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It’s all in your head what happens
so you might as well think happiness

Hire me!

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Filed under: climate, fun, lgbt, oceans, self-aggrandization, Upwell | No Comments »

Warning: I use emoticons like <3 in public communications. I’m an unapologetic public advocate for the things that matter to me (e.g., LGBT equality, women’s rights, Earth sustainability), and if that’s a problem for you, you should probably stop reading here.

But if you’ve kept reading, let’s talk. I’m interested in changing the world in unconventional ways. Skillz-wise, I’m good at online communications. I can also write a press release, build a coalition, host an event, and lots of other stuff. I know AP style, correct my friends’ grammar even if they hate it, and I know how to get a journalist interested in a story. I don’t know Java or Javascript (though Code School at nights is totally a thing), but I do know CSS and HTML and I’m good at talking to your developers in a way that doesn’t make them want to smash their forehead into their desk.

What I’m most interested in figuring out is how we can adapt to the ever changing ways of human nature to accelerate social change. I believe, with the right minds at the task, we can approach the speed of technological change, but only if we’re comfortable with uncertainty and are willing to invest in the humans that make the world instead of being obsessed with funding cycles and ROI and KPIs. The world works faster than that and so does my brain.

I’m a very direct person, but my past colleagues will attest, I live up to my ENFP bucket. I’m a team player and think in systems-oriented ways. I’m good at pairing short- and long-term thinking. I like bringing joy to the people around me, whether it’s blasting Beyonce on a deadline or ringing the cowbell for every interim list item done rather than waiting for the big finish.

Enough of my pitch. Just thought my website should say something about the fact that I’m anxious and want to find my unicorn job. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m about 75% confident it’s just hiding out there and I can’t find it. Help me?


Scio14 – I felt like I belonged more this year.

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Filed under: oceans, self-aggrandization, social media, Upwell | No Comments »

I came to Science Online in 2013 a newbie. My colleague, Rachel Weidinger, had attended in 2012 to introduce the community to our fledging nonprofit startup, Upwell, and I’d been hired a month later. When I attended last year, I was initially quite nervous and hesitant to speak up. I came from a nonprofit background, and felt that my streak for advocacy and my lack of a science background would set me apart as an unwelcome stranger amidst the crowd of accomplished scientists and journalists. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case, and felt welcomed into the ocean blogging community. I even stayed up late sipping Kraken in the #DSNSuite, feeling like a true ocean groupie.

But something still stood out to me – I couldn’t really participate in many of the conversations. Not because I was shunned, but because they just weren’t all that applicable to what I was doing. Let me take a moment here to explain what I do – I try to make the ocean famous on the internet. I promote science-based content and try to increase the number of social mentions about issues facing our ocean – everything from overfishing to ocean acidification to marine protected areas. I work closely with scientists, government officials, and environmental advocates. I process and communicate science much like so many people in the Science Online community.

But, last year, I found that so many of the conversations focused on the actual act of writing. And how people get there. How do academics break barriers against social media? How can bloggers use narrative techniques? How can they overcome imposter syndrome? Why should scientists even be online?

I felt like there was a lack of focus on what to do after a piece of content is published. Sure, we do need to focus on creating good content, but how do we get people to actually read or see it? The people who come to Science Online are generally not only super wicked smart, but are also highly skilled communicators. They are the people who not only love and understand science, but know that it needs to be translated, and often know how to translate it.  Maybe it’s the communications pro in me, but I craved a stronger focus on outreach. I was pleased with sessions that focused on creating captivating visuals or using social media for promotion, and I wanted to see more of that.

Which is why I’m glad that there was a stronger focus this year on what to do after a piece of content is published. Not just what to do, but actually how to package information in the first place so it’s optimized for what happens after it’s out there on the web. Some topics that I loved this year:

  • Creating videos that not only explain science well, but also encourage viewership from a broader audience, and are easy to watch all the way through and entice viewers to share. #ScioPrep
  • Finding ways to inject science everywhere, not just the standard places. How do we interject pop culture, how do we use it as a hook for explaining science? #scioSciAll
  • Using social media and social media analysis and monitoring tools to understand how audiences are talking about a topic of interest. And not just that, also understanding how they feel about it and what their level of familiarity is. #ScioResearch
  • Developing press materials that are web friendly before publishing your papers. And doing it in a way that’s conscious of how journalism has changed in the internet age. #ScioPress
  • Incorporating images into your content in a way that adds meaning and also makes your content appear right on social media. #ScioVisual

I’m glad we’ve moved beyond just asking: “should we be communicating science online, and what are the challenges to being able to do so” to also saying “we are communicating science online, now how do we do it better, reach more people, and keep adapting to the changing ways people communicate and consume information online?” I found myself speaking up more, contributing information on the challenges we face on the daily at Upwell in terms of intervening in conversations, making science relevant, and helping science-based content reach broader audiences. And the responses I got were super positive. At Friday night’s Intergalactic Gala in the conference hotel, I had to keep putting my glass of wine down to reach into my back pocket for business cards for all the people who kept coming up and saying, “what you do is so cool.”

You like me - you really like me!


I’m hoping that, next year, the focus on outreach, promotion and optimized “packaging” is even stronger – maybe I’ll even be leading one of those sessions. 🙂

(As a side note, I moderated a great session on mentoring and mentorship, which, while it had nothing to do with science communication, was a much needed discussion that crosses boundaries. Not just for the scientific and journalist communities – for everyone. We talked about how to find a mentor, how to be a mentor, how to structure mentor relationships, and what challenges come along with mentoring. Check out my #ScioMentor Storify.)

(Edited on March 5, 9 am PST, to remove an offhand comment that devalued the craft of writing!)

Featured in GO Magazine

Posted: June 26th, 2013 | Filed under: self-aggrandization | No Comments »

In May, the editor of GO Magazine (the US’s most widely read free lesbian publication) contacted me about their annual issue featuring “100 Women We Love,” focusing on “out lesbian or queer women doing amazing things.” A subscriber to Upwell’s Tide Report, she was familiar with our work to make the ocean famous on the internet, and with my love for sharks. She called herself a “secret admirer,” to which I kind of melted.

A month later, I was featured in the magazine.

GO Magazine - 100 Women We Love - Rachel Dearborn

Fuck yeah! I was thrilled to be listed in the ranks of such inspirational queer women.

Click through to read more.

My 2 cents on #GivingTuesday

Posted: November 27th, 2012 | Filed under: self-aggrandization | No Comments »

Today is “Giving Tuesday” – the charitable world’s response to consumerism-focused days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I’m getting a lot of donation appeals in my inbox from an array of worthy causes. Instead of going off on a rant about why I think that’s a shallow approach to what could be a really thoughtful day of community and movement-building, I’ll just tell you why I give.

I give back to communities and organizations that have given or provide for me. I give when my friends ask me to give, because it takes time and risk to ask your friends for money, and I know my friends only do that for worthwhile causes. I give to small organizations because I know that living on a grant-to-grant cycle can suck up a lot of time and energy that could be better spent on world-making. I give to artists and entrepreneurs because they inspire me with their ideas, and most of the people and companies with deep pockets never inspire me, or have stopped inspiring me long ago. I give because I have money to give – not because I feel like I’m rolling in cash, but because I’m doing far better than most of the billions of people on this planet, and despite my very best efforts, I’m probably destroying the planet quicker than them too.

Life Changes

Posted: March 13th, 2012 | Filed under: oceans, self-aggrandization | 2 Comments »

Big news! After nearly four years agitating for change at Spitfire Strategies, I’m making a move. At the end of this month, I’ll be joining the team at Upwell to amplify stories online and fly the ocean flag.

As one of the first Upwell team members, I’ll help to define the future of the baby new project that is currently being incubated at the Ocean Conservancy. Upwell is a startup with an ambitious goal of curating the enormous quantity of ocean content that exists, tracking the online conversation about oceans, creating and amplifying online content in experimental data-driven campaigns, and sharing everything we learn with the ocean community.

Why the change?

Well, first, I should say – I love Spitfire. Since 2008 I’ve been helping to create engaging websites, managing unwieldy yet ambitious coalitions, writing stories to bring complicated issues to life, using social media to spark connections and create community, devising strategies to motivate the hardest-to-reach audiences to take action on important issues, pitching national and local media outlets to cover the hard work of nonprofits, crystallizing the brand identity for organizations and foundations to help them create internal community and external consistency, and more. It’s been a busy four years. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of brilliant, passionate and creative changemakers.

But I’m approaching that time in my life when my own goals, passions and pursuits are narrowing. My life lens is less wide-angle, more pinhole. After years of working with organizations like Ocean Conservancy, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Blue Ocean Institute, the Packard Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund, I’ve cultivated a love for the oceans. I suppose that love has always been there. I grew up blocks from the ocean and spent my adolescent summers at beach camp, I’ve only excelled only at water sports, and I’ve found love in an aspiring marine biologist.

The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. The driver of our climate. An unexplored frontier. A beautiful landscape with a million colors, species, depths. The oceans hold relics of prehistory and keys to the future. We can’t ever know everything about them, but we sure try.

ᔥ The Ocean is Wonderful

I’m also passionate about technology and the way it’s shaped the way we communicate. As an avid outdoorswoman, I see the affect the web has on us – it inspires us to be glued to our screens instead of exploring the outside world. People tweet at conferences rather than revelling in the knowledge and inspiration that surrounds them. I most likely have hundreds of friends on facebook that I haven’t actually spoken to in years. Reality is shifting. But in every change there lies possibility. The immediacy that social media presents allows us to share our opinions in real time. It gives the “lesser” of us a voice. It creates connection where it may not have otherwise existed. Access to inspirational material – stories, videos, photographs, art, opinions – has never been greater.

I’m eager to flex my creative muscle and take ownership of the work I do. As a communications consultant at Spitfire, I’ve been able to help organizations plan their communications efforts so that they are strategic and effective, but I rarely get to do the work. I’m helping others create change. I have enabled, instigated, inspired, instructed, advised, coached, trained.

I’m ready to do.

My role at Upwell is still squishy.  I’m going to craft campaigns, build connections in the community, develop and curate content and more. I still get to be a jack of all trades, but I’ll be operating in the salty sea water world.

I am excited about this change in my life and career and hope to chronicle it here. For the time being, you can follow us at @upwell_us.

ᔥ The Ocean is Wonderful


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