About Us: Sarah Sunu

Sarah at the shore in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Sarah Sunu is COMPASS’ Research Assistant. She’s involved in several projects – from science and policy sleuthing to helping us learn more about how we can better serve the scientists we work with. If her name looks familiar, it’s because Sarah was an intern for our DC office in 2009. She’s now in the Portland office, continuing to support COMPASS’ work.

Sarah was excited to rejoin COMPASS because, as she puts it, “The gap between public perception and scientific knowledge about the environment made the things I learned in science courses feel like hidden truths. Outside of the science world, most people didn’t seem to understand, or be aware of, the impacts our choices were having on the world around us. My early experiences in the arts and communication primed me to seek ways to help get science out there so that people could make informed decisions.” [Read more...]

Connecting at NACCB

Our "Tapas" plenary is one of the ways COMPASS is looking to connect emerging science to  public discourse. Photo credit: Megan Dearden

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.

The COMPASS team is in Missoula, Montana this week for the 2014 North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB). Our plenary “Tapas” and the reception that followed kicked off myriad conversations between scientists and journalists. There were conversations about pikas and the Endangered Species Act, about endangered primates, as well as innovative efforts to engage stakeholders in discussions about what a changing climate will mean.

For us, conferences are about making connections: with people, with ideas, and between communities. One of our core activities is sleuthing new science, to identify ideas and insights that are not yet well connected to the public discourse, and brokering connections that can transform the conversation. Sometimes those connections are amongst peers. Sometimes those connections are with journalists. And sometimes they’re in the world of policy. [Read more...]


Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 2.19.44 PM

This post was co-authored by Director of Science Outreach Nancy Baron

This weekend, some 1000 scientists, managers, practitioners, agency and activist organization leaders will come together in Missoula, Montana for the North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB). They are the investigators  and observers of what is happening to our land, water, and biodiversity. This is their opportunity to connect with their colleagues and to share new research and developments in conservation science and practice. The meeting’s theme is “Challenging Conservation Boundaries” and COMPASS will be there to help scientists build the skills and relationships they need to bring their new insights and evidence to bear on environmental decision-making across the continent. [Read more...]

About Us: Erin Moomey

Erin in Angkor Watt.

Erin Moomey is our Operations Manager and the author of last year’s blog post on how COMPASS selects new projects. She describes her role at COMPASS as, “a combination of connecting programs with operations (i.e. making sure we get i’s dotted and t’s crossed in the least bureaucratic way possible) and problem solving.”

Erin says, “I’ve always been a holistic thinker. My education is in peace and conflict studies, which incorporates perspectives from all across the social sciences (and literature) to gain a better understanding of our social ecosystems.  That’s similar to COMPASS’ approach of breaking down disciplinary silos or institutional silos, to build a more complete picture, so we can make more informed decisions.”

[Read more...]

About Us: Heather Mannix


COMPASS has welcomed a number of new folks to our team recently, and so we’re reviving our “About Us” series to introduce them. This week’s focus is Heather Mannix. Heather is our Science Engagement Specialist, and the author of a recent blog post on the role of boundary organizations.

At COMPASS, Heather works to connect science and scientists to relevant policy conversations. Heather’s experience working with U.S. and international policy motivated her to work for an organization that bridges the boundary between science and policy. She says, “I saw firsthand the value that science had for policy decisions but also that there are times when the mechanisms to share science can fail for reasons unrelated to the quality of the information – you really do need a guide to navigate the boundary. Learning this motivated me to work in a way that recognizes how important the mechanisms are, and that those opportunities to share science have to be well crafted.”

More about Heather …

[Read more...]

Greetings from Retreat

The COMPASS team just before stand-up paddle-boarding on the Willamette. Clockwise from top left, Erin Moomey, Karmel James, Sarah Sunu, Leslie Rutberg, Heather Galindo, Erica Goldman, Karen McLeod, Nancy Baron, Chad English, Megan Dearden, Heather Mannix, Liz Neeley, Brooke Smith, Heather Reiff, Kenny Maher.

We are taking a break from the blog this week to attend COMPASS’€™ annual board and staff retreat. As a distributed organization, we highly value the time we can spend together, face to face. This week we’re in Portland, Oregon to reflect on the last fifteen years of our work, take stock of our evolution, and look ahead to see how COMPASS can continue to connect science to conversations that matter. We are also welcoming four new staff members who we look forward to introducing through this blog in coming weeks. See you next week!

[Read more...]

Navigating the Boundary

boundary bridge 2

I’m excited to be writing my first blog post as a new member of the COMPASS team. I joined COMPASS two months ago, and one of the facets of work here that I’m particularly excited by is COMPASS’ role as a boundary organization. Boundary organizations are so named because they sit at the “boundary” between science and non-science. COMPASS has traditionally helped scientists navigate across the boundaries separating science from policy and media, although we are increasingly exploring ways we can support scientists to cross boundaries to connect with business, legal and other communities as well.  A relatively new term, the definition and theory of “boundary organizations” began to coalesce in the early 2000s, but the role that boundary organizations play – the seat between science and non-science – has been evolving over a much longer timescale.

[Read more...]

Making Peace with Self Promotion


I prepare for writing projects as if they are adventures, so when I sat down to write a book chapter this spring, I was excited. The topic was self-promotion in social media, for the forthcoming The Complete Guide to Science Blogging, made possible by an NASW Ideas Grant. My coffee was hot, my playlist was inspired, and my background research had me buzzing… but before I started writing, I first saved the tweet I would post when I submitted: [Read more...]

Top Ten Tip-lists for Sharing Your Science

The COMPASS blog offers tips for puzzling through the challenges of science communication. 
(CC BY-NC-SA by Gabriela Pinto on flickr)

Almost fifteen years ago I joined two of COMPASS’ cofounders – Jane Lubchenco and Vikki Spruill – at the Packard Foundation to share about the need for a science communication organization and what our fledging enterprise was doing to help scientists engage more effectively beyond their peers.  Last week, I visited the Packard Foundation to revisit what COMPASS is doing now and what we hope to do in the future. I couldn’t help but reflect on what has transpired since that initial meeting. We’ve learned, experienced and witnessed so much! Two things struck me as I reflected on the last 15 years. [Read more...]

Congratulations to the 2014 NACCB Journalist Fellows


COMPASS is proud to support an impressive group of reporters, editors, and producers in attending the Society for Conservation Biology‘s 2014 North American Congress for Conservation Biology. The meeting is expected to convene nearly 1,000 leading researchers, conservationists, and decision-makers to discuss the science and practice of conserving biological diversity. Browse the fellows’ websites for some powerful science and environmental reporting, and easily connect with them via our twitter list here: https://twitter.com/COMPASSonline/naccb-journalist-fellows/members



Allie Wilkinson

Freelance – @love of science

Allie Wilkinson is a New York-based freelance journalist specializing in science, technology and the environment. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic News, Discover, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Slate, and various other publications in print and on the web. Wilkinson also writes and produces podcasts for Scientific American. In 2012, she was published in the anthology The Best Science Writing Online, formerly known as The Open Laboratory. Wilkinson earned a B.A. in environmental studies from Eckerd College and a certificate in conservation biology from Columbia University before going on to earn her M.A. in journalism from Hofstra University.



Ashley Ahearn

EarthFix/KUOW Public Radio – @aahearn

Ashley Ahearn is the environment reporter at KUOW – National Public Radio in Seattle – and part of the regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix. Before joining KUOW Ashley was a producer and reporter for Living on Earth, a nationally aired environment program from Public Radio International. She has a masters in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with the Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She also serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists. In her spare time Ashley enjoys riding vintage motorcycles, snowboarding and hiking in the Olympics and the Cascade mountain ranges of the Northwest.



Ben Goldfarb 

High Country News – @bengoldfarb13

Ben Goldfarb is a correspondent at High Country News, a Colorado-based magazine that covers environmental and land-use issues throughout the American West. His writing has also appeared in publications such as Pacific Standard, OnEarth Magazine, and Earth Island Journal, and his work has been supported by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and the Solutions Journalism Network. Ben’s favorite topics are landowner-driven conservation, habitat connectivity projects, and fisheries management, but he’ll write about darn near anything.



Brendan Borrell

Freelance – @bborrell

Brendan Borrell is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn and frequently writes about wildlife conservation, natural resources, and environmental issues for Bloomberg Businessweek, Nature, Scientific American, and many other publications. His reporting has taken him on a rhino hunt in South Africa, to a subsistence fishing community in West Papua, and to a lovely little town known as “Murderville” on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.



Chris Solomon

Freelance – @chrisasolomon

As a newspaper reporter and now as a freelance writer, Christopher Solomon has eaten the blubber cut from a freshly-killed whale, been shot at by riot police in the WTO-crazed streets of Seattle, helicopter-skied from the back of a 200-foot megayacht and chased sunken treasure within sight of New York’s Empire State Building. His ability to vividly sketch a scene, and his passion for writing about passionate people, has led him to his frequent work for Outside magazine, the New York Times and Ski magazine, among other publications. His work also appeared in the anthology The Best American Travel Writing 2006. He lives in Seattle, but is constantly cajoling editors to send him elsewhere.



Hannah Hoag

Freelance – @hannahh

Hannah Hoag is a Toronto-based science journalist who covers climate, the environment, and human health. Her stories have been published in Nature, Discover, Wired and New Scientist, as well as several Canadian news media, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Maclean’s.



Isabelle Groc

Freelance – @isabellegroc

Isabelle Groc is a freelance writer and photographer, focusing on environmental science, wildlife natural history and conservation, endangered species, marine ecosystems, and land use planning. With her dual background in photojournalism and urban planning, Isabelle brings a unique perspective in documenting the impacts of human activities on threatened species and habitats. A fellow of the Explorers Club, Isabelle has travelled to remote places to raise the profile of many little-known, elusive, under-appreciated threatened species.



Jeff Burnside

KOMO News – @jeffburnside

Jeff is the Senior Investigative Reporter with KOMO television, Seattle’s ABC station. He’s the recipient of more than 25 journalism awards including several national honors from the Investigative Reporters and Editors, Clarion, and National Press Club, as well as more than a dozen regional Emmy’s. Jeff serves as Vice President for the Society of Environmental Journalists, the largest such group of professional reporters in the world. He served on the SEJ board for nearly a decade, and as chairman of SEJ’s 2011 national conference that broke attendance records. The Seattle native is a graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communications.



Josh Zaffos

Freelance – @jzaffos

Joshua Zaffos writes on the environment and science from Fort Collins, Colorado. His stories have appeared in High Country News, Wired, Pacific Standard, Scientific American, Yale Environment 360, Daily Climate, Nature Conservancy Magazine, and many other publications. He also teaches natural-resources communications at Colorado State University. His work is online at joshuazaffos.com.



Liz Devitt

Freelance – @elizdevitt

Elizabeth Devitt is a freelance science writer based in Santa Cruz, California. A graduate of the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program, she also earned a B.A. in Zoology at the University of Vermont and her DVM degree from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Elizabeth ventured from veterinary medicine into science journalism to write stories that could lead to better lives for all animals – our own two-legged species included. Her work has appeared in National Geographic News, Nature Medicine, Ensia, Mongabay, and many regional California publications.



Marianne Lavelle

The Daily Climate – @mlavelles

Marianne Lavelle is climate science writer for The Daily Climate, an independent, on-line news service funded by foundations and readers. She has spent more than two decades covering  environmental issues, business, climate change, and policy in Washington, D.C. Before joining The Daily Climate in April 2014, she served for four years as energy editor at National Geographic, where her 2010 special report, “The Great Shale Gas Rush,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards for Digital Media and the National Academies of Science Communications Awards. Previously, she spearheaded a project tracking climate change lobbying for the nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization The Center for Public Integrity. Before that, she was a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report magazine, where she initiated the Beyond the Barrel blog. Before joining U.S. News & World Report, Lavelle created a beat on federal regulation for The National Law Journal and led a team of reporters in the series, “Unequal Protection,” winner of the George Polk Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors award, and numerous other honors. The report led to Congressional hearings and a U.S. Civil Rights Commission probe and was credited with helping to prompt the Clinton administration’s executive order on environmental justice. Lavelle also has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine and The Washington Post Outlook section, and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio. She has a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Villanova University. She lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband and daughter.



Michelle Nijhuis

Freelance – @nijhuism

Michelle Nijhuis’ writing about science and the environment appears in National Geographic and many other publications. She is a contributing writer for Smithsonian and a longtime contributing editor of High Country News, a magazine known for its in-depth coverage of environmental issues in the American West. She is also the co-editor of The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age, published in 2013 by Da Capo Press. Her work hohas been included in several Best American anthologies, and she is a two-time winner of the Kavli/AAAS Science Journalism Award. After fifteen years of living off the electrical grid in rural western Colorado, she and her family are getting acquainted with their new home in White Salmon, Washington.



Sarah Zielinski

Freelance – @sarahzielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer based in Washington, DC. She turned to freelance writing and editing after several years as an associate editor at Smithsonian magazine. Her writings have appeared in publications such as Slate, Scientific American, Science and Science News, and she regularly edits for Science News for Students and National Geographic News. Her blog Wild Things, about the weird and wonderful in the natural world, appears on the Science News magazine website.



Tom Banse

Northwest Public Radio – @tombanse

Public Radio Regional Correspondent Tom Banse is an omnivore. He covers science, environment, public policy, business and breaking news from the public radio Northwest News Network bureau in Washington’s state capital, Olympia. His stories can be heard during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on NPR affiliates in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Before taking the regional beat, Tom covered the Washington Legislature and state politics for 12 years. He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Banse graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, with a degree in American Studies in 1989.



Virginia Gewin

Freelance – @virginiagewin

Virginia Gewin covers environmental issues—from food security to acidifying oceans to endangered species—from her perch in Portland, Oregon. Once on track to become a soil microbiologist, initially, Virginia scrapped those plans to pursue her budding interest in science journalism after completing an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media fellowship and an internship at Nature magazine. For the last decade, she has been a freelancer, writing for Nature, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, The Oregonian, Portland Monthly, PLoS Biology, and Consumers Digest.



Warren Cornwall

Freelance – @warrencornwall

Warren Cornwall’s work as an environmental, science and outdoor recreation journalist has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, Slate, The Boston Globe Magazine, Outside online, National Geographic News, Triathlete magazine, and The Seattle Times. Before embarking on a freelance career, he worked as an environmental and political reporter at numerous Northwest newspapers, most recently The Seattle Times. He has bombed down ski runs on a mountain bike, tracked endangered spotted owls, descended into the heart of a nuclear bomb factory and wandered more cul-de-sacs than he cares to remember while tracing the environmental damage of suburban sprawl. He has won awards for his environmental reporting, investigative work and feature writing. His story about triathlon deaths and cardiac testing was selected as the best triathlon story of 2013 by Triathlon Business International. He now lives in Bellingham, Washington, an ideal place to pursue his passions for outdoor sports, including triathlons, cycling, skiing, rock climbing and backpacking.