Last summer, a colleague from long-ago called me out of the blue. Brooke Smith had been my intern 15 years ago when I was running the Washington, DC office of Marine Conservation Biology Institute (now Marine Conservation Institute). She was an exceptional intern and it was obvious to me that she would go far in a career straddling the worlds of environmental science and policy.
She did. She soon became Executive Director of COMPASS, a non-profit founded by famed marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco in 1999, to help scientists navigate the alien (to them) worlds of journalism and public policy. Brooke and I only occasionally crossed paths over the following years as members of the extended conservation NGO family, but soon social media made it much easier to connect with people from long ago and far away. Through Facebook, Brooke was able to follow my transition from environmental policy analyst and consultant, to environmental journalist. Hence the phone call.
COMPASS was in a transition and looking to expand. Would I be interested in exploring ways my science, policy, and journalism background could contribute to its work? I was. And so since late September I’ve been learning the ropes and adding my perspective to help scientists shape their messages and communicate their work more effectively with journalists. The work itself is rewarding. But seriously, the COMPASS team and its coordinated support is what makes it pure joy. As I noted in my interview with COMPASS Program Associate Sarah Sunu for her recent blog post, it’s cliche to say it, but the people really are the best thing about working with COMPASS. Thanks to Sarah for sharing my story in her post, and to Brooke for providing me the flexibility to continue my freelance writing, while welcoming me to the team. To use another cliche: I’m now enjoying the best of both worlds.