Women of STEM

A profile series highlighting women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Alexa Elliott, Series Producer for Changing Seas

Alexa Elliott, Series Producer for Changing Seas

Alexa Elliott, Series Producer for Changing Seas

Connect with Alexa via the Changing Seas Facebook Page 

What do you do?

I work for the Miami Public TV station WPBT2, as series producer for Changing Seas, which is a marine science documentary series. We’ve been on the air in the US and overseas since 2009.

What does that role entail?

My job is basically to figure out what the topics are going to be, do all the background research, and get in touch with scientists to see if they are interested in working with us. Then, we have to figure out all the logistics of when we can film them doing their field work, the camera men’s schedules- basically all the logistics for setting up the shooting in the field. Once we do that, I go with the camera people out in the field, we document everything, and I go through all the footage, label it, and write the scripts. Then, I spend about four weeks with an editor working together to make sure the finished product is what we want it to be.

So, I might be researching one topic while editing another, or getting ready to shoot one while writing another. It basically all overlaps.

What part of your job is the most exciting?

I think the part that I enjoy the most is when we go out in the field and film. We’ve had the chance to go on research cruises and expeditions, and it is so exciting to see the scientists do their work. We always joke- it’s almost like we get a free marine science education! We went on one marine science cruise where they were catching fish from the deep sea – really prehistoric creatures. It’s really fun to get to see the scientists do their work and learn about what they do.

What advice would you give to students looking to advance in science broadcasting?

We always tell our interns, “be willing to help with whatever!” Especially in television, we are always underfunded and understaffed. So if you are there and enthusiastic about it, you just kind of need to show up and be willing to work hard.

It’s kind of funny, in our particular example, the best interns are the ones who are coming from getting a science degree rather than a journalism degree because they already get the science. You’ve got to have an interest in the sciences.

What advice would you give on how to navigate from entry level positions to more leadership roles in science broadcasting or journalism?

Be ready to work very long hours for very little pay, but in exchange you get to meet really cool people have interesting experiences that other people cannot have.

Don’t be daunted by the dire outlook. Going into journalism right now, most parents would probably advise against it, and with the landscape changing so much, but if it is something you love, the other stuff should not deter you.

Is there any media that you’d recommend readers check out? 

There are many great programs about the oceans and marine science or just STEM in general.  Film festivals are a great place to see some of these, such as theSan Francisco International Ocean Film Festival,  the Blue Ocean Film Festival and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and Science Media Awards and Summitamong others.  Some of these festivals have traveling programs in addition to the main events, and in some cases they are looking for preliminary judges to screen entries for the film competition – a great way to see lots of great films!

Anyone interested in checking out our series can watch episodes for free online atwww.changingseas.tv or on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ChangingSeasTV .

Do you have any “asks” for the reader? Things they should check out or think about?

I think when some major mass destruction happens, there is huge outcry, but with the oceans, it is always out of sight, out of mind. Just think about the impacts we are having on our oceans, especially if you don’t live on the coast. Think about how our actions effect the ocean, and what’s down there.

Most people if they see the ocean at all, they just see the surface, you don’t really think about what’s beneath the surface, and we don’t think about what we are damaging.

Final word?

Sometimes people think of scientists and journalists as opposing, but we kind of have the same goals – we’re curious and try to find answers to the same questions, but go about it in different ways. We’re all trying to learn something about our world.

Jaclyn Gerakios, Science Teacher

Jaclyn Gerakios, Science Teacher

Dina Drozdov, Astrophysics PhD Graduate

Dina Drozdov, Astrophysics PhD Graduate