Science communication project offers opportunity to help students and community members better understand legislation

Legislative issues can sometimes be difficult to understand. There are lots of aspects to consider, details to research and perspectives to hear. That’s why Extension State Specialist in Entomology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Anna Wallingford, Ph.D, created a podcast called Relative to New Hampshire with undergraduate UNH students to tease out some of these issues.

“Step into the classroom and listen in while group of UNH students explore the underlying aspects of current issues under consideration at New Hampshire's State House,” says Wallingford at the beginning of each podcast episode. “We pick apart those issues and connect with experts. All to share with you insights from our scientific community that enhance our understanding of the biological world right here in New Hampshire, home of the greatest democracy in the world.”

From discussions about time zones to analyses of dental health programs, the topics cover an array of timely issues facing the Granite State with science as a focus.

Wallingford believes the podcast has provided critical research and engagement skills for the students. “They listened to the hearings on YouTube and then we would have meetings and talk about what they learned. They sought out interviews with experts. They had to pound the pavement, then schedule and record interviews. It’s been an invaluable opportunity,” she said.

The podcast also benefits the public – listeners can tune in to unpack legislation that is affecting their communities. The episode “Maintaining Healthy Soil in the Granite State” explores the state soil conservation plan and HB199. As an introduction, biology student Ella Caughran ’22, explains, “This is kind of just an amendment on the previous bill that was the plan for soil conservation in the state, but it added a focus on general soil health and also adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change. It didn't include anything about climate change before. And now, that is a focus.”

Later in the episode, Carl Majewski, Cheshire County Extension specialist, and Amanda Littleton from Cheshire County Conservation District weigh in on the work being done to protect soil health and the roles of the state, private landowners and businesses in this mission to protect soil.

Hearing from students and experts alike provides an engaging and accessible way to ensure participation in the democratic process. Listen to the nine episodes below!


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