Science journalism students show off stories on 'Arizona Illustrated'

Entomology graduate student Angela Hoover (Photo by Elizabeth Eaton)
• Click HERE to see a clip of Angela's video essay and other segments on the May 8 'Arizona Illustrated' show.
• Click HERE to read a version of this tory in UANews.

'Arizona Illustrated' host Tom McNamara introduces the 'SciView' episode (with students in background).

Journalism graduate student Elizabeth Eaton is interviewed on 'Arizona Illustrated.'

The latest SciView is due out in mid-May. Go HERE for more information on how to get a copy.

Angela Hoover isn’t a journalist, but she can tell a good story about bugs. Elizabeth Eaton isn’t a scientist, but the mystery of anthropology has opened her eyes.

The two University of Arizona master’s candidates are part of a unique course and project with Arizona Public Media that has brought science and journalism students together — producing a magazine for the School of Journalism, and then telling those stories in front of a camera for the “Arizona Illustrated” television show.

“SciView,” also the name of the magazine, will air Sunday, May 8, on PBS Channel 6 at 6:30 p.m. The half-hour show, hosted by Tom McNamara, will repeat several times throughout the week, including May 14 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15, at 11:30 a.m.

Hoover is an entomology master’s student. Her work with parasitic beetles is one of three video essays — the others feature moths and gray hawks — on the show, which also includes four longer segments: Eaton’s piece on ancient pottery and stories on trauma medicine, fruit flies and leopard frogs.

“I loved the excitement of pitching a story and being interviewed for the first time,” Hoover said. “I love to teach science in general … and thinking that I’ll be able to reach a larger audience is such a surreal feeling.

“I’m thrilled that AZPM wanted to give my little beetles a tiny place in the sun.”

Hoover’s research involves sorting out a small, “peculiar ” group of beetle specimens with odd antennae — of the genus Homopterus — that live within ant nests in South America. The ants, attracted possibly to the beetles’ smell and sound, drag the parasites back to their nests, where the beetles lay their eggs. When they hatch, the baby beetles eat the ants’ young, “and the ants don’t quite care about it, and we think because of the chemical and acoustic cues,” Hoover said. “It tricks them.”

Eaton, an accelerated master’s student in journalism, introduces the viewer to Claire Barker, a Ph.D. anthropology student, in the first segment, “One Pot at a Time.” Eaton calls her “the Indiana Jones” of corrugated utility pottery for her research on the 14th century Homolovi Hopi settlement in Northern Arizona.

By studying the “ugly” pottery, used mainly for cooking, Barker believes different immigrant groups may have populated the area, not just the Homolovi. “Seeing that she made this big discovery through pots — that’s cool,” Eaton tells the viewer. “Who’s heard of that? … Instead of a whip and a hat, (Barker) had some pots.

“To me, journalism is a lot about discovery, about finding things that people don’t know about and places they’ve never heard about.”

It’s that sense of discovery that Eaton hopes one day will land her a “dream job” at National Geographic or the New York Times — which “is bringing tears to my eyes,” said journalism professor Susan Swanberg, who taught the science journalism class (JOUR 472, 572) that produced “SciView.” Eaton is also the editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Swanberg, School of Journalism Director David Cuillier and AZPM Executive Producer John Booth came up with the idea of wedding the magazine with “Arizona Illustrated.” AZPM producers and reporters visited Swanberg’s science class last fall, and students pitched their ideas for bringing their stories to the screen.

Not all the stories made the final cut for the TV show, but Booth found the students “brilliant,” he said.

One, Eduardo Estrada, a U.S. Naval veteran and a UA pre-med student, profiles a trauma doctor who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Estrada, who worked as a hospital corpsman in Afghanistan, explains how the doctor has applied his “battlefield knowledge” to a trauma center back home. The two bonded over their difficult war experiences and became friends.

Stephan Dong, a UA neurosciences student, profiles fruit flies in another segment, calling them “fascinating creatures and a magnificent tool for genetic research.”

Swanberg said Dong has “a real feel for the flies, and really respects their sacrifice,” and Booth said the crux of the story is: “If you’re going to go into neuroscience, you are going to kill a lot of flies. Kids considering science face a lot of challenges, and one of them is developing a relationship with the organism you’re working on.”

“Stephan talks about the flies rubbing their wings, creating sound, to attract other flies,” Booth said. “To him it’s like music, and he likes to play the guitar, and we filmed him playing the guitar.”

John Palting, who is pursing a Ph.D. in entomology and a Ph.D. minor in journalism, tells about his nocturnal studies of moths — thousands of moths — and how they might have evolved to use celestial light sources as fixed points for navigation in the dark.

Kalyn Miller, an undergrad in natural resources, profiles gray hawks and how they have migrated from Mexico to southern Arizona, building nests in the San Pedro riparian area, while journalism undergrad Emily Huddleston tells about the Lowland Leopard Frog and its competition for survival.

SciView, the magazine, is due out later this month, and Booth and Swanberg hope students from the science journalism course can partner with “Arizona Illustrated” in the future.

“We’ve built the factory, so next time it will be a little easier,” Booth said.

Published Date: 

05/04/2016 - 2:07pm