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Bren Alum Selected for Ocean Exploration Trust Expedition Aboard Vessel Nautilus

Shellby Johnson-Rodney (MESM '20) joins ranks of Bren alumni to be selected as Science Communication Fellows

Mar 17 2022

Woman on boat looking out at ocean

Shellby Johnson-Rodney in the North Atlantic

Bren School alumna Shellby Johnson-Rodney (MESM '20) has been selected as a Science Communication Fellow and will sail aboard Ocean Exploration Trust’s Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus. Shellby will join the team aboard E/V Nautilus for three weeks in April 2022 as she explores Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the ancient seamounts of Liliʻuokalani Ridge in the north Pacific Ocean.

Ocean Exploration Trust (OET), a nonprofit founded by Dr. Robert Ballard operates with a mission to explore the unknown parts of the ocean, seeking out new discoveries across the fields of geology, biology, and hydrography while pushing the boundaries of STEAM education and technological innovation.

Shellby is one of twelve 2022 Fellows hailing from schools, science centers, and non-profit organizations across seven US states. They will join the Corps of Exploration in teams during different sea-going expeditions from March to October exploring the Central Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands, in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The 2022 expedition season is OET’s eighth year of deep-sea scientific exploration in the Pacific Ocean, working with expedition partners like NOAA, National Geographic, and the wider scientific community to make significant scientific discoveries.

Originally awarded the Science Communication Fellowship in April 2020, OET expeditions were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I am finally going to sea with OET after two years!" says Shellby. "My specialization was coastal marine resources management with the science communication focus while at Bren, but I never thought I'd get involved with ocean exploration, especially since Black women are seldom seen in this field. So it's been quite interesting to see where my Bren degree has helped take me."

Bren alumni who are among the recent OET Science Communication Fellows include Valeria Tamayo-Cañadas (MESM '19) and Isabella Marill (MESM '17).

The public can engage with Shellby via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour live streaming web portal bringing expeditions from the field to explorers on shore via telepresence technology at and via social media. Shellby will participate in live audio commentary and question-and-answer sessions through the Nautilus Live website while aboard the ship; she will also engage events and activities upon her return. Local schools can also schedule free, live one-on-one Q&A sessions with explorers on the ship in English or ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). 

OET promotes science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) education around the world using the excitement of exploration and innovation to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“Science Communication Fellows work alongside scientists and engineers and help to bring the ocean exploration experience alive across the NautilusLive live stream, our social media, and outreach directly with classrooms. We are proud to elevate role models for learners, with a particular focus on reaching communities who have been historically marginalized from STEM and maritime fields”, said Megan Cook, OET’s Director of Education and Outreach.

The OET Science Communication Fellowship brings formal and informal educators onboard to engage students and the public in the wonders of ocean exploration, sharing discoveries from the 2022 mission, as well as aspects of daily life aboard a working exploration vessel. Fellows develop their science communication skills and spend several weeks as a crucial part of the team aboard E/V Nautilus. Fellows bring ocean exploration back to their home communities by incorporating their experience into classroom lesson plans, community presentation events, and informal educational opportunities.

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