Zoey Greenberg is Translating Science for All

Zoey Greenberg

Zoey was born in Nederland, Colorado, and grew up in Bellingham, Washington. Every year she spends several months in Hawaii and in the San Juan Islands where she works on whale-watching boats. Now she is living in Missoula to work on her Environmental Studies (EVST) master’s degree at the University of Montana. 

“My big passions are whales, birds, the ocean, education and writing. I really do love them all so it's been hard to narrow it down, but I really came to EVST to become a writer,” says Zoey. She was looking at science communication programs but when she learned that her primary responsibilities would be; writing ten or more blogs a day, interning in a newsroom, learning how to podcast and write social media blurbs, and developing her own social media presence in addition to translating science to the public, she really had to do some hard thinking about what kind of writing she was really interested in. “The only part of those programs that appealed to me was translating science to the public. So, I decided I wanted to do a program where I had the option of doing long-form prose as a way of helping connect the public with science and that’s why I was attracted to EVST and Camas magazine.” Having the opportunity to run a magazine as a student really interested her, as well as knowing there is a lot of raptor work in the area. “I’ve tried to quit raptors because I didn't want to be a researcher, but I still find myself going back to them over, and over, again. I wanted to be somewhere where I could continue to tap into that.”

When asked of her accomplishments, Zoey reflects on creating Black Vulture curriculum for Hawk Mountain. “It was a huge challenge for me because I was given a lot of free rein.” Hawk Mountain had funding from the Fish & Wildlife Service to put transmitters on Black Vultures but one of the stipulations was that there be an educational component to the project. Zoey created curriculum using the transmitter data where kids could click on a map and see the different migration tracks. “It was such a big challenge,” says Zoey, “but I really enjoyed seeing what I was able to create by marrying all of these different foci around a species that people hate and then pilot it in the classroom with sixth graders. It was so fun.” Zoey led conversations about how humans’ attraction to a species impacts their survival. She was able to bring all kinds of philosophical questions to these sixth graders—talking about the importance of how we feel about a species based on its aesthetic. “I love vultures,” she says, “but it's been both amazing and shocking to see how hated they are. I was able to change people’s minds about them and that gave me a sense of purpose. Vultures are everywhere but there are increasing conflicts in the east with Black Vultures. Zoey also hosted a teacher education workshop on how to use the curriculum and wrote a Turkey Vulture teacher training for Shaver's Creek Environmental Center (Penn State's Nature Center). This vulture work has been really rewarding because they're so unlovable. 

“The EVST program feels like a family,” says Zoey. Other friends who started research master’s programs this year feel very isolated. “I think the interdisciplinary nature of EVST attracts people with so many different backgrounds and passions, but every single person that I have met in this program really cares about the world. That for me is such a rich environment to be a part of. Everybody is curious and likes to learn about everything. In some programs where people have a very specific interest, they don't have that same inherent empathy for each other and the world. That's really helped me stay motivated and inspired through the pandemic because even in the Zoom classes it’s been palpable—we're still really invested in helping things get better. I also admire how supportive the faculty and staff are and how we get to know them on a personal level—it’s a very supportive environment. People who graduated from EVST are also doing really cool stuff. When they talk about EVST they really light up. Where else could I go and take writing classes in an MFA program while also taking a journalism course and environmental courses. That's huge for me—it’s a really big deal that I'm allowed to dip my toes in other places.”