While pursuing my PhD in oceanography, I realized that my love for science is best expressed through writing, communicating, and educating others. Through various outreach events and writing opportunities, I found that translating scholarly science into digestible and compelling stories that capture people’s attention was not only my passion, but my strength. I care about helping other researchers share their science as clearly as possible, working to create content that engages and educates, and editing work for colleagues and clients. I truly enjoy sharing and learning about the ecology of the world we live in and the fascinating natural stories all around us.
Currently, I am a science communications fellow with the Communications and Applications Group of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, immersed in a whole new world of forest and wildlife science. I work with the station’s research scientists to share their findings with the public, policymakers, and resource managers by writing accessible science stories, designing immersive web pages, creating short videos, and crafting creative, engaging new ways to communicate their findings. Check out my work under Portfolio.
A little about plankton
During my PhD, I studied how the tiniest ‘plant’ and ‘animal’ cells – known collectively as plankton – grow, eat, and die in the ocean. Why bother studying what goes on between invisible microbes in the vast ocean? Because these cells shape the entire marine food web, take up carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, and provide a significant amount of the oxygen we breathe. Plankton are incredibly important to the function of our oceans, and therefore, the function of the entire planet. But, we aren’t even aware of them most of the time.
Just like plants on land, ‘plant’ plankton, aka phytoplankton, use photosynthesis to take up carbon dioxide and create the sugars they need to grow. Phytoplankton are eaten by ‘animal’ plankton, aka zooplankton. They, in turn, are eaten by larger animals, like fish, which are potentially eaten by even larger animals, like sea birds, seals, or humans. Thus, the energy that those tiny, invisible phytoplankton first created is transferred to the entire ocean food web, and to us.
But, there are tons of different kinds of plankton, and they do not all behave in the same way. The types of plankton that are in the ocean and the speed at which they are growing, dying, or being eaten determines how much energy larger ocean animals will have to survive. Got phytoplankton species that are extra-small or just don’t ‘taste’ good? That might mean less food for other marine animals. Got large, juicy phytoplankton? That bodes well for marine fish and mammal populations. Got rogue phytoplankton that are producing toxins? That’s definitely a concern for both marine animals and humans.
Understanding plankton helps us understand our oceans – and there is still so much we need to understand about both.