Final Outreach Documentary: Role of Wetlands in Coastal Resilience


Ali M Rezaie is currently pursuing this multidisciplinary research as part of his PhD in the Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering Department at the George Mason University (GMU). For more information, contact at

Special thanks to:

GMU Flood Hazards Research Lab

Virginia Sea Grant 

Resources For the Future 

Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center

All field footage were captured during the field campaign led by the Flood Hazards Research Lab.

Concept, Narration & Direction: Ali Mohammad Rezaie

Videography & Production: Chelsea Gray

Writing and Messaging

Key Message Development. Your key message is the one thing that you want the audience to remember. Here’s a guide to developing your key message:

Simplifying Scientific Language and Concepts. Four tips for making your writing clear and simple so that you leave no room for your audience to misunderstand your intent:

Teaching Controversial Topics. If a contentious topic doesn’t sit well emotionally, then students may be unable to learn the science:

Guest Blogging Opportunities. If you’re interested in blogging to reach a science-interested web audience, consider submitting a blog to an existing website. This way you can get your information out without having to worry about setting up or managing a blog. Here’s a list of sites that accept science blog posts:

Writing for the Web. This is a quick list of advice if you’re writing something that will appear primarily on the web:

Introduction to Web Writing by Chris Nodder (video). Writing advice for web writing. To access you will need to log-in to through your university library.

Illustration Workflow

The process for creating an animation begins with organized idea that gets translated into a simple rough sketch before finalizing into a refined illustration.

1. Organize Your Idea

Before you start drawing, you want to make sure to think through your idea so you have a organized plan for what needs to be included and what the goal of the illustration is. To do this, write down answers the following questions:

  • What is the goal of completing this illustration?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What information needs to be included for the audience to care?
  • What information needs to be included for the audience to understand the illustration?

2. Create a Rough Sketch

Keeping your goal and audience in mind, draw a simple sketch. It can be as simple as boxes with words to show what icons or images should appear where. It can be something that looks more representational of what you think the final image should be. The key is to sketch in a format that’s quick and easy for you to use. The goal in this step of the process is to create a plan for the final image. So don’t use a illustration tool that you’re not familiar with at this time. Pen and paper is fine.

3. Draw the Final Illustration

Before you start drawing, consider whether you need to draw at all. There may be tools or clip art out there to help you simplify the process. Here are three options you can consider:

Use an Illustration Tool

When it comes to making an illustration Integration & Application Network at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (IAN) has a large library of stock images, icons, and symbols: There are several tools you can use that you can simply drag and drop icons to build your illustration. Infographic Apps could be useful to help you build an illustration.

Gather Clip Art and Do Your Own Layout

You can also consider editing clip art from a free or paid stock art service and arrange these pieces and add text in another program, such as MS Word, MS PowerPoint, Adobe InDesign, or another program. You can find images through stock and open source image services.

Drawing and Designing from Scratch

If you want to work from scratch, you could draw and design your illustration using professional software. To do this, you’ll need to know a little bit about layout and design, and you’ll need to identify an illustration tool you’d like to use. Adobe Illustrator is the leading vector illustration tool. Adobe Photoshop is really not designed for creating illustrations, but it can be paired with Illustrator to achieve some different effects. Here are some training videos through that might be useful, however, you will also find many more resources that tackle specific issues on YouTube.:

Infographic Apps

Infographic Builders creates full infographics and has a free version (and the least expensive paid version) of the infographic tools we’ve found.

Piktochart creates full infographics and offers a free version with images, icons, and charts that you could use.

Venngage creates full infographic stories using charts, maps, and icons. The free version has limited images and templates to choose from.

Graphs Makers builds easy-to-read graphs and charts using your data. You can build up to 10 images for free and there are paid versions for more images.

Timeline Tools

Dipity builds digital timelines in which you can add images, audio, text, links, locations, and time stamps to create an interactive timeline.

Interactive Data Tools

Quadrigram is an interactive infographic builder. You log in with a Google account and when you’re done, you can export the HTML to embed onto a website.


Animation and Video Production Overview

The process for animation and video begins well before you will start working with specialized software. Here are the production steps that professionals follow when making an animation or video:

  1. Pre-Production: In this phase, you outline your idea as a script and storyboard. These steps provide the road map. Here’s what you do:
    1. Write out an outline and script of what you want your project to be about.
    2. Convert your script or outline into a visual outline that shows that actions or visuals the viewer will see at each point of the outline. This is called a storyboard. You can use a template like this Storyboard Template and see more detailed instructions on storyboarding here.
  2. Production: Once you have your pre-production road map in place, you can start filming or animating. Here are some animation and video software that might be helpful.
  3. Post-Production: In this phase you incorporate audio, transitions, and fine-tune color issues. Then export your final project.

Animation Software

There are many different ways you can create animations. You can (1) add motion to a presentation, (2) create a stop motion animation, or (3) build an animation like a traditional cartoon. Here are some tools you can use to accomplish these kinds of animation:

Animated Presentations

Prezi. Prezi is an online, flash-based presentation tool which makes use of one large canvas that allows you to pan and zoom to various parts of the canvas and emphasize the ideas presented there. Prezi allows the speaker to navigate amongst data and visuals along a pre-determined “path” telling a compelling story that sticks in the minds of the audience and makes for a more effective presentation.

PowerPoint. You can add movement to PowerPoint to give presentations an animation effect. There are many tutorials on YouTube that walk through how you can animate text or other elements in your presentation. The tutorial below provides a good overview too:

VideoScribe is a video application that allows you to create whiteboard movies using vector graphics. So a hand will physically come onto the screen and pretend to write whatever it is you want in the presentation.

Stop-Motion Animation

Getting Started with Stop Motion Animation is a training video that goes over everything you need to know about how stop motion animation works and gives you ideas about tools and software that could be helpful:

Traditional Cartoons

Pencil 2D. This is a free open source, beta software that you can use to draw and animate cartoon images.

CreaToon is another free software, but it was originally built to animate only (meaning you would have to complete illustrations in another program and import them into CreaToon). The newest version has some illustration capabilities so that you can create the illustration directly in the program, but the quality and control is lower than Pencil.

Adobe Flash. Adobe Flash Professional is multimedia authoring program that creates interactive and animated content. This is a professional software, so be prepared for a more complex tool with all of the bells and whistles.


Clip Art and Images for Use

IAN Symbol Library. Integration & Application Network at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (IAN) has a library of symbols and images that may be helpful for building conceptual diagrams, and they are open source (meaning free for your non-commercial use):

Flickr. While not a bank for scientific images specifically, you might get lucky. From the home page type in your search terms, but then under the license drop down menu select the “All creative commons” filter. Creative commons is a copyright license that indicates the image is available for non-commercial use.

ARKive. A source of free-for-use images of animals and plants—most are photos.

NOAA Photo Library.

NOAA Fisheries Image Gallery. You might be able to find photos of species you work on here.

Paid Stock Photo Sites. Make sure you read the copyright rules. Some copyrights will cap the audience size that can view the image. For print products or unrecorded presentations, you will probably not have a problem, but for web-based resources, the number of viewers can be much less predictable over the long-term.

Theory and Background on Layout and Design

Foundation of Layout and Composition: Grids (video) by Sean Adams. The anatomy of grids and samples for posters, brochures, and websites that can be used in design. To access you will need to log-in to through your university. Sections 1 and 2 of this course will be most useful for beginners.


Photography offers several courses on photography. These were identified as having useful information on the basics of photography. To access these videos, you will need to log-in to through your university (All Virginia Sea Grant partner institutions have a subscription available to students and staff in their libraries. Contact your library for more instruction.) Once you log-in, you will be able to access these videos.

The Elements of Effective Photographs by Natalie Fobes (1h 36m): The course explores compositional elements that guide a viewer’s eye, including the rule of thirds; leading lines, patterns, and curves; and depth of field.

Foundations of Photography: Composition by Ben Long (5h 29m): The course addresses how the camera differs from the eye and introduces composition fundamentals, such as balance and point of view. Ben also examines the importance of geometry, light, and color in composition, and looks at how composition can be improved with a variety of post-production techniques.

What is a photo essay by Photojournalist Paul Taggart (1h): The course outlines the fundamentals of shooting a photo essay, from how to think about telling a story photographically to how to present your final photo story.

Kick-Off Workshop Presentations and Handouts

Here are some resources for the workshop and beyond:

Workshop Schedule

Detailed Assignment Timeline – 2017-2018

Date                                                             Assignment Due

Tuesday, October 17                            First Seminar Event: Learn about the science of science communication, and receive briefing on the Seminar requirements. Faculty members are: George Mason University (GMU) Science Communication Professor Kathy Rowan, GMU science communication PhD student Julia Hathaway, and VASG Communications Center Manager Ian Vorster.

Friday, October 27                            One-page proposal uploaded to course website. Describe outreach product, intended audience, desired impact.

Monday, November 13                     Feedback from all instructors on proposal sent by email to participants.

Monday, December 11                      First version outreach product uploaded to course website.

Friday, December 15                         Second Seminar Event: Peer and instructor feedback on first versions of outreach products. Representative stakeholders invited.

January 20 – February 2                 Assistance with printing out fliers, infographics available through Ian Vorster, VASG.

Friday, January 26                            Final version outreach product (or a link to the product) uploaded to course website.

Friday, February 9                            Third Seminar Event: Presentation of final outreach products to peers, instructors, and representative stakeholders.


Examples of Past Projects and Proposals

Participants may choose any communication project they would like and are encouraged to brainstorm ideas with each other and the Seminar faculty. Here are some examples of previous work:

  • Blog – Defining an invasive species
  • Infographic — Plastic Bag Pollution
  • Facebook page — Everything You Need to Know about Nutrient Pollution
  • Photography —  Cheaper to Visit the Fish Market?
  • Poster — Virginia Aquaculture: Oysters are good for the Bay!
  • Video Animation – The Role of Oysters in Nitrogen Cycling

What you’ll see in these project examples is a wide variety in audiences, topics, and communication strategies. However, you’ll also see that the proposals are a starting point for these projects, but the project (including the final title) evolved over the course of the Seminar.

How to Navigate This Site

As a participant in the Seminar, you will be contributing content to this site. There are things you can do that will help make sure the site is easy to get around.

Navigation Menu

The navigation menu is the blue bar at the top of the website that contains links. When you click on these links you will go to different areas of the site. When the Seminar starts, there will only be a couple of posts that Janet added.


Sub-menus will appear as  more and more posts are created. These will appear when you hover over a menu option. The sub-menus will group related posts to make it easier to see who is working on what.

Every Seminar participant will have sub-menu. This means that you will be able to select your name or another participant’s name and see all of the posts they created.

We will also create sub-menus for to help group communication projects to make it easy to see what other participants are working on. All participants working on brochures will have their posts grouped into a brochures sub-menu. All posts discussing presentations will be grouped in a presentations sub-menu.


All of the menus on this site are controlled by “categories.” You will be responsible for helping us maintain sub-menus by selecting categories when you create a post.

When you create a post, you will select categories before publishing. Your post will appear in the navigation bar or sub-menus based on the categories you select.

For this post, Janet selected “Communication Projects”, “Resources,” and “Student Posts.” You will see this post in each of those locations because she selected those categories when we published. Because she also selected “Project Proposals” you will see that sub-menu appear when you hover over the right menu option in the navigation bar.