It’s Not Just What You Say; It’s How You Say It

By Rachel Wadleigh


On October 18, we shared our research at the Annual Research Conference.  In the week leading up to the conference we prepared a poster to communicate our initial hypotheses and findings. During the process we considered principles of museum exhibit design in the layout.  This made the poster visually appealing and easy to understand while retaining a high level of information.  In addition to providing background information on comparative genomics and assembling a genome, our poster displayed information on each of our four hypotheses: olfactory reception, immune response, early exploratory behavior, and bone morphogenesis.  We were excited to tell alumni, professors, and fellow students about our research and to hear what they had to say. 


In addition to presenting the comparative genomics poster Sonia and I presented the research that we did in the museum over the summer, the supermatrix phylogeny of booted eagles.  This was our second time presenting this research as we presented this research at the American Ornithologists Union (AOU) Conference in Chicago in August.  It was interesting to compare our experiences at a professional conference and an undergrad presentation.  The presentation at Earlham was much busier.  I found myself talking about my research almost the entire time.  Everyone was ready to ask questions and talk to me about what I had done.  I conversed with professors and fellow students that I already knew in addition to alumni that I had just met.  At the AOU Conference I did more inviting people to hear about the research and drawing people in, most of whom I was meeting for the first time.  Many of the people I did get the chance to talk to there had done similar or closely related research.  This made their questions and feedback even more detailed and constructive.  I found myself giving more in depth explanations and less background information at the AOU Conference. 

At the AOU Conference we presented a more text heavy poster.  For the Earlham presentation we created a second more simplified poster and presented both posters side by side.  This second poster was created keeping in mind the same museum exhibit principles as the Comparative Genomics poster. We eliminated the methods section in order to focus on our conclusions and relevance.  It contained a glossary and was more visually accessible to a wider audience.  Presenting the two posters side by side allowed us to make a comparison between two different ways of communicating the same research.  It was easier to explain the more detailed poster at the Earlham presentation because there was more information there and I had already presented this poster at the AOU conference.  However, the more simplified poster would be easier to understand without any explanation and would attract more people.  In future poster presentations I will work to achieve a balance between displaying enough detailed information and making it visually simple enough to attract viewers.

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