Meet The COMPASS Journalist Fellows Heading To NACCB 2018

April 18, 2018

Nancy Baron

This summer the biennial National Congress of Conservation Biology (NACCB) migrates north to Canada. From July 21-26 2018, the conservation science world from across North America will gather in Toronto to share their newest discoveries and insights in conservation science, policy and practice.

For COMPASS, conferences are about making connections: with people, with ideas, and between communities.  With the help of funding from Wilburforce Foundation and Canada’s Sitka Foundation, COMPASS is holding a Journalist Fellowship at NACCB that will enable 18 journalists and two journalist plenary speakers to participate and help bring fascinating research beyond the walls of the conference to the wider world.

The value of COMPASS Journalist Fellowships goes far beyond help with travel and accommodations to attend the conference. Many of the best environmental and science journalists today are freelance writers, meaning they need to find story ideas and pitch them to editors, with no guarantees that they’ll lead to paying work. Affording the travel necessary to go in search of these stories, and meet the scientists who can tell them, is tough. Today even most mainstream media outlets have very limited budgets to allow their reporters the luxury of travel and time to attend conferences.

Yet for anyone interested in wildlife or nature,  NACCB is a trove of new science, fascinating people—and story ideas. Key themes at this year’s conference include the importance of indigenous communities to management and conservation, and how the links between our cities and the wild can help wildlife. Having access to the scientists attending is an opportunity for journalists to make new connections and follow leads that might not otherwise be possible.

Click the image above to find out more about the Journalist Fellows and preview their excellent work.

As one previous journalist fellow told us, “I got many ideas for feature stories from the conference, but most importantly I felt I was able to fast-track some ideas and connections that I had been thinking about for some time, but could not necessarily pursue through just phone and email. The face-to-face contact with scientists that COMPASS facilitated allowed me to accomplish just in a few days what would have normally taken months.”


Navigating a large conference can be overwhelming for scientists and journalists alike—and that’s why we work hard to integrate our journalist fellows. Instead of having to track down scientists or bump into them in the hallways, we design opportunities for mixing and mingling.

The conference will begin with an opening plenary on Sunday July 22, moderated by COMPASS, where journalists Ivan Semeniuk, science reporter at the Globe and Mail, and Kendra Pierre-Louise, climate reporter at the New York Times, will join plenary speakers to discuss the conference theme, Conservation Science, Policy, and Practice: Connecting the Urban to the Wild in a panel discussion—The Road Ahead: New Thinking and Opportunities for Conservation.

Post-plenary, the COMPASS journalist fellows will come onstage to briefly introduce themselves and the topics they hope to pursue over the course of the conference. To encourage scientists to introduce themselves, the journalists will also have drink tickets to hand out, a proven and effective way to spark conversations during the opening reception.

An evening “Pitch Pit” on Tuesday, July 24, will provide scientists with the opportunity to take the stage  and pitch their interesting research or story ideas, and receive live feedback and tips from the journalists. Many of the pitches made at this fun event in the past have led to published stories and even journeys to the field with the scientists. The journalists will also hold office hours at the press room during the conference, where scientists can find them and chat.

At the 2016 NACCB conference in Madison, WI, we repeatedly heard how appreciative scientists were to have these opportunities to talk to journalists. These connections catalyze conversations that continue throughout the conference and beyond, leading to lasting relationships that may yield stories in the days and months to come.

If you are attending NACCB this summer, you can look forward to meeting these outstanding reporters. And if you can’t make it to NACCB this year, you can follow the conference on Twitter at #NACCB2018.