Parasites take on starring role in equine film awards


A series of short videos sharing gems of wisdom and debunking myths surrounding equine parasites has earned its creator a film award.

Parasitologist Martin Nielsen from the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center launched a series of 18 educational #DewormDebunk videos starting in October to inform horse owners, farm managers, and veterinarians about a range of equine parasitology dos and don’ts. His efforts were rewarded with a Winnie Award from the 2019 International Equus Film Festival for Best Educational Film.

Martin Nielsen filming one of the videos in his equine parasite series.
Martin Nielsen filming one of the videos in his equine parasite series.

The Equus Film & Arts Fest highlights the diverse and creative efforts of those who pay artistic homage to the horse. The festival, founded in 2013 by avid equestrian Lisa Diersen, is billed as the first event of its kind to offer a home to the storytellers of the horse world, with films, documentaries, videos, commercials, and shorts from around the world and cultural elements of fine equestrian art and literature.

“My science communication strategy has made use of social media for many years, but this year I decided to try something different,” said Nielsen, the Schlaikjer Professor of Equine Infectious Disease at Gluck.

“I wanted to produce a series of short videos debunking common misconceptions and myths one at the time. I wanted the videos to be around 45 seconds to make them Twitter-friendly, but also to accommodate for the short attention span often observed online. And I wanted to make a point out of not needing elaborate equipment or technical assistance. These videos were all shot by an iPhone and I edited them myself on my laptop computer.”

Nielsen’s videos fell into one of three categories: short videos addressing common misconceptions about parasite control; longer educational videos outlining important concepts in parasite control; and videos that inform viewers about current findings, research needs, and the importance of UK’s equine research herds.

“As academics and scientists in today’s world, we need to make an effort to communicate our research findings to our end-users,” he said. “We need to establish ourselves as the source of solid, evidence-based, and unbiased information. Communication on social media is a must for scientists because that platform is now an integrated part of society and where people acquire and exchange information.

“Winning the Winnie Award is a wonderful recognition of our efforts to communicate about science in a social media-friendly manner,” he said. “I hope other scientists will follow suit and help provide good evidence-based information to horse owners, farm managers, veterinarians, and all kinds of horse enthusiasts across the world,” Nielsen said.

“Anyone can make a video and have it look decent, so there is really no excuse to not do this. I will certainly launch another series next year, but perhaps experiment a little more with the format and duration.”

» View the series, from episode 1


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