A Non-Scientist’s #SparkofScience

This was originally written in in 2016 for Nautilus Magazine’s Spark of Science Issue. It has been updated for 2018.

I am not a scientist, but I am a science communicator.

As a web and social media producer for Climate Central, I’m surrounded in science daily. I tweet about rising CO2 levels. I write stories about the issues our country faces in a world with climate change. I create interactives showing what sea level rise projections could do to major cities around the world. I write social media video scripts about declining Arctic sea ice.

I always thought my spark of science came through my Earth 100 class at Penn State with Dr. Laura Guertin, a kick-ass marine geologist and professor who introduced me to the connection between educational technology and Earth science. Who better to teach me about our changing planet than an American Geophysical Union blogger AND #SparkofScience blogger?

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But after a bit of introspective thought, I found that Dr. G’s class was just a continuation of my love for the Earth.

When I was 3, I channelled Julia Butterfly Hill and hung out in a Redwood tree. My elementary, middle and high school years were spent RVing to federal lands all across the U.S. and Canada. I have spent countless hours hiking through our National Forests, and many more driving to National Parks. Grad school in Montana brought me to the dwindling glaciers of Glacier National Park , and curiosity has taken me from the White Rim Trail in Utah to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. I’ve blogged about my dedication of wilderness protection for the Wilderness Society, and been featured on National Parks Traveler.

My intrigue with wild places hasn’t peaked yet, but has turned into a fierce dedication to educating the public on what climate change will do to the natural world. And even though I’m not a scientist, I’m using my spark of science to tell everyone about it.

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Here’s What You Should Do for the Planet This #EarthDay

Listen, change ain’t easy. I know that. But if it’s for the planet, you should be all in. So here’s what I’m doing this Earth Day, and you should join me.

1. Litter less, and work more on #2minutelitterpick. I’ve been picking up beach litter long before the #2minutebeachclean came around, but now it’s gaining some momentum as a Twitter hashtag (what isn’t these days?). It’s so easy to pick up some trash for two minutes on your way off the beach, down the street, and as you’re heading down the trail (just shove it in your backpack!). But it takes more than that — stop it at the source. Start committing to buying things with less packaging, and if you have to use plastic, PLEASE recycle it. A little goes a long way, and reduce, reuse, recycle still fits in the motto of Earth Day.

2. Give up straws. I have to admit — I’ve been trying this one, and it is HARD, especially when you’re out at restaurants and they just throw straws at you — literally. But just ask for no straw. Straws (and other plastics) are making their way into our waterways, choking up our oceans and literally choking our wildlife. Plastic is making its way into our food, too. #BanTheStraw is just the latest in the plastic-free movement (even McDonalds is doing it!,), behind the #BanTheBag movement, starring my favorite, the plastic bag. And it’s making waves — in July, Seattle will ban plastic straws and plastic utensils, and Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by 2019.

3. Plant a tree. Ok, people have been saying this for decades, and there’s a reason! Planting trees is one of the best things you can do for climate change, and trees are also just the best in general (I can’t source that information, because it’s just known to be true). If you can’t literally plant a tree because you don’t have the means, have someone else contribute for you! Companies like Tentree plant ten trees (you guessed it!) for every item you buy.

There are also many organizations you can donate to that will plant trees in regions that need it most. To start with a donation — Plant a billion from the Nature Conservancy, One Tree Planted, American Forests, and the National Forest Foundation.

If you need more suggestions, check out more campaigns on Earth Day Network.

Top 10 Climate Stories of 2017 — my first Climate Central byline

I wrote my first story for Climate Central!

Yeah yeah, I know I’m a little slow. Despite being there for 2.5 years writing copy for thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and now for our newly-launched social videos, I’ve never written a bylined piece. But now I have!

I polled our social followers about what they thought the top stories of 2017 in the climate realm were, and they picked the following — the blockbuster hurricane season, new, terrifying sea level rise projections , the government (and its denial, among other things), Tesla and Elon Musk’s innovative projects across the world, the West’s terrifying wildfire season (which is never-ending, it seems), global heat records continually being broken, the social injustice of climate change, solar energy shining, the shift to transportation pollution being the biggest carbon emitter, and deadly heatwaves.

Read about it right over here. 

The March for Science (and Climate)

2017 marks the first year I marched — starting with the Science March in D.C. on Earth Day and continuing on with the People’s Climate March in New York City a week later.

I’m not the marching type, but all bets are off with our current administration threatening to take away national monuments, removing climate information from various government websites, considering exiting the Paris Agreement…. and the list goes on.

Being a part of the March for Science was surreal. Despite the rain, the streets surrounding the National Mall were flooded with scientists protesting the administration’s threat to science and science funding. And it wasn’t just regular people (like me). Climate Central’s chief scientist, Heidi Cullen, spoke to a soggy crowd about the value of extreme weather reporting and attribution science. Jason Box, climate researcher (and an important part of my favorite climate film), spoke to the importance of melting Greenland on the world’s coastlines (in case you didn’t know, sea level rise is coming for us all, and estimates keep getting more extreme), while Bill Nye stressed to lawmakers that “science is for all.”

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Signs at the March for Science in D.C. on Earth Day, 2017.

The People’s Climate March hoped to continue the momentum of the importance of science, so all over the U.S. (and the world), thousands marched in the People’s Climate March. In Staten Island, a sister march walked along the coast where Superstorm Sandy devastated homes and buildings along the shore.

Signs here overwhelmingly pointed to renewables, rising seas, and the importance of protecting the Earth.

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Activists march on Staten Island

I marched for science and a clean planet, and for everyone in my life who is dedicated to science (including us science communicators!). The March for Science organizers are aiming to make this a movement, and I’ll be there every step of the way.