Sharing Science: WHOI’s Mesocosm Lab

Daniel Cojanu filming the mesocosmOne of the first questions we usually ask our clients is “who is your audience?” Just like in advertising, knowing your target demographic is essential to delivering your message effectively through video.

When working with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, we generally assume the audience is the curious layperson. Visitors to WHOI’s website and the institution’s print publication, Oceanus, might be scientists themselves, but not necessarily specialists in oceanography. Even within the institution, biogeochemists and robotics engineers tend to speak very different languages. And so we try to make sure our videos for WHOI are engaging enough for the average browser, but also provide enough detail to interest experts in the field.

So we were in for a surprise when doing a story about a special outdoor lab at WHOI’s Environmental Systems Laboratory. A combination of architectural and engineering ingenuity and field biologists’ dream, we approached the production like an episode of  Cribs — that is, if scientists were rap stars.


Turns out, the scientist running the lab had a different target audience in mind. She wanted a deeper explanation of all her facility’s specialized features. For her, the video would be useful to explain her research methods and attract potential collaborators to do their experiments at WHOI.

Try as we might, creating a video with these two divergent interests in mind was just not going to work. So, we made two versions: an introduction for the curious traveler through cyberspace, and an audio slideshow for those who already know how to pronounce “mesocosm.”

In the end, we think everyone’s happy. We welcome your feedback— which version do you find most interesting?