Seminar in Science and Mass Communication

Also known as Baboon Films, this Honors Biology class is funded by a 2012 National Science Foundation grant, and is only offered to 30 students per year. The class uses a problem-based

A Penn High School Biology student observes parasites found in the baboon gut through a microscope at the University of Notre Dame.
A Penn High School Biology student observes parasites found in the baboon gut through a microscope at the University of Notre Dame.

learning approach to the issue of mass-communication in the sciences.  Students hone their skills in writing, editing, managing content, editing images, and editing film using content about baboons living on a savanna in Kenya.

The class serves students as an educational outreach opportunity for Assistant Professor, Dr. Elizabeth Archie at the University of Notre Dame. She directs the Amboseli Baboon Research Project which studies the social habits of wild baboons living on the savanna of southeastern Kenya.

Since the fall of 2012, I have been working with the students of Ms. Harshberger’s Honors Biology class to create multimedia projects that model the type of communication researchers have to produce about their work. The goal is to communicate messages to the masses more effectively.  Students use the Adobe Creative Suite in order to build knowledge webs (wikis), websites, infographics, and films about the lives of baboons.

Media Managementbaboon-content

The year begins with basic image manipulation and media management. Students learn how to effectively manage the assets they use and create from the media Mr. McNulty captured in the field. Though this age of students may be considered “digital natives,” they still need to learn how digital technology works. They need to learn how to organize assets and data in order to make the most sense of it.

Image Editing

To edit images, the students are taught how use Photoshop to enhance over 2000 photos shot by baboon001Kevin McNulty. The students learn about shot composition and start off with cropping a picture to make it focus on their subject and they begin to make changes around that. The students then adjust levels of saturation, exposure, contrast, etc. to prepare images for a wiki, website, and social media.

Writing Content for the Masses

baboonconnectionStudents write a great deal of content for the website,,, and  Students write about the savanna, baboon diet, society, life cycle, and more. Their goal is to write informed articles about various aspects of baboon life.


Editing Films

In the second semester, much of that writing becomes narration in baboon documentaries which they post to Youtube and embed in our sites. By the end of the year, students have created a variety of media that is hosted on our websites.  All of these mass-communication efforts are designed to teach students how to communicate effectively about science.

If you would like to know more about this project, please use the contact form on the right to get in touch with Kevin McNulty.