to think about research and conservation from a different angle, because I feel like the schooling that I got was very Western thought based, which makes sense. It’s a Western University, but it can be almost too structured in a way. I feel like that it doesn’t allow people to ask raw questions. Does that make sense? I feel like sometimes people can get very stuck in the procedures of things. And maybe instead of asking, maybe there are people who already have the answers to some of the things we’re trying to find. Are we looking at it from a full approach or are we looking at it from just our perspective?
Jo: Exactly. Yeah. I’m happy you mentioned that, because Indigenous knowledge is also one of the key pillars of investigation and incorporation and research practice. What I’m trying to push also with my colleagues and friends and other people in the research realm. I think, where research often has a misconception, if I may put it that way, is that it tries to simplify things to understand, and thereby researchers often lose touch to holistic approaches because we want so badly to understand one particular aspect of whatever be it biology, physics, but nature is holistic; it’s intertwined systems, the world. Like I mean, it’s not new that we depend on this planet. We don’t own it. I mean, we’re part of it as humans. And the concept of humans ruling this planet was brought about by, as far as I know, and have had insights of Christianity or maybe any of those three or big religions that are also predominating in many world regions.
I’ve worked with Indigenous people quite closely about a decade ago and then still have connections, friends, and try to find my way back to engaging more with Indigenous communities. As a non Indigenous person myself, which comes with a lot of sensitivity, challenges, many of which I posed for myself. I was a guest myself on a podcast talking about this. I can also link that to the references of this episode. And I think there’s also nothing special that Indigenous knowledge encompasses, it’s hundreds of years of observations made. So there is an understanding of the natural world and also the unnatural world like stones and systems and stars. And why is it that Western culture have decided to ignore this and reinvent knowledge with modern science where there’s so much knowledge still readily available in our own societies and cultures with previous generations when we decide to ignore and again, reinvent the wheel really so many times on what cost. Is that really necessary? As a researcher myself, I don’t really question my guilt, sort of say altogether there is necessary research. And I think coming back to what we said initially to this episode, what I think research can make use of more is to ask, why are we doing this? What’s the purpose? What’s the gain from knowing this? Is it just to accumulate knowledge? And at what cost? Like, we have to do the math, what’s the cost versus the benefit? And there was one really bad example coming out of Germany when it was about developing the nuclear eventually led to the development of the nuclear bomb, which set out by Marie Curie and others who study in France. But there’s also others, Einstein and others, and the goal was to develop a treatment for cancer. But then it was misused for military purposes. And research, as I think, has a certain responsibility also to draw the line and how to push research questions. And they were aware that it can be like at some point they became aware of, well, this can also be misused. And there were debates and different people, different opinions, and decisions were made. And then here we are, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russia today, or other powers who are threatening us with the same kind of things. But why is this necessary? Okay, good question. Yeah. Again, not a question. Research as such, I love and we are both silent. Being out there to explore, to accumulate knowledge, to investigate is beautiful. And not only, I think many animals also do and enjoy that to a certain degree. And maybe that’s also what differentiates us from the animal Kingdom. And maybe not. It’s probably not a sharp line between us and animals, but we have this brain capacity, wherever we want to define it becomes also a responsibility. And the question I ask myself increasingly, are we executing our responsibility enough, with political decisions? And because with climate change, we already have the evidence, we know what we need to do, and yet we’re not doing it or we’re not doing enough. But hey, there’s a new generation. And also there’s a German song by German band Bolinbased Band. And that kind of keeps ringing in my ear and it says, it’s not our fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not my fault that the world is the way it is, but it’s pretty much our fault and remains the way it is. And we are here to change things and we can change things for the better and a lot of changes.
Abigail: Yeah, I like to think about that idea. Sometimes it can feel super overwhelming and then no one wants to take blame for it and it’s not something we can totally point fingers at someone with, you know. But I like to think about the idea like if you blame the people before you and who do they blame and who do they blame? I’m like, I don’t know, where did something start that doesn’t matter. But what we have now is responsibility. And I find that to be really empowering. It doesn’t really matter who, but we are being called to all come together and work together and do the best that we can do to move forward in a cleaner world.
Jo: I think for better or worse, we’ve built the tools to really make use of digital infrastructure. We are globally connected, also digitally. We have means to communicate within seconds from one end of the world to the other.
Abigail: Like we’re doing right now.
Jo: We’re actually doing that right now. So let’s just make more use of that for the better. What’s your vision for the next five or ten years of how you wish your work will impact the world, your clients, or if you can dream it up like this moment?
Abigail: Yeah, I think my vision is to work with organizations who have incredible missions and get the general public to inspire the general public to take action with these big missions, with these big companies, with innovation, to show the general public that you can be part of something, even if you don’t have a science background, even if you didn’t go through any sort of course on sustainability or conservation, that you can take action and you can vote with who you’re showing up for. And where you’re putting your money and bringing a lot of awareness to the people who are innovating the way that we’re interacting with the natural world and make it more of an attractive thing. I think that’s my vision to make conservation and sustainability and environmental action an attractive thing and not something that is daunting and super technical and something that’s not for me.
Jo: Yeah, just a natural thing, too. Of course, too, because we care for our own health or other people’s health. It doesn’t make sense. Let’s act more wise. I think that’s how we can maybe all move together. I think with a visual appeal that you’re creating and facilitating, they can also facilitate much of that because for the longest time, also eco friendly or ecological groceries had a niche position in the supermarket, and now Germany is like a prime position, we’re not the majority just yet. But it’s like it’s now a luxury thing. It’s cool to buy organic. And also I feel like open science, like good research practice, now has a label as open science, similar to organic food. But when you think about it, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be in the first place? So we shouldn’t have to convince people to be socially and environmentally responsible and think about what they do, what actions have, what consequences. And once we realize there’s actually a negative effect here, maybe I should adjust my part. But I think a lot of that is already happening. So push that agenda a little further.
Jo: Thank you so much for your time today. And I think what I also told you on the prep talk for this episode, I think there’s a lot of need for your kind of services in the research sector because a lot of researchers are doing a little bit contrary to what I said earlier. But a lot of research is very much meaningful and deserves more and better showcasing, which there is also now a higher need and awareness for researchers to do that themselves or to work with Web designers like yourself to get their missions online in an eye appealing form. So would you agree that if a research group now finds we are doing purposeful research and we would like to learn from Abigail how we can improve our web presence, would you be open to receive inquiries?
Abigail: Absolutely. Yeah. Last night I did a web workshop just talking about online strategy and how to speak to your audience and inspire them to take action. So if you want to learn more or if you want to connect, you can find me at Bluefemtech. Wait, sorry. If you want to learn more or if you want to connect, you can find me at Bluefem. Tech. That’s B-L-U-E-F-E-M.TECH.
Jo: Cool. Okay. Maybe we run a course together, like workshops on that for research. Abigail: Yeah, that would be really cool.
Jo: Cool. Yeah. So here we go, crossing like bridging sectors, building bridges or the triple ‘p’.
Purpose triple bottom line, purpose for the environment, society and also profit in a way like sustainability as a service provider and we all are in the ecosystem, which is scholarly communication but also cross-sectoral. I think there’s a lot to learn on a continuous level from each other. Thanks for opening up your perspectives to our audience and I certainly learned a great deal and then I had beautiful flashbacks to some of the things we mentioned, Christian the lion and that sea turtle I encountered a few years ago in Australia. So yeah, welcome back to the show whenever and sometime soon. Until then, take care.
Abigail: Thank you for having me.
Jo: Great pleasure, see you soon.