COMMUNICATION IN NATURAL RESOURCES
To be a contributing member of a professional community, one must effectively communicate with fellow professionals and the public. Communication allows for information to be shared which results in gaining the knowledge and understanding that is essential for career growth. In natural resources there are many skills that professionals must possess to communicate both in writing and orally. The communication skills that are necessary include an adequate educational background, a desire to learn and educate others, an interest in the history of the profession as well as knowledge of the current events, and membership within a professional society. All of these communication skills are essential to career in natural resources.
Education is an important part of developing good communication skills. Through a college education, certain levels of understanding are gained and are also expected by others in the same professional community. In natural resources one's educational background could consist of an Associates Degree, Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree, or Doctorate Degree. Typically a Bachelors degree is desired for most entry-level positions and serves as an excellent background because of the variety of classes that have been taken. General classes provide the basis for learning, as more specific classes provide opportunities for in-depth study. Additions are made to educational backgrounds through various work experiences, and opportunities to communicate with professionals and the public are numerous. Field experience greatly supplements the classroom education and in most cases allows for interaction with others with common interests and continued educational opportunities.
Another important part of communication skills is the desire to learn new things and the ability to educate others. The need to maintain and gain knowledge through continuing education is essential to staying updated in the natural resources profession. It is also very important to be able to provide information and educational opportunities to the public. Effective communication is crucial to create awareness of work done by a particular agency or to emphasize the importance of specific natural resources related issues. Working with the public to provide answers to their questions is frequently a large part of a natural resources career. Being able to share information with the public takes place by communicating in a way that makes the common knowledge of professionals easily understood by those who are not as familiar with the subject.
There is significant value in having a sincere interest for a chosen career field that fuels the desire to learn as much as possible about the history and current events. Having knowledge in these areas allows for professional growth as well as the ability to accurately share important information with others. Sharing information with others allows for interactions to be made with the public and helps to make connections and solve problems. While communicating with the public and catering to their needs, advances are made in communication skills as one encounters many people who all have different backgrounds. Diversity such as this increases professional communication abilities and serves as an excellent pathway for information to be shared with as many people as possible. Having the desire to share knowledge with others is an admirable quality that people take notice of and this will positively reflect in the attitude of the public and often bring respect to a professional society, federal agency, or other workplace.
Communication skills are also developed through membership with a professional society. Being associated with others who have made the same or similar career choices allows for a sense of belonging and the ease of communicating ideas and information with others. Specific language is expected to be used by members of professional societies and serves as the basis for written and oral communication. Effective communication is necessary at meetings and other events that other professionals and the public attend so that information can be shared. Active membership with a professional society allows for opportunities for valuable communication skills to be utilized. Many organizations serve as an advocate for a specific cause, and must be able to communicate their ideas to the government or the public in a positive way that will result in favorable reactions from others. This must be done in a considerate way and may require collaboration with lawmakers if the issue receives enough public support. It is important to educate the public and represent the mission of a particular society in order to accomplish the goals of professional organizations.
FORMS OF COMMUNICATION IN NATURAL RESOURCES
There are many forms of communication that are used in the natural resources community. These forms of communication are both written and oral and can occur on a daily basis or take place only once or twice a year. Some of this communication is quite informal, while some forms follow specific guidelines that require considerable effort from all involved. Websites, brochures, posters, interpretive programs, maps, meetings and workshops, newsletters, magazines, journal articles, and books are all examples of communication used by professionals in natural resources related career fields. These forms of communication allow for important information to be shared with all who care to do so.
There are many ways in which natural resources professionals communicate with one another and the public. Through the use of the official websites of agencies and organizations, information is exchanged and knowledge is gained by those who view them. The written communication of these websites represents main objectives, history, and current events that directly deal with the agency or organization. For example, the websites of the National Recreation and Park Association and the United States Forest Service contain information about the various aspects of their organizations. There are numerous links to follow for related information and resources for the viewer to maximize their knowledge base of natural resources. Each website also offers the viewer to send for more information, to email members of the organization, or to submit any questions that they may have. With this option available, the viewing public can communicate in many different ways (National Recreation and Park Association 2007; United States Forest Service 2008b).
Brochures, maps, posters, displays, and interpretive programs are all forms of communication that are a part of daily life for most natural resources professionals. In outdoor recreation areas such as parks or forests, many visual aids serve as the way recreation users communicate with the agency that manages the recreation area. Many of these visual aids promote the area and urge people to utilize it. They also place emphasis on important issues that the public should be made aware of. The Black Elk Wilderness and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve Trail System in the Black Hills National Forest has a brochure that contains general information about the trail system and provides expectations for visitor use, maps and contact information, and gives detailed descriptions of the various trails that are a part of the system. In many state and national park settings, visitors come to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them and also to learn about the historical and ecological history that goes along with the area. Interpretive programs teach visitors in ways that allow for interaction and give them something to think about as they enjoy their visit. At Mount Rushmore National Monument, Ranger Walks are guided tours on the Presidential Trail where a park ranger speaks about Mount Rushmore and the natural environment around it. Programs like these give visitors insight about some of the issues that matter most in the natural resources profession (United States Forest Service 2008a; National Park Service 2008).
Many of the professional societies in natural resources hold meetings, workshops, and conventions. These events allow for professionals to gather in one place and communicate with one another and anyone else in attendance. The Wildlife Society has an annual convention that provides great opportunities for professional growth where one can learn about new research, management practices, and policy issues. There are also opportunities for attending workshops as part of the convention where hands-on approaches to new techniques are learned. This annual event allows for networking among the 1,500 wildlife biologists that are in attendance. As a result of attending a convention like this, thoughts and ideas are exchanged and everyone comes away with more knowledge to share with others. The newest developments are often presented at events like these and those in attendance should share the information that they received with others to allow for maximum communication to take place (The Wildlife Society 2008).
The journals, books, magazines, and newsletters that are written by and written with the natural resources professional in mind provide an excellent way for information to be stored and to be shared. Anyone with access to these publications can gain knowledge from the writings about new developments, research, and events. These forms of communication can be read and contributed to on a daily basis. Current issues of journals, magazines, and newsletters are published on a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis and work to keep the professional community updated in many ways. The publications of the Society of American Foresters are numerous and supply foresters and natural resources professionals with information about forestry in the different environments of the United States as well as publish the Journal of Forestry, which the premier scholarly journal in forestry. These sources not only keep professionals updated, but they also are essential for students who are researching the various aspects of natural resources. Many of these publications are available in an electronic format as well, which allows for people from all over the world to learn about forestry in general and the purpose of the Society of American Foresters (Society of American Foresters 2008).
Communication is a very important part of any career and allows for professional growth and works in many was to inform the public. The forms of communication that are used in natural resources most often involve working with the public to assist them and answer questions about various aspects of natural resources. Both written and oral communication allows professionals to interact with people and to share valuable information. It is essential that professionals have communication skills that allow for positive interactions to take place and for the greatest amount of information to be shared with those who need it.
National Park Service. 2008. Mount Rushmore. Guided Tours. <http://www.nps.gov/ moru/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.
National Recreation and Park Association. 2007. About NRPA. <http://www.nrpa.org/ content/default.aspx?documentId=25>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.
Society of American Foresters. 2008. Publications. <http://www.safnet.org/periodicals/ index.cfm>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.
United States Forest Service. 2008b. Black Hills National Forest. Black Elk and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve Brochure. <http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/blackhills/maps/ belk_brochure_1.shtml>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.
United States Forest Service. 2008a. Welcome. <http://www.fs.fed.us/>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.
Wildlife Society, The. 2008. Annual Conference. <http://joomla.wildlife.org/ Miami08/>. Accessed 1 Apr 2008.