The path to my career as a radio, print and multimedia journalist was circuitous.
Nevertheless certain common threads appear throughout my career peregrinations, including an interest in science and a desire for adventure.
I never imagined I would be a journalist until late in my formal studies. I studied physics at MIT as an undergraduate (which earned me a B.S.) and political science as a graduate student, also at MIT (which earned me a Ph.D.). Halfway through college I began having second thoughts about being a scientist. I took a year off and worked for an international technical assistance organization in Bolivia. Returning to MIT, I became interested in filmmaking. For my undergraduate thesis, I produced a documentary on the Nuclear Freeze campaign, which was calling for an end to nuclear weapons production.
Thinking that I preferred science policy to science itself, I began studying political science. I later became disillusioned with this discipline as well, though I completed my degree. My dissertation was a policy history of the Hanford nuclear weapons production plant. During graduate school I discovered journalism as a way to pursue my interest in science policy and science. My first publications were for Technology Review. Early on I also worked as an environmental policy researcher at the Conservation Foundation (then a branch of the World Wildlife Fund) in Washington. While living there, I produced my first radio program, for National Public Radio, when an NPR producer I met offered to help me get a start.
For the last 15 years I have devoted myself full-time to science and environmental journalism. In 1999 I received a Ted Scripps Fellowship for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado allowing me a year free of work to learn more about the science of global warming. Apart from two years on the staff of Public Radio International’s environment show Living on Earth and my fellowship year, I have worked this entire time freelance. Since the fellowship, my focus has been almost exclusively biodiversity and global warming.
I have learned that the only way for me to thrive financially in freelance journalism is to write and produce for a diverse suite of outlets in a variety of media. I spend a considerable amount of time innovating new techniques for different media and honing my technical skills. In 2002, as part of an expedition to Antarctica, I began producing extensive multimedia websites. This rewarding work has given me an outlet for my photographic eye that I developed in high school and college but for which for I previously had no outlet. I have now produced three multimedia sites (hosted by WBUR.org) on Greenland and Madagascar and Antarctica.
Since my 2002 trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, I have realized that when I collect material from remote sites, such as Greenland, Antarctica, Madagascar, etc., I have a competitive edge that makes it easier to get my material in print, on the air, and on the web. Accordingly, I have begun to plan year or multi-year projects revolving around single themes and involving ambitious international expeditions. These projects produce material that I can then turn into multiple print, radio and web products. My latest project of this sort, produced between 2006 and 2007, was an ambitious survey of the impacts of global warming on the world’s ice. I traveled to Greenland, the Arctic Ocean, Peru and Antarctic. My products included a one-hour radio documentary (broadcast in the U.S. and Australia), 2 12-minute features for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s show Dispatches, 3 podcasts for National Geographic magazine and multimedia web features for Audbon.org and WBUR. I was also interviewed nearly a dozen times for domestic and international radio shows about my reporting. Between 2008 and 2009 I travelled to seven countries on three continents to produce reports on how climate change is changing people’s lives today. I also reported joined an expedition to Australia studying past sea level and what lessons it has for today.
I plan to continue reporting on climate and biodiversity for the foreseeable future, always seeking new topics and techniques for engaging the public. I anticipate using interactive web applications extensively, such as mapping tools and applications for incorporating user generated content.