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Student Environmentalist Wins Science Writing Fellowship
Tamzin B. Smith Portrait Photography
What happens when you spend your early childhood traveling the seas? For Kailani Clarke ’20, who lived with her family aboard a 45-foot sailboat for five years, cruising heightened her awareness of human impact on the natural world and helped inform her decision to live her life as an environmental advocate.
“Since I was really young, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist,” Clarke says. “Traveling as we did—through the Bahamas, Central America, Bermuda, and along the East Coast—I got to experience the wonders of the world, especially the marine world. I also got to see firsthand the effects of anthropogenic climate change, pollution, and environmental negligence. I’ve never been to a beach—no matter how remote—where there wasn’t trash.”
This February, Clarke takes another step forward in her advocacy work for the planet, as a National Association of Science Writers (NASW) Undergraduate Travel Fellow. She is one of ten undergraduates from around the country selected to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. In addition to hearing from world-renowned speakers on topical and big-picture issues scientists are grappling with today, Clarke will be mentored by a national science journalist. She’ll choose a topic from one of the sessions, write a short feature story about it, and have it published on the NASW website.
Clarke also has been invited to interview with editors from top magazines, research institutes, national labs, and other science communication outlets during an internship fair. Past recruiters include Science, Nature, Science News, and Scientific American.
“As the political conversation goes on and there persists this notion in some circles that climate change is not something to worry about, I’m learning just how important scientific writing becomes,” says Clarke, who intends to pursue a double major in environmental science and anthropology. “There are scientists who see the end of the world as we know it, if we continue down this path.”
Clarke walks the talk. As an intern for the College’s Center for Environment & Society, she is learning how education plays into environmental advocacy. She also is active with the Student Environmental Alliance and works in the campus garden.
“Every day, I think about how I can minimize my environmental impact,” she says. “I have no interest in colonizing Mars. We should be good stewards for the planet we have.”