(Knauss Fellow, NOAA and NatGeo Explorer || DC USA)
“Take a breath. Take another breath. You’re breathing oxygen that plankton produce — over 50% of the world’s oxygen comes from plankton. For my PhD, I characterized a new genus of plankton, a little-known type called a nanoflagellate, barely larger than a bacteria cell. They’re the most abundant predator in our oceans that no one’s ever heard of. I have an Instagram for my research (@marchoftheplankton) and love talking to people who love plankton — we’re a small community. But I can’t present my paper about nanoflagellates to my family and have a two-way discussion about it. I have to take a step back and recognize I’m sitting with four people at the dinner table who don’t have the same background I do. If you want to share your story with the public as a scientist, if you want to engage and have discourse, you need to make it digestible for everyone. The — ’Why do I care? Why are my tax dollars funding this?’ — that needs to be at the forefront. Platforms like the Discovery Channel and National Geographic have an important role in talking to the public about what we do as scientists.
I’ve had a grant and currently have a fellowship with National Geographic. I was on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico to do plankton sampling, studying organisms under the microscope and using DNA signatures. But data collection is just one aspect. Being a NatGeo Explorer, you’re someone willing to think about a project through a different lens, whether with storytelling or some kind of collaboration with journalists and photographers. Now I’m in the Knauss program with NOAA in the Office of Education. I work in marine policy, reviewing grants and sitting on panels. It’s the other side of research — I’m working to understand the full process of science.
I think policy work has an important role in my life, but I’ve wanted to be an educator since I realized the impact educators had on me. Whether I go to a nonprofit, or become a professor, I want to do it for the next generation. I want to hook them, to reel them in — the same way my professors did for me.”