A biologist, writer, science communicator, comedian, TV presenter, trainer, consultant and artist, Simon Watt not only runs The Ugly Animal Preservation Society – a comedy night with a conservation twist – but also runs the science communication company Ready Steady Science and has written dozens of articles for newspapers like The Times and the The Independent. A short email interview with him about all his scientific and literary endeavors gave us an insight into his professional life that involves bridging science and communication.

Simon Watt, one of the minds behind the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, founder, and host of the podcast Level Up Human and creator of Ready, Steady, Science

Hi, Simon! You’ve mentioned on your webpage that you’ve always worked in science and in media. What inspired you to combine them and what led you to realise that you’d be best as a science presenter?

There was no big wow moment for me.  It just made sense that if you are passionate about something, then you want to talk about it. I love finding things out and learning about the world.

The other side of it is that the arts are important to me, I enjoy performing so it was only natural that my loves would bleed together.

You’re a TV presenter, Writer, Podcaster, Comedian, Educator, Consultant, and an Artist. And each of them involves story-telling, only in different forms. Which form of presenting do you like the most and which one do you think conveys your message most effectively?

I think there are 3 things that you have to bear in mind.  You need to know who your audience is- that should in part dictate the method of communication that you use to reach them.  You need to know your content, know what the story is within it. The shape of that story will influence the method you use to tell it.  How does or can it make you feel? And finally, you have to know the nuances of your method- writing a comedy set is different than writing a kids show.

In terms of my own enjoyment, I like each of them in different ways.  Comedy is just great fun, its wonderful making people laugh.  Working with kids is great, they are always pleased to get involved and want to take part.  I adore the museums I work in, they are stacked to the rafters with incredible things that have fantastic stories behind them.  TV and radio can give you the opportunity to do some beautifully unusual things, if I were not working in TV I would never have had the chance to go diving with sperm whales.

 

One of the many things we see on your webpage is “the blob fish needs you” and ironically, that’s what’s attractive about the website. Could you tell us more about “The Ugly Animal Preservation Society” and what made you come up with it?

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society is a comedy night with a conservation twist, we have been on TV, Radio, YouTube but mainly we perform live.  We found global fame/notoriety when we ran an online campaign that resulted in the blobfish being elected the worlds ugliest animal.

It’s a silly way of talking about a serious subject.  I use the techniques of satire to talk about conservation. Comedians make jokes about politics because politics matters, I make jokes about conservation because conservation matters.  I tour the show with a group of comedians and everywhere we go we get that town or city to elect their very own anti panda, a new ugly mascot for the town.  There is a message behind it though, all the weird creatures we talk about, many of which the audience may not have heard of, are endangered.  Everyone knows the panda, the people who care about it already care about conservation or are fatigued by the disasters on our planet. By talking in a different way, about different animals to different people I hope we can convince more people about the importance of looking after our planet and the species that live upon it.

What are some first steps aspiring communicators can take to disseminate science and make, in your words, “information entertaining?”

Use your talents and interests: if you are a singer, sing; if you are a writer, write. Try on different things to see what fits you. I find that good ideas are sticky notes that won’t go away.

Learn more about Simon at – http://simonwatt.co.uk/index.html 

About Ushashi Basu

Ushashi is a second-year Biochemistry and Cell Biology student at Jacobs University Bremen, Germany. She is also a passionate poet, an avid reader, and a pop culture enthusiast!
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