Before I became a journalist, I was a sea captain.

I spent almost two decades sailing the north Atlantic Ocean. 

More than anything else, life on the open ocean shaped who I am. I’ve weathered a hurricane, the angst of giving myself stitches, and felt the responsibility for others’ lives. I purged myself of life’s excess, fitting all my treasured items into a five-gallon Spackle bucket. And to this day, I never underestimated the power of focusing on the basics to lift my spirits: a well-crafted meal, a game of twenty questions, and jelly pens. I love jelly pens.

A decade ago, I was asked to produce a documentary about a journey in a small sailboat to find a record-breaking iceberg. One Simple QUESTion premiered as a finalist at the Blue Ocean Film Festival and went on to win several festival awards. Weaving climate science into an adventure narrative and the opportunity to collaborate with talented filmmakers made the film a turning point in my life. 

I began freelance writing. I was invited to speak at Pecha Kucha, TEDx, and Blue Mind. I launched a non-profit called Hello Ocean to support early-career scientists with research-under-sail expeditions and a communications strategy. Most importantly, I made a formal commitment to becoming a science journalist.

In 2019 I became a NatGeo explorer. Underlying my work was a 3,000-mile sailing passage from Panama to Maine — the same route as the leatherback sea turtle migration. Traveling to the ends of the leatherback sea turtle’s range, I saw first-hand how the drive to understand and protect wildlife can manifest in dramatically different ways. This work investigates the relationship between traditional wisdom and sea turtle conservation.

Now my sea legs are firmly rooted on terra firma. After completing a graduate degree in science communication at the University of California Santa Cruz, with a radio internship at KAZU, I went on to do a yearlong Media and Broadcast Fellowship at PBS NewsHour. I’m now a freelance radio/podcast producer and a senior writer at Freethink, where I cover genetics and climate. 

~Teresa L. Carey