My undergraduate training was as a geography teacher — which is the perfect foundation for a journalist — and early in my career, I completed a couple 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, and the narrative is an evidence-based way to achieve it.
I currently host a semester-long Advanced Science Communication Seminar at Virginia Sea Grant, which is housed at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This class takes young marine and coastal science students through a series of instructional and coaching steps whereby they identify a target audience and a relevant message from their research and prepare 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. And the airing of What is a Wetland (Pamela Braff) is pending for PBS Television. Every class also has a smaller cohort of students that would like to receive training in how to manage a live interview.
A 'stakeholder review' session has become the highlight of each Seminar as professionals from the GK-12 education, aquaculture and fisheries industries or extension partners of Virginia Sea Grant offer feedback after each student has presented their rough draft. This step ignites a passion for nuanced science communication, and produces results that are essential for the scientists.
I am also serving as the primary reader 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 tries to the management of the species.