Building Blocks for Sharing Science


2023 Building Blocks for Sharing Science: More tools for your toolbox

We’re back this year with a refreshed lineup of course offerings! Take a look at the new iteration of our popular Building Blocks series, brought to you by the Lake Superior Reserve Coastal Training Program and Ohio Coastal Training Program.

What is the Building Blocks series?

This virtual series is tailored for professionals, practitioners and leaders working on Great Lakes coastal issues and is designed to address communication challenges we commonly encounter in environmental and science-adjacent careers. Our courses will help you build confidence whether you facilitate meetings, develop graphics, author reports or proposals, articulate the value of the natural world – or all of the above!

An info graphic style design with various colorful icons on it

Some of the topics addressed in this learning series are:

  • Thoughtful selection of inclusive language
  • Redirecting disruptive behavior in meetings for more positive outcomes
  • Developing effective data visuals, survey tools, and graphic products
  • Designing compelling grant proposals
  • How to estimate and convey the value of ecosystem services

Cost: There is a $20 charge for each two-hour course, and we offer a discounted rate if you sign up for every course in the series. We are committed to making these courses accessible to those that wish to experience them. If cost is a barrier for your attendance, please reach out to training coordinators Karina Heim and Emily Kuzmick.

Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve Coastal Training Program
Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve

Series Schedule

Tuesday April 18 – Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Meetings

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Meetings

Jan Kucklick, NOAA Office for Coastal Management

Tuesday April 18, 2023
9:00-11:00am CT/10:00am-12:00pm ET
Capacity: 50

Take this course if you…

  • Facilitate or lead meetings where disruptive behaviors can impact the productivity of the meeting.
  • Attend meetings and want to learn how to help out the facilitator when a disrupting behavior occurs.

About the Course

Productive meetings are essential to effectively plan for and manage the diverse interests and needs in coastal communities. Disruptive behaviors are unintentional behaviors from participants that can impact the group processes and prevent the meeting goal from being achieved.

In this course you will:

  • Understand motivations behind certain disruptive behaviors
  • Hear about different tools that can prevent disruptions from occurring
  • Learn about and practice different intervention strategies to redirect disruptive behaviors

About the Speaker

Jan Kucklick is a facilitator and trainer with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. She joined NOAA in June 1997 as a coastal management specialist and is based in Charleston, South Carolina. Courses she has taught or currently teach including Planning and Facilitating Collaborative Meetings, Facilitation Basics, Virtual Facilitation Basics, and Tools and Techniques for Facilitating Virtual Meetings. Jan has been working in the field of coastal and marine science since 1989. She has extensive experience in facilitation, engagement, fellowship coordination, and conference and meeting management. While at the Office for Coastal Management, she has served as an outreach manager, program coordinator, and operations manager. Before joining the office, she worked in the area of oil spill response, damage assessment, and contingency planning. Jan holds a master of science in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a bachelor of science in biology from the College of William and Mary.

Thursday May 18 – Strategies for Inclusive Science Communication

Strategies for Inclusive Science Communication

Jenna Mertz, Natural Resources Institute Marketing & Communications at UW-Madison Division of Extension

Thursday May 18, 2023
9:00am-11:00am CT/10:00am-12:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

Take this course if you…

  • Strive to communicate about science and research in a clear, simple, and respectful way.

About the Course

When communicating about science, words matter: they can either build bridges or create distance between you and your audience. As a coastal manager or environmental professional, do you feel stuck waffling over the right words to use?

This interactive workshop will model how to think deeply about words and their contexts, identify strategies for avoiding biased and jargony language, and highlight resources that can help you make informed choices. Through case studies and small-group discussions, participants will practice identifying problematic language and brainstorming alternatives.

Workshop attendees will learn how to:

  • Make intentional, inclusive language choices
  • Use plain language
  • Find and use style guides

About the Speaker

Jenna Mertz is a multimedia editor with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension, where she collaborates with natural resources professionals to tell stories about environmental and agricultural issues in Wisconsin. Prior to joining Extension, Jenna worked domestically and internationally at multiple university writing centers as an administrator, consultant, and tutor. She has worked with lots of different people – from engineers to art teachers – and loves helping them tell their stories. She holds an MFA in creative writing.

Tuesday June 20 – The Art of the Chart

The Art of the Chart

Karina Heim, Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

Tuesday June 20, 2023
1:00-3:00pm CT/2:00-4:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

Take this course if you…

  • Turn data into charts for public audiences.
  • Spend a lot of time trying to make charts ‘easy to understand’ – and look good!

About the Course

Have you ever felt that your charts are cluttered or confusing for your audience? Do you struggle to tell a compelling story through data visualization? Data is everywhere and charts and data graphics have never been easier to make, thanks to programs like Excel and Tableau. But as you may have experienced in your own work, designing elegant charts that tell a clear story can be surprisingly challenging!

Fortunately, we can borrow lessons from cognitive brain science and graphic design best practice to help us improve the way we display data to our audiences. This short course will provide you with some quick pointers and tips to help you improve your charts and graphics design. In this mini-workshop, you will learn to:

  • Recognize common chart design pitfalls
  • Use handy tricks to “cut the clutter” from charts and focus your audience’s attention
  • Think about every element of chart as part of a clear story

This course was also offered in our 2021-22 Building Blocks series.

About the Speaker

Karina Heim, is the Coastal Training Program Coordinator at Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, and a data viz enthusiast. She first became enamored with the art of clean chartmaking in graduate school where she realized that every graph and table can stand alone and tell its own story if it is designed well. Later, Karina applied lessons and best practices of data viz design in her work as a comprehensive plan writer, revising public documents to reflect current data trends in a clear, accessible way. In her current position, she works with decision-makers in the Lake Superior basin on coastal issues, where important ideas are spoken through data all of the time. Karina has a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and a professional background in program coordination.

Thursday July 13 – Writing Effective Survey Questions

Writing Effective Survey Questions

Brenna Sweetman and Chris Ellis, NOAA Office for Coastal Management

Thursday, July 13, 2023
9:00-11:00am CT/10:00-12:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

Take this course if you…

  • Are not trained in survey design but are tasked with administering surveys.
  • Would like to develop a more critical eye for what “good” survey questions look like, and how to maximize feedback.

About the Course

Surveys are a popular information collection tool to help coastal managers understand their stakeholders and quickly assess large populations. Unfortunately, because of their popularity, many people untrained in survey creation administer poorly designed surveys that yield questionable results. This workshop serves to provide coastal managers and environmental professionals with best practices to write more effective survey questions. If your background is not in the social sciences but you nonetheless find yourself in the position of crafting surveys, this workshop is for you!

Workshop attendees will learn how to:

  • Review and critique surveys, and identify common mistakes in question design
  • Incorporate 25 best practices when creating survey questions
  • Create appropriate question layout and design
  • Identify ways to improve survey questions that yield desired data types

This course was also offered in our 2021-22 Building Blocks series.

About the Speakers

Chris Ellis, PhD, NOAA Office for Coastal Management Chris is a social scientist with NOAA’s National Ocean Service, based in Charleston, SC. His training is in environmental sociology, survey design and implementation, recreation and tourism choice behavior, organizational behavioral networks, and social-psychological interaction with the coast. He has extensive experience in working with state and local municipalities to build capacity in coastal conservation, and community resilience. He also has a portfolio of projects that lend technical assistance to the National Weather Service to enhance its social science capacity. Working currently for NOAA, and formerly for both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, he has gained unique perspectives of how the public and institutions understand, perceive, and use natural resources, particularly in coastal areas. He is an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston, where he works with students on an array of human dimensions-based research topics. Chris received his PhD in 2005 from East Carolina University.

Brenna Sweetman, NOAA Office for Coastal Management Brenna is social scientist with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management based at the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, AL. Her work focuses on integrating social science to support sound decision-making to address complex coastal and water resource challenges. Through partnerships, collaboration and the integration of social and natural sciences, she works to better understand the data, tool and information needs to protect and maintain coastal communities, ecosystems and economies. Prior to working with NOAA, she worked in Central America on coastal and marine natural resource management topics and instructed environmental education. She holds a Master’s in Geography from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Spanish from the University of Pittsburgh.

Tuesday August 8 – Different Science Communication Methods for Different Audiences

Different Science Communication Methods for Different Audiences

Jennifer Bucheit and Giovanna Reising (Old Woman Creek Reserve) and Breann Hohman (Erie Soil and Water Conservation District)

Tuesday August 8, 2023
10:00am-12:00pm CT/11:00am-1:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

Take this course if you…

  • Are challenged with engaging different audiences and deciding which strategies are most effective to communicate scientific concepts.

About the Course

Science communication for the general public means creating content that is accessible, meaningful, and fun. Another important aspect is developing audience skills so they have the ability to implement the knowledge they have gained. This presentation will touch on learning theory and the different strategies associated with its approach to science communication. Tactics such as how best to use social media, create lesson plans, and implement different learning tools will be covered. Some examples are using Watershed Report Cards to communicate water quality monitoring data, Story Maps to explore the connections our community has with our natural resources, schedules for social media posts, and infographics. In addition to types of learning tools, this webinar will also communicate the importance of meaningful end-user engagement and the power of partnerships

About the Speakers

Jennifer Bucheit, Old Woman Creek NERR
Jennifer Bucheit has been an environmental educator for 20 years, and she has been with Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve as their Education Coordinator for 10 years.  She works with a variety of audiences to communicate the value and relevance of the science being conducted at the reserve and within the Great Lakes region.  She has a particular interest in connecting residents with Lake Erie and the Great Lakes system.

Giovanna Reising, Old Woman Creek NERR
Giovanna Reising is the Communications Coordinator at Old Woman Creek NERR. Giovanna is a Certified Interpretive Guide and provides educational social media posts for both OWC and as a board member of the Ohio Wetlands Association. Giovanna is the Ohio Regional Volunteer Coordinator for Birds Canada’s Marsh Monitoring Program. Giovanna has over 20 years experience providing training, education, and facilitation of a variety of topics, including environmental education, citizen science protocols, and data analytics. Giovanna enjoys engaging with people of all ages to connect them to the natural world.

Breann Hohman, Erie Conservation District
Breann has over 16 years with the Erie Conservation District coordinating the Firelands Coastal Tributaries Watershed Program. She has experience working with local residents and stakeholders on several projects to educate and engage the community in watershed stewardship activities such as stream monitoring, clean-ups, and backyard conservation. She also works directly with agricultural producers on best management practices to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off from entering our local streams.

Thursday September 21 – How to Design a Compelling Grant Proposal and Presentation

How to Design a Compelling Grant Proposal and Presentation

Cathy Angell , Cathy Angell Communications

Thursday September 21, 2023
1:00-3:00pm CT/2:00-4:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

About the Course

As you have probably discovered, the world of applying for grants is highly competitive. Funding agencies must make the tough decisions about what applications to accept and what applications to deny. Sometimes, an application is denied because the project is weak. Other times the project is worthy, but it isn’t communicated to the grant reviewers in an effective way.

What critical items must be included for your proposal to be taken seriously? How do you design a project presentation that will wow the funding agency? What are some of the biggest ongoing frustrations of review teams? Using practical advice and insights gained from funding agencies and other experts, Cathy Angell will help you create a grant proposal and presentation that clearly communicates the story behind your project in an engaging and visually-pleasing way. In this 2-hour training, you will learn:

  • What every member of the review team wants to see (and hear)
  • How to design a proposal that will be respected and remembered
  • Why a compelling story equals more money

This training is value-packed with simple tips that are easy to apply, video clips of interviews with grant reviewers, and a special PowerPoint slide template to help you craft a powerful grant presentation.

About the Speaker

Cathy Angell, M.Ed, is the owner of Cathy Angell Communications and specializes in presentation design and delivery for scientists, educators, and public officials. Cathy’s trainings are offered both in-person and online. She was the former coordinator of Washington’s Coastal Training Program, considered to be one of the most successful training programs in the country for coastal managers. Cathy is nationally known for her transformative methods and received a communications award from NOAA which is given out each year in her honor.

Tuesday October 17 – Economic Guidance: Pathways to Valuing Ecosystem Services

Economic Guidance: Pathways to Valuing Ecosystem Services

Kate Quigley & Polina Dineva NOAA Office for Coastal Management with Molly Wick, Lake Superior Reserve Margaret A. Davidson Fellow

Tuesday October 17, 2023
9:00-11:00am CT/10:00am-12:00pm ET

Capacity: 50

About the Course

This module provides an overview of three common paths used to estimate the value of ecosystem services: site-specific studies, benefits transfer, and tools with built-in benefits. Each path will include information on its strengths and limitations, and on relevant support tools such as BlueValue (for benefits transfer) and the FEMA BCA Toolkit. In addition, we will provide an overview of cultural ecosystem services including highlighting their importance, the variety of methods applied for their assessment, and examples.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Understand ecosystem service valuation terminology
  • Conduct a “back of the envelope” or rough benefits transfer estimate
  • Choose the proper pathway for ecosystem service valuation based on available time, funding and expertise
  • Access relevant support tools and valuation data

About the Speakers

Kate Quigley, is an environmental and natural resource economist at NOAAs Office for Coastal Management. She coordinates a group of economists focused on educating partners and members of the public about economic valuation, benefit cost analysis, and other economic approaches and concepts, useful in decision making and helpful in accessing infrastructure resilience grant funding.

Polina Dineva, graduated from the University of Delaware with a master’s degree in Agriculture and Resource Economics in 2022. She is currently an Economist on contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management. Within this role, Polina supports communities and partners through the development and delivery of trainings that explain various economic analysis approaches and methods.

Molly J. Wick, is a PhD Candidate in Water Resource Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a Margaret Davidson Fellow at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, and a student trainee at the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Toxicology and Ecology Division. Her research as an interdisciplinary social-ecological scientist focuses on how cultural ecosystem services can improve care and conservation of aquatic ecosystems.


Karina Heim, Coastal Training Program Coordinator

Emily Kuzmick, Ohio Coastal Training Program Coordinator