iSWOOP Designs (2017)


From designing professional development for park rangers to designing visuals with scientists to engage the public, the iSWOOP project team of Hristov, Allen, and Merson is committed to compelling visualizations that spark interest, interactive learning experiences, and fostering curiosity.  iSWOOP partners, park rangers and scientists seek to answer the questions, How do we know what we know — about frog, bats, rocks, and plants over time? During the next three years, several parks will adapt and adopt the iSWOOP approach to communicating science with public audiences. If you visit a national park, ask about the science that is going on behind the scenes. With gratitude to the National Park Service staff for their assistance, spirit of experimentation, and dedication to public service. 

NSF Awards: 1514776


This discussion took place during the TERC Video Showcase Event Nov. 14-21, 2023. Discussion is now closed.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nickolay Hristov
Nickolay Hristov
November 14, 2023 10:03 am
Thank you for stopping by to see our third film installment in the iSWOOP Series. By 2017 we were thinking about the project beyond its annual cycle and individual video submissions. We wanted to tell a larger story. Feedback and data were coming back from the different sites. We were spending considerable time at the different parks. In telling the story of these findings and experiences, we wanted to push the envelope of the narrative style as well. We slowed down the editing pace, opened with sound from the people and locations where the work was happening and used the narrator voice to frame the important message for the project. Take three minutes to watch the film and let us know if it has this intended impact or you learned something new with us.
Brian Drayton
Brian Drayton
November 15, 2023 8:19 am
As you know, I am a fan of ISWOOP. What have you learned about the scientists’ pedagogy in the course of your work? Many field biologists have a good instinct for engaging people with phenomena, and resist the impulse to lecture/over-explain — though not all do!
Also, has climate change increased in importance as a theme in what the scientists at NPS want to talk about?
Martha Merson
Martha Merson
November 16, 2023 8:01 pm
Reply to  Brian Drayton
This work is starting to feel like a long time ago. I think mostly the folks who step forward for these opportunities do have good instincts. They can still benefit from a nudge. One of the last workshops I did was with Rulon Clark, a biologist studying kangaroo rats and their snake predators. Check out some high speed videography here

Anyway, I remember Rulon being a bit hesitant to leave so much time for visitors’ questions and when he did, he was impressed by the sophistication of the questions and he seemed completely sold on taking an approach that set visitors up with some information and then allowed them to speculate, observe, and predict.

At Indiana Dunes a ranger organized a series of programs, Science Saturdays and each one had a hands-on exploratory component.

Martha Merson
Martha Merson
November 16, 2023 8:15 pm
I need to think more about the climate change question. For sure among the scientists and rangers who are resource managers, climate change is certainly a hot topic. In all sorts of ways NPS is preparing and leading. It was difficult under the Trump administration and now with the new speaker threatening to cut funding for parks, who knows. Your question made me think of this article The Washington Post published recently.

After spending more than $700,000 for the salt-sprayed vacation homes, the federal government plans to promptly tear them down and turn the area into a public beach access.
The move marks a unique and possibly groundbreaking chapter in the deepening dilemma of what to do with imperiled coastal homes, which are becoming only more vulnerable amid rising seas, more intense storms and unceasing erosion.