Science Writing

As a journalist by training, I am very drawn to stories and their power as a means of communication. When I developed an interest in science later in life, it was my goal — and still is — to combine science and storytelling in a way that is compelling to a popular audience. With each story, I love that I get to jump into a topic mostly foreign to me and not only come out of it more enriched, but to share that enrichment with others. Great science communication — such as that of Carl Sagan and Mary Roach — changed the way I think, learn, and view the world around me. I hope that I can be that same agent of change for others.

The following are articles and videos I have created for a popular audience on topics that are important to me, fascinating to me, or just a little bizarre. Until then, please enjoy my writing!


Finding Green Space
(Planet Forward)

In the Fall semester of 2018, I took a video production class because, as a science communicator, I thought it necessary to have sch skills. For my final exam, I did a story on a community center in Madison, Wisc., that provides important outdoor experiences for students who may not get them as often as they’d like. Doing this on my own was a huge challenge, but it taught me a great deal about the process of writing, shooting, and editing my own movie. Because of this class, I hope that whatever I do professionally in the future, it involves my video skills.

(Photo courtesy of UC, Davis.)

Biodigester transforms food waste into fertilizer, energy (Planet Forward, Dec. 10, 2018)

In August2018, I flew to California with Planet Forward to tour facilities that combat food waste in innovative ways. Of the many places we visited, the one that impressed me the most was the large University California, Davis, biodigester, which breaks down organic matter into fertilizer for area farmers. It also converts the methane it produces into electricity for the area’s power grid.


‘Gross’ and unpopular, but dumpster diving can help the planet
(Planet Forward, Nov. 29, 2018)

Sometime in 2017, my partner and I took up dumpster diving as an exciting new hobby. It quickly became heart-breaking, however, too see how much waste accumulates unnecessarily in our quiet Midwestern town and to think about the same happening all around the country. It’s still a fun hobby, but our purpose is a little bigger: We’re excited to be giving new life to food, clothing, and furniture that is in otherwise perfectly good condition. In this listicle, I lay out some of the benfits we’ve seen from this unusual practice in an effort to get others to join our community.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Branch.)

Environmentalist breaks conventions with comedy (Planet Forward, Mar. 8, 2018)

Michael Branch is a desert-dwelling, award-winning environmental essayist who “writes like a drunken professorial hillbilly” and shows us that humor can have a place in communicating conservation’s weightier issues. I met Mike when he was giving a talk at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and asked if I could interview him for this story. I love when interviews feel more like hanging out with an old friend than doing work, and Mike fit that mold perfectly; we chatted for 30 minutes before the interview even began.

(Artwork by Sergio Membrillas.)

Rewiring the brain, (Isthmus, Oct. 6, 2016)

When I was growing up, common thought in neurology was that however well you were one year after a traumatic brain injury was the best you would be for the rest of your life. When a friend of mine introduced me to the UW’s Tactile Communication & Neurorehabilitation Lab, which is turning that idea on it’s head, I knew I had to check it out. This story meant a lot to me personally, as I have my own history of neurological impairment, so I was thrilled when the editors of the Isthmus kindly made it that week’s cover story.

(Photo courtesy of John Hawks.)

A major discovery in human evolution (Isthmus, Sept. 17, 2014)

UW anthropology professor Dr. John Hawks is well known for his efforts in science outreach, so I was not surprised that he was kind enough to grant me an interview on what promised to be a very important discovery: an entire underground chamber full of fossil hominins! At the time, he could not explain to me its significance (he could only describe the discovery as “tremendous”), the fossils turned out to be those of Homo naledi, whose place in the evolutionary spectrum is still being debated.

(Photo by Henry Vilas Zoo.)

Waiting for Keju (Isthmus, Aug. 20, 2015)

It was very important for me to at some point do a conservation story, so I was very happy when the Isthmus approved this proposal. Keju (which means “cheese in Malay) was born in the Henry Vilas Zoo to a mother who was not completely interested in raising the baby orangutan. I was able to write a little about the importance of conserving oil palm trees to the backdrop of Keju’s narrative.

 

 

(Photo by Renee Meiller.)

Virtual canaries (Isthmus, Jan. 5, 2017)

This story was something of a challenge. While I had at the time of writing this acquired a good deal of science knowledge and science writing experience, I’d never done a story on either chemistry or computer science. Luckily, Drs. Mavrikakis and Abbott were more than accommodating to my lack of knowledge and, in the end, I believe I was able to communicate the purpose of their work with the clarity that they had showed me in the interview.

 

(Photo by Clark Kellogg/Waisman Communications.)

Growth potential (Isthmus, Nov. 3, 2016)

Another wonderful challenge! I don’t write a lot about medical science, but I would love to do more. As a trained EMT, I have an interest in medicine, but but I am not as learned in the finer areas of anatomy discussed in this piece.

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of the Isthmus)

Seeing stars… and more (Isthmus, Jan. 14, 2016)

As a university town, the concentration of Madison’s access to science tends to be around the university or downtown. However, small pockets exist outside of these areas where local efforts seek to encourage children to become scientists. The Space Place is one of these efforts. Located on Madison’s south side, the facility holds educational workshops that explore the cosmos in a way that kids and their families can understand together!

 

(Photo by Melanie McCalmont)

A treasure trove of relief maps in UW Science Hall (Isthmus, Nov. 7, 2013)

This was my first story for the Isthmus. I remember being nervous to pitch it because I wasn’t sue how interested they would be, but I found the maps interesting a beautiful enough to find out. Thankfully, they accepted my query and I was able to go a little more in depth into my interest here.