From Virginia all the way to Hawaii, Lauren Holt, a past Center for Communicating Science (CCS) intern, has made an exciting transition in 2020. And it’s not just a geographical transition: She’s starting a new position as a Communications and Community Education Specialist working with issues related to climate change, sustainability, and resilience.
Holt graduated from Virginia Tech this May with a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Biomaterials and Professional & Technical Writing. She has always had a passion for sustainability and conservation and was able to create a sustainable society track, combining society, the economy, and the environment.
She decided to pursue a minor in Professional & Technical Writing as an undergrad and made the focus her second major when she realized it was becoming her new passion. Through the major she applied critical thinking in a variety of course topics and came away with essential communication skills.
Holt found out about the Center for Communicating Science through the science writing course offered in the English department at Virginia Tech. She interned with the CCS in the fall of 2019, where she combined her academic backgrounds and her passion for photography to support the center’s work.
One of her favorite memories of interning with the center is attending a National Geographic Live performance in the Moss Arts Center. She was able to meet the main speakers, two of her biggest idols in photography, David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes.
“I talked with David about bringing a narrative to your data in science…[and] how important science communication is,” said Holt. “It was the most exciting thing ever!”
Holt also worked with VT Publishing her senior year, where she developed a love for copyediting. She was able to stay on part-time after graduation while transitioning to Hawaii and looking for a position during the pandemic.
Holt spent many years as a child in Hawaii and was happy to go back to Oahu.
“I knew I wanted to move back to Hawaii eventually,” said Holt. “The island has changed so much and so fast.”
The skills that she learned in both positions at Virginia Tech greatly helped her, she said, in the position she started in October in Hawaii. She is a Communications and Community Education Specialist with AmeriCorps VISTA’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resilience.
Her role’s objective is “to raise public awareness of climate change impacts and how that will directly affect their families and their businesses” and to raise awareness of local solutions and initiatives that residents may not know about, such as flood insurance and emergency management strategies.
She hopes to carry out this mission, she said, through expanding their social media and communications efforts, creating content for their website, and making connections with local nonprofits that have “boots on the ground” to disperse the government’s environmental know-how to harder-to-reach populations.
Hawaii is an important place to better communicate ways to combat climate change, Holt said. The locals there are very attached to the island and want to protect it. Holt cited two common phrases: “Aloha Aina,” love of the land, and “Aloha Kai,” love of the sea.
“We are essentially vulnerable to the most immediate effects of climate change,” said Holt, referencing hurricanes and sea level rise. Talking about coastlines such as those in Waikiki where most of it is now man-made, Holt said, “We are already feeling the effects of sea erosion” as well as the risk of inland flooding due to the rising of the water table.
Holt added that the island only has 14 days of emergency food stock if a disaster were to cut off access to imports.
She has found that science has a lot to do with communication and finding commonalities between people. She plans to use her knowledge of science communication in her line of work.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned through the Center for Communicating Science…is being able to find shared values with each other and really lean in on those in order to build bridges with each other,” she said, “especially when the science has become partisan. Building bridges and finding shared values to connect off of is the key…to share science and information and fact.”
She concluded, “Start talking with the people you have the most connections with.”
Best of wishes to Lauren in her future endeavors!
By Catherine Watling, Center for Communicating Science student intern