Communicating Entomology Through Video: Q&A With Aaron Pomerantz

Aaron Pomerantz’s work in the Integrative Biology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, includes the exploration of butterfly wing formation, which he showcases in the time-lapse video above, published in March 2017.

In the final installment of our three-part series on video communication for entomologists, we hear from Aaron Pomerantz, graduate student at University of California, Berkeley and creator and host of The Next Gen Scientist.

Pomerantz has earned an online following through his use of video and social media, and his video “How Butterflies Create Color & Microscopy in the Field” was the winner of  ESA’s annual “YouTube Your Entomology” video contest in 2016.

Pomerantz shared with Entomology Today how video plays an integral role in his entomological work. The following Q&A is the final part in a three-part series. Read part one and part two.

Aaron Pomerantz

Aaron Pomerantz

Entomology Today: How do you choose topics for the entomology videos you create?

Aaron Pomerantz: In some cases, I’ll be learning a new topic already, so I’ll try to create a video to push myself to truly understand it and communicate it in simple terms. For instance, I knew before I began my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley that I would want to learn more about how butterflies create color, so I produced a video on that topic during a trip to Ecuador (shown above). Once I decide to put something online, there’s a big incentive to not get anything wrong, so I find it’s a good opportunity to really push myself to research and develop a topic in addition to thinking about the best way to visually relay it.

What elements make a video effective for conveying science to the public?

There are different styles for conveying scientific topics to different audiences, whether they be short two-to-three-minute explainers or longer 30-minute lecture formats like iBiology. No matter the length or style, when trying to make an effective video I think there’s an important question to ask yourself: Is this something I would want to watch? Storytelling can be another important aspect to making an effective video; even if you have great information, it’s easy to lose an audience if the story isn’t engaging and moving along at a pace that keeps the viewers engaged.

Your videos often feature rugged locations. What tools have you relied on most to successfully capture video while in the field?

I try to keep equipment as light as possible for filming, so my go-to in remote locations in the Amazon rainforest typically includes a DSLR camera (like Canon 70D or 6D), a 35mm lens for filming people and scenery, a 100mm lens for filming small insects, and a shotgun microphone. However, I think most smartphones these days have fantastic video quality and are great for filming on the go!

What other advice would you offer to fellow entomologists on video communication?

If you think something is cool, then others will too—show them! Video is a great way to communicate to people what you’re studying and what you’re passionate about. You don’t need fancy equipment, just the desire to tell a good story!

What past video of yours is your favorite, and why?

I really enjoy a video I made about a new butterfly discovery in the Amazon rainforest called “Mystery of the Yellow Bulbs” (above). Be on the lookout for a part-two video and a publication on this finding soon!

YouTube Your Entomology ContestCall for Videos

2017 ESA YouTube Your Entomology Video Contest

Entries due July 2

Also, new this year: ESA Plant-Insect Ecosystems Section’s Pollinator Video Contest, entries due October 1

Bonus Link

If you’re ready to dive into making your own science videos, get some more advice and tips with this series on basic photo and video techniques from “Rob and Jonas Filmmaking Tips” on YouTube.

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