WHOI Waypoints: Ocean Science 101 for Journalists


Journalists from several leading print and electronic media gathered in Woods Hole from September 14 to 19 for a crash course in oceanography. The fourth annual Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship Program included more than forty hours of seminars, field trips, laboratory tours, and meetings between scientists and the media professionals who cover them.

“The goal is to give the media a well-rounded introduction to oceanography and to open their eyes to the resources and expertise that WHOI can offer,” said Shelley Dawicki, WHOI director of public and community relations. The fellowship program began in 2000, with 33 journalists participating to date.

Each day the journalists focused on a different aspect of ocean science based on the five principal research departments of the Institution—Biology, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Applied Ocean Physics and
Engineering, Geology and Geophysics, and Physical Oceanography.
On a field trip led by Scientist
Emeritus George Hampson, Retired Dockmaster Hovey Clifford, and
Scottish marine biologist John Allen, the group cruised Nantucket Sound on R/V Asterias to dredge for marine life, study bivalves, and discuss shipboard operations.

“Most science reporters are generalists,” Dawicki noted. “Today they might cover cancer, tomorrow astronomy, and climate change the next day. Our fellowships give them a chance to learn a lot about the oceans in a short period, and to meet great sources for future stories. The program also allows us to educate scientists about how the media works.”

The journalists who participated in the 2003 program were: Steven Ashley, an editor for Scientific American; Mary Carmichael, an assistant editor at Newsweek; Beth Daley, an environmental reporter for The Boston Globe; Michael Fincham, a freelance science writer and television producer; Rebecca Perry, an editorial artist for The Los Angeles Times; Peter Spotts, a science and technology correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor; and Donna Vaughan, a research producer for ScienCentral, Inc. Spotts and Vaughan stayed for a second week of more intense research and reporting with WHOI scientists.