My undergraduate training was as a teacher — which is the perfect foundation for a journalist — and early in my career, I completed a couple of semesters of high school teaching. I have graduate pedagogy and didactics classes under the belt and appreciate any opportunity to share the storytelling process with young journalists, communicators or scientists. Why scientists? Because every scientist needs to communicate their findings for the benefit of society. Narrative is an evidence-based way to achieve it.
I taught a semester-long Advanced Science Communication class at Virginia Sea Grant, which is housed at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This class took young marine and coastal science students through a series of instructional and coaching steps whereby they identified a target audience and a relevant message from their research and prepared a product to communicate an important element of their work.
From infographics to whiteboard animation videos to photo essays or documentary shorts, a variety has been published and shared with policymakers, watermen, coastal property owners, prospective employers, at museum events or with other stakeholders. What is a Wetland created by Pamela Braff has aired on PBS Television. Each class also has a smaller cohort of students who would like to receive training in how to manage a live press interview.
A 'stakeholder review' session became the highlight of each class as professionals from the GK-12 education, aquaculture and fisheries industries or extension partners of Virginia Sea Grant offered feedback after each student had presented their rough draft. This step ignited a passion for more nuanced science communication and produced results that are essential for scientists.
I have also served as the primary adviser for a master's thesis, which will evaluate data collected using time-lapse photography, to monitor improvements to a Wyoming wetland bird migration stopover area.
I have mentored a number of prospective young journalists and science communicators through internships in the fields of science writing, photography, videography and design. Below are links to two projects recently produced under my guidance. Credit is given in each piece.
- Resilient Ingleside: A multimedia project that examines a local community partnership to combat recurrent flooding caused by sea level rise. The piece is introduced by a local character— an African American gentleman, Charles Gore whose home has been inundated with water a number of times.
- The Marlin Maven: This ARCGIS storymap follows the work of a graduate student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Nadya Mamoozadeh. As a Ph.D. candidate, she has spent the last four years amassing a collection of marlin DNA samples from across the globe as she examines the management of the species.