If two years ago, Katherine Turner and Carlos Javier Sanchez had been told that they would speak at an international scientific conference, they wouldn’t have believed it. “I never would’ve guessed,” Turner said. Today, she and Sanchez are recent graduates of the Master of Communication in Digital Media program and recipients of an outstanding student presentation award for their presentation at the 2011 Aquatic Sciences Limnology and Oceanography conference. It was their work on the UW Oceanography Department’s Enlighten ’10 mission that earned them this honor.
A curious culmination of events led to the award.
It was just over a year ago that Turner and Sanchez began working together on the project that would eventually lead them to the conference in Puerto Rico, but they had a history together even before starting the MCDM program.
They first crossed paths at Evergreen State College. Sanchez, an award-winning photojournalist, worked at Evergreen as a staff photographer and adjunct faculty member. Turner was earning her bachelor’s degree in photography and working as a digital media and photography staff intern. They worked on projects together at ESC and found they had a shared passion for multimedia creation.
In 2009, Sanchez joined the MCDM and, not much later, Turner followed suit. One year later, they were approached with the idea of shooting the goings-on of the UW Oceanography Department aboard the Thomas G. Thompson research vessel. It was a collaborative project they couldn’t turn down.
Turner and Sanchez worked nonstop for two weeks, 200 miles off the coast of Oregon, filming, photographing, editing and publishing their work, all aboard the ship. Seven short films and thousands of still photos later, they came out of the experience proving that they could apply what they had learned in the MCDM program. “We overcame so many obstacles that almost prevented every single video from going out. It was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun,” said Sanchez.
A few months later, “Bob was the one who told us about the conference and encouraged us to submit abstracts,” said Turner. Bob Morris, Assistant Professor of Biological Oceanography, came up with the idea to include multimedia documentation as the outreach component for a grant proposal for the Oceanography Department.
“I submitted the abstract, and in looking back at everything we learned it’s been reassuring to see that we did this without even thinking. We did it as second nature,” said Turner. Much to their surprise, Turner and Sanchez were chosen to present at the ASLO conference. Sanchez remembers, “We didn’t think we would be picked at all, but we got it and we were like, ‘Crap, we really have to put this together!’”
They both prepared talks for the conference. Turner focused on how “features” can complement research without bogging the audience down with tons of information. Their video “Head Shrinkers” showed the audience of scientists that humor can be informative. “It was light-hearted, not the nitty-gritty of the science, and it was something to get people interested,” she said.
Sanchez showed the audience that they can create outreach components by utilizing local resources. “Part of my presentation takeaway was, ‘Talk to your communications departments. There are people who will do this for you!’” he said. “A department can’t survive in a vacuum anymore. Those that thrive and move on will be those that collaborate with each other.” He also made the point that these outreach components don’t have to be contrived. “Effective multimedia storytelling happens by letting the people tell the story on camera without being scripted.”
Now, Turner and Sanchez are graduates of the MCDM program and ready to explode onto the multimedia scene. “To go from A to Z and really implement and execute what we were learning in the classroom, and apply it and use it to have the ammunition to have people listen to us — it’s like the end of the cycle,” said Sanchez.
“What was really transformative about the entire experience for me was taking risks on situations that were outside of my comfort zone. I had never been out to sea, never spent the night on a boat, and I hate public speaking,” said Turner. “It really showed me that I can go out and try this as a career. Never in my life would I have expected to be presenting at an oceanography conference, much less win an award for it!”
Read more about Turner’s and Sanchez’s experiences at the ASLO conference on the Flip the Media Blog >>