Earthzine Writing Fellowship Dives into the Ocean, One Story at a Time

Jenny WoodmanEarth Observation

IEEE Earthzine’s 2017 Writing Fellowship, sponsored by XPRIZE, engages students and early career professionals on ocean exploration through storytelling. Their first assignment was to interview each other.

NOAA’s Ocean Ship Okeanos Explorer is one of several vessels conducting seafloor mapping and ocean exploration missions, many of which are available to the public via telepresence technologies. Image Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

IEEE Earthzine’s 2017 Fellows are hard at work on stories that will transport readers to the deep ocean with explorations of the technology, research, and people that are changing our understanding of dynamic Earth processes. At the end of the program, we will run a two-part series examining how ocean data is used and who is collecting the data for scientists around the world. Readers also can look forward to reading about satellites measuring sea ice, intelligent devices designed to sniff out biological hazards and ocean features, ocean exploration in space, and the future of aquaculture.
Since 2015, IEEE Earthzine’s Writing Fellowship (previously called the Writing Club) has offered opportunities for students and early career professionals eager to develop science communication skills — delivered via one-on-one mentorship, presentations, readings, and weekly assignments. Students learn about developing story ideas, researching, interviewing, and working through the revision and review process. Once published, the students receive a small award; this summer’s honorarium is offered thanks to sponsorship from Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
We’ve gathered a talented group of writers and scholars. Read on to learn more!

Catie Foley

By Umesh Neettiyath

Summiting Mt. Fafnir, Alaska. Image Credit: Maureen Lynch

As a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University studying seals and penguins, Catherine Foley looks to the future with a sense of hope as the once decimated animal populations of a Subantarctic island called South Georgia are bouncing back. She is an active person who has tried her hand in trapeze, caving, archery and kickboxing among others and is a kayaking instructor. As an Earthzine Fellow, Catherine is exploring avenues for scientists to involve the public in research through science communication. “For successful management and conservation, science needs to be understood by citizens and policymakers,” says Foley.

Jenny Gessaman

By Jen Parrilli

Jenny Gessaman at her news desk in Montana with office cat, Inkjet. Image Credit: Charlie Denison

Journalist Jenny Gessaman has been connecting with rural readers since her days as a student at the University of Montana, where she served as the senior editor for the school’s Centennial Magazine. She has since expanded to the larger Montana community as a reporter for the Lewistown News-Argus.
Her interest in writing stems from a deep desire to inform people about their world so that they may live better daily lives. Stimulated by the strange and unique, Jenny is eager to plumb the depths of the IEEE Earthzine Writing Fellowship and dredge up the details of how deep sea organisms interact with their watery world. 

Sara Lubkin

By Kelly van Frankenhuyzen

Sara at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Image Credit:Sean McCartney, NASA DEVELOP

Sara Lubkin is a NASA DEVELOP intern and teaches oceanography at the University of Mary Washington. Part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, NASA DEVELOP interns work to address environmental and public policy issues using NASA Earth observations. This summer, Sara is working with satellite imagery to measure changes in marsh health from 2000 to 2030. The goal of this research is to give the public a better understanding of the importance of marsh health, which protects shorelines from erosion, wave damage and storm surge.
As an Earthzine Fellow, Lubkin hopes this program will increase her writing skills in the science field. Lubkin believes good science communicators can help solve environmental problems our planet is facing.

Umesh Neettiyath

By Catie Foley

Sunset from the top of Dewa Sanzan, Tsuruoka, Japan. Image Credit: Kuniko Miura

Umesh Neettiyath is a project researcher in the Ocean Perception Lab at the University of Tokyo. In the lab, Umesh is focused on building deep sea autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) sensors to study mineral deposits on the sea floor. Originally from a small village in India, Umesh has always pushed himself to seek out diverse opportunities. While his interests are wide-ranging, encompassing robotics, poetry, and traveling, he is particularly passionate about backpacking. Umesh has hiked in 20 of the 50 prefectures of Japan; during this time, he has developed a deep commitment to understanding the natural world. To Umesh, each new experience is an exploration: “I explore places, books, food, ideas and much more – both mentally and physically.”

Veronica Padula

By Erica Spain

Releasing a thick billed murre after sampling on St Paul Island. T species is experiencing one of the greatest declines in productivity so live capture is important to understand the impact of ocean plastics. Image Credit: Naomi Bargmann

Veronica Padula is asking the world to help solve a massive problem: ocean plastics. A “certified bird-nerd,” Veronica has more than 10 years of experience studying how plastics affect seabirds and the ocean. She aims to inspire people to go plastic-free.
While investigating impacts of ocean plastic ingestion on seabird breeding for her Ph.D., Veronica realized that engaging the public was key to solving the problem. Through her work as a 5 Gyres ambassador, she shows how small changes can have large impacts in helping oceans, and her beloved seabirds, recover.
As science educator for the Ecosystem Conservation Office on remote St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, she’s also working with local kids to build a remotely-controlled underwater vehicles to explore the ocean that surrounds them.

Jen Parrilli

By Jenny Gessaman

Jen Parrilli lures in Chagall and Tracy Chapman, two ring-tailed lemurs on Georgia’s St. Catherines Island, with a banana treat. Image Credit: Kelly Currier

Connections are a passion for Jen Parrilli. The links between Earth’s inhabitants, from plants to insects to fungi, have driven her scientific career. Now, Jen is using the relationships between ecological issues, scientists and the public to inspire her dive into science communication. She sees clear conversation between scientists and the public as a necessary part of ecological solutions. Parrilli believes this exchange is the only way to grow science support and funding on a global scale.
With degrees in biology, ecology and anthropology, she is working as a temporary keeper for ring-tailed lemurs and the other animals on Georgia’s St. Catherines Island. As a scientist, Jen is ready to become part of the solution as a 2017 IEEE Earthzine Fellow.

Peter Sinclair

By Andrew Urevig

Peter outside NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked as an intern last summer. Image Credit: Peter Sinclair

Space — faraway planets, burgeoning galaxies, potential aliens — fascinates Peter Sinclair, an astrophysics graduate student at University of New Mexico. Last year, he visited The Planetary Society, an organization promoting space exploration. It inspired him.
Since then, Peter has pursued science outreach by attending a workshop at the American Astronomical Society conference; answering space questions on Stack Exchange, a popular Q&A website; teaching an Astronomy 101 lab section; and writing on his nascent blog.
Peter likes reading and games. His favorite eats include Japanese food and chicken parmesan, but his hunger for knowledge is voracious — he loves learning in all its forms.

This photo was taken during the 2016 Research Vessel Investigator voyage to Heard and McDonald Islands. Image Credit: Pete Harmsen

Erica Spain

By Veronica Padula

Erica Spain’s passion for water has led her to pursue a Ph.D. at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Australia. For her Ph.D., she explores new worlds in the deep sea using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The Explorer AUV Erica will be using for her research can reach depths of 5000 meters and uses hydroacoustics to map the sea floor and under sea ice.
Erica plans to explore hydrothermal vent fields and methane seeps in the Southern Ocean and, eventually, Antarctica. She also is interested in environmental ethics, proposing that good environmental policies are also good economic policies, and in laws of the high seas and the Antarctic Treaty.

Andrew Urevig

By Peter Sinclair

Andrew Urevig, camping in northern Minnesota. Image Credit: Andrew Urevig

Andrew Urevig is a senior at the University of Minnesota (UMN) where he studies scientific interpretation and communication. This degree program, which he designed himself, consists of classes about life sciences and communication. Andrew became interested in science communication when he took a class on paleontology and the development of life on Earth.
Currently, he is a member of UMN’s “Bee Squad,” a student group that helps educate people about bees and other pollinators. After graduation, he would like to work as a writer, discussing animal behavior and ecosystem conservation.

Kelly van Frankenhuyzen

By Sara Lubkin

Earthzine Fellow Kelly van Frankenhuyzen with a friend in Denali National Park. Image Credit: Kelly van Frankenhuyzen

Earthzine Fellow Kelly van Frankenhuyzen recently graduated from Michigan State University with a master’s degree in environmental journalism.  While Kelly grew up enjoying the outdoors in Michigan, she also has explored nature by travelling extensively. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tonga and Senegal, and was an AmeriCorps volunteer in Sitka, Alaska. Kelly also worked on an organic farm on Catalina Island, California.
Because Kelly’s dream job would combine her passion for the environment with her love of travel, she would some day like to write for National Geographic. Kelly applied to the Earthzine Writing Fellowship to gain experience writing about science.
Jenny Woodman is a science writer and Writing Fellowship coordinator for IEEE Earthzine; she lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @JennyWoodman