By Melissa Miller (See also Part I of this tour recap by Xochitl Rojas-Rocha)
I learned how to be a science writer and communicator aboard the research vessel Sally Ride, which is why it was very special for me to share it with you, my SANDSWA peers. Networking with and learning from this talented pool of people is helping me level up, and I am pleased I was able to give back to the group by way of a tour.
My very first paid writing gig was to live aboard Sally Ride and share the experience online. That is pretty much the only directive I was given, along with the password to a half-developed WordPress site.
Walking the ship’s passageways on the tour reminded me of my first few visits, back in 2016. I was enthusiastic to know more and be involved, as I hope you all are now. My early posts were little more than a few captioned pictures, but I soon realized the potential for a variety of topics and formats. Lighthearted posts about game nights and sunsets are mixed in with explanations of the science and interviews with crew members.
I learned without being told that the most engaging posts were those that centered around the people involved. Science writers master how to ‘find the story’ at some point in their training or careers. Perhaps it was easier for me to pick up this skill since I was surrounded with the experience. I didn’t return home at the end of each day, or spend time with my friends on weekends. Without errands to run or even meals to make, I could spend hours talking to people and writing – two of my favorite activities on any day.
While organizing the SANDSWA tour, I emailed with the powers that be to find a day and time when we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. I went aboard earlier that afternoon for some face time with the captain and other friends who work there, making sure I was authorized to give the complete tour. For storytellers like us, it’s important to see the whole picture – from the engine room below deck to the bridge five stories above, and all the living quarters and laboratories in between.
Visiting the ship now that I’ve gone back to working in a lab is bittersweet. I have friends aboard and amazing memories to cherish. But I wish that it hadn’t been a temporary assignment, that someone saw enough value in the project to continue funding it.
As I work towards making science writing a career, my love for the craft is tied to the Sally Ride. I hope that some of you will take up the mantle and embed yourselves aboard R/V Sally Ride in the future.
To read the blog posts I wrote from the ship, check out the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Sally Ride webpage.