Spotlight on Metcalf Alumni
Born in New Mexico and raised in Chicago, freelance journalist Cally Carswell is exactly where she wants to be. She’s back in her home state telling stories about climate science, ecology and land management.
“One of the reasons that I really like those kinds of science stories is they’re just really important and relevant to society right now, so it feels like important stuff to be reporting on,” said Carswell, an alumna of Metcalf’s 2014 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists. “I also really like trying to make complicated stories accessible, interesting, and a bit inspiring to people.”
Carswell has been drawn to the environment since her childhood summers at a Minnesota wilderness camp and her five-week long backpacking trek through the Arctic National Wildlife refuge in 2000, just before starting college. The catalyst for Carswell’s science-writing career came from an environmental historian in one of her college classes.
“He was a great storyteller and talked about the environment in human terms,” said Carswell. “That was the moment when I started to think about journalism. I thought, maybe I could learn how to tell stories, too.”
Carswell not only learned how to tell stories, but her work on forest mortality and climate change gained her the 2014 Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers and the Kevin Carmody Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Now, after six years as a full-time writer and editor for High Country News, she’s striking out on her own as a freelance journalist.
“Ultimately, the thing that I’m really interested in is figuring out how to make environmental stories interesting and compelling to a more general population, not just people who already have a high level of interest in science and the environment,” she said.
Carswell still uses many of the tools gained during her Metcalf fellowship, a program that allowed her “to get a science education on the fly.” The workshop also gave her the opportunity to connect with other journalists and provided her with a better understanding of the culture of science through informal interactions with researchers.
Her interest in applied science and desire to move the climate change conversation from “gloom and doom” to action prompted her to apply for Metcalf’s upcoming Climate Change and the News: Climate Change Planning and Response seminar at the National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis, May 11-12.
“I am hoping to come away with new story ideas,” said Carswell. “I think to really engage people, you don’t want leave them with a feeling of hopelessness, like nothing can be done.”