Chesapeake Quarterly
Goldman Says Goodbye
Erica Goldman by Cairn Krafft

AFTER SIX-AND-A-HALF YEARS AS A SCIENCE WRITER, Erica Goldman is leaving Maryland Sea Grant. During her tenure, she wrote about Bay science, led enthusiastic forays into new media like blogs and Facebook, and most recently produced several short videos. In between all her work projects, she and her husband Joel managed to organize several epic travel adventures and welcome the birth of two energetic children.

Arriving in 2004, Erica came well trained in science, writing, and policy. After finishing her Ph.D. in marine science at the University of Washington, she began exploring non-traditional science careers, first by working at Science magazine as a science writing intern, then by spending a year on Capitol Hill as a Knauss Marine Policy fellow. At Sea Grant she put all that experience to good use, writing magazine articles for Chesapeake Quarterly and co-authoring in-depth publications with scientists that examined topics like resilience and thresholds in estuarine ecosystems.

How did a scientist turn into a science writer? By trying to share her research with others — only to discover the big gap between scientists and non-scientists, a culture gap that can sometimes look like a canyon with scientists and laymen trying to yell across the void while speaking different languages. She was always surprised, she admits, when laypeople didn't see the importance of her work on "Non-Linear Mechanics in Jellyfish Locomotion," the topic of her dissertation. "Instead of getting upset," she says, "I tried to figure out ways to explain the science and show people how interesting it is."

To sharpen her skills she took courses in science writing during graduate school, then sought out science writing work with Washington Sea Grant. By the time she arrived in College Park, she had a new career and a new personal mission statement: she wanted to work full time on bridging the big gap between scientists and the rest of us through writing and synthesis and storytelling.

She brought to her mission a deep interest in science, an abiding curiosity about the people who do science, and an energy that scientists appreciated. "From when I first met her to the last meeting, she had this intense interest in understanding what we do," says Walter Boynton, a marine ecologist at Chesapeake Biological Lab and incoming President of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. "Her goal was always to make science understandable and compelling to people who were not science geeks."

She leaves Sea Grant with a deeper understanding of Chesapeake Bay science and policy as well as skills in narrative journalism and new media. She wrote long-form pieces for Chesapeake Quarterly and online briefs for the web site's Science News and Marine Spotlight sections. She also started up Sea Grant's Bay Blog and Facebook page, and led a project to produce several short videos showcasing Extension work with rain gardens and stormwater management, videos that Angie's List, the consumer review portal, will soon feature on its website.

"We will surely miss those talents," says Jonathan Kramer, Maryland Sea Grant Director. "Erica's curiosity, scientific background, and interest in telling the story underneath complex issues is a rare combination, one that we truly valued here at Maryland Sea Grant."

Her next job won't take her far from College Park. Starting in January 2011, she will drive to the Silver Spring office of COMPASS, (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea), where she will start work as the new Assistant Director for Marine Science Policy Outreach. Her new job builds on her old job. The goal is to communicate key marine science findings to policy makers, the public and the media, in large part by trying to turn scientists into good communicators. The tools COMPASS favors include briefings, meetings, and communications training. One tool Goldman brings is storycraft. "I want to help scientists tell compelling stories that resonate."

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