Assistant Professor of Science and Environmental Communication
Dr. Smith is an applied social science researcher whose work focuses on communication dimensions of science and environmental issues. Her work has looked at communication and media dynamics on issues of forest policy, water contamination, climate change, and alternative energy transitions.
Since coming to the UO in 2018, her work has largely focused on natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest. She has previously served as an Associate Editor for Environmental Communication and as a board member for the International Environmental Communication Association.
Prior to joining the Center for Science Communication Research, Smith was an Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island with a joint appointment in the Harrington School of Communication and Media and the Department of Marine Affairs.
A few of the projects on which Hollie is a collaborator:
Responding to climate change and other environmental crises will require understanding the science and associated human behavior, social systems, and communication. Students and faculty working with the Center for Science Communication Research (SCR) focus on collaboration to span boundaries between theory and practice. Our mission is to make complex science useful to society. To do that, we take a holistic approach that brings together experts and students from different areas -- communication, psychology, documentary filmmaking, environmental science, and others – to conduct research and prepare students for the science communication careers of the future.
Our work responds to local needs, such as PNW issues of wildfire, smoke, and earthquakes. After 2020’s devastating fire season, for example, faculty from the SCR worked with partners from the Northwest Fire Science Consortium to produce The Fire Story podcast that provides expert answers to Oregonians’ questions. In our science communication minor, students enrolled in The Science Story can learn to tell engaging stories about life in a flammable forest.
Our work also responds to national needs, such as those at the nexus of climate and health, with multidisciplinary partners, including academia, medicine, federal agencies, and other organizations.
that addresses the intersections of environmental research and teaching with social and environmental justice.
How does your research embody that goal?
My research focuses on how communication plays a role in how people understand, talk about, and respond to environmental crises. Communication is a process that can be rife with inequities – through technological privilege, language, and access to information – but it can also serve as an avenue for creating more just and livable futures through collaboration, listening, and co-production. Much of my work focuses on how environmental issues are framed in dominant areas of discourse, such as media coverage and public policy, and what stories are not being told. Dominant narratives are often limited and offer little opportunity for dialogue or diverse perspectives.
When looking at communication processes, we must ask questions about barriers, access, and equity. If communication can build capacity and resilience, we must first understand how communication systems and messages operate in our society. We then need to know how that relates to our collective capacity to prepare for and respond to environmental crises. In my science and environmental communication courses, we look at communication outcomes and the systems that undergird communication processes. By looking at dominant systems of discourse, I hope that students can investigate and participate in communication in ways that yield more equitable outcomes in the future.
Science Communication Minor
Science communication is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses both the research and practice of communicating scientific findings to diverse audiences, including the public and policymakers. It seeks to enhance the connections between science and society, solve problems through relationship building, and move the needle on issues that affect all our lives.
As We Watch: A Copper River Delta Story
Each year, the UO School of Journalism and Communication's Science & Memory program, led by Dan and Deb Morrison, takes students to Cordova, Alaska, to tell the stories of climate change and its effects on the local ecosystem and the people who live there. In "As We Watch: A Copper River Delta Story," student filmmaker Owen Schatz and his team of advertising and journalism students craft a video testimony to the beautiful and valuable delta from the perspective of three professionals.
Dr. Hollie Smith, science communicator and founding researcher of the UO School of Journalism and Communication's Center for Science Communication Research, and U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Erin Cooper offer their personal and professional perspectives on why the area's Copper River Delta and its treasures of ice and water are important.
Learn more about: Science & Memory: https://scienceandmemory.uoregon.edu