Thursday, March 6, 2014

I would love to blog more, unfortunately, I don't pay myself enough to post consistently on any of my personal blogs—and many sites don't pay me enough to post consistently on theirs, either. Nevertheless, I enjoy the platform, and have created several over the years, ranging from more professional and academic pursuits to one created just for fun.

Wanderers and Wonderers

Wanderers and WonderersMy latest blog, Wanderers and Wonderers, is a product of my dissertation research in the Media, Art, and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University. The blog contains my personal ramblings through the realm of the exploration and environmental narrative. My reading list spans a millennium of narratives, beginning with the "Saga of Erik the Red" and ending with twenty first-century works such as Mike Tidwell's "Bayou Farewell."

Plastics at SEA:
North Atlantic Expedition 2010
Plastics at SEA: North Atlantic Expedition 2010

In 2010 I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream: to go to sea—really, really far out to sea—onboard a tall ship. The ship was the Sea Education Association brigantine, the SSV Corwith Cramer, and we were on the Plastics at SEA: North Atlantic Expedition 2010 to study plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Ocean. I was hired as science writer, photographer and editor, but I also pulled two watches a day just like everyone else on the ship.

The Plastics at SEA blog consists of four main elements: a Daily Journal; Science Results; Reflections on Shipboard Life; and a statistical summary, "Today on the Corwith Cramer" that appeared on each day's Reflections page. Along with these elements were daily photo galleries and occasional videos prepared by expedition members Scott Elliott and Ben Schellpfeffer.

To make it easier to find my writing and photography from the expedition, I've Storified it here. If you only want to look at the pictures, go here.

To get an idea of how much work I and the rest of the crew did, consider this excerpt from my final Daily Journal post:

We've accomplished a lot. We've sailed more than 3,800 nautical miles. In the process we crossed over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and nearly reached longitude 40°W. We've completed 128 neuston tows, 106 surface stations, 47 carousel casts, and 34 Tucker trawls. We've counted more than 48,000 pieces of plastic and 100 pieces of tar. We've collected 1,388 Halobates and 219 myctophids (lanternfish), and we've counted more than 5,000 copepods, 900 Cladocera, and more than 700 hyperiid amphipods – among other creatures.

As with any good scientific expedition, the scientists face months, if not years, of data analysis and preparation of scientific reports. Some of their initial questions will be answered, but many more will arise out of what they find as they sift through the numbers.

As for me, I'm obviously still working, so my statistics are incomplete. Through yesterday, I filed 33 daily reports (this is the 34th and final one). For those first 33 days, I wrote and filed 33,155 words – all the Daily Journal entries, all the cutlines for the photos, and six Reflections on Shipboard Life essays.

I shot more than 5,000 photos, all of which take up nearly 13 gigabytes on my external hard drive. Each day I looked at what I shot and what my shipmates had shot and nominated for publication, and selected 10 to be published each day. (I forgot to move one of those into the upload folder the other night, though, so it didn't make it on the site.)

I don't have statistics for how many times the engineering crew started and stopped the engine or generators. I don't have statistics for how many times we struck or set particular sails. I don't have statistics for how many times we gybed or changed course. Much of that information exists in the various logs the crew keeps, but it hasn't been compiled.

Believe me, as I wrote those words, I was very, very tired.

The Chickahominy Report

The Chickahominy ReportMy original goal for The Chickahominy Report was for it to be a regular outlet for environmental journalism for the Middle Atlantic region. My best intentions succumbed to reality as bills continued to intrude on my work plans. I still post occasionally, and might post more if I can ever get my mind to accept the quick-hit blogger mindset. But I prefer long-form journalism with in-depth reporting and analysis—which means my posting status will linger in the "occasional" zone.

Notes from the Abyss

Notes from the AbyssNotes from the Abyss was my first foray into the blog world. While it was originally focused on science, it is a more personal space than The Chickahominy Report is. I post occasionally when moved to address a specific topic or when I finish a project that needs a home. It has unfinished projects, such as my account of my expedition to Ascension Island, which I do plan to complete before my memories fade completely.

National Folk Festival, 2007

69th National Folk FestivalThe 67th National Folk Festival came to Richmond in 2005 for a three-year run. Like thousands of local residents, I enthusiastically volunteered to put on the show. My first couple of years I worked primarily with artist check-in, which was quite a blast. In my third year, however, I decided to put my journalism skills to good use and offered to blog the Festival from site set-up to the closing performance. My photographic work from all three Richmond-based National Folk Festivals is featured in my Flickr collection, National Folk Festival, 2005-2007.

Richmond Folk Festival, 2008

Richmond Folk Festival, 2008After the success of the National Folk Festival, Richmond decided to continue with the Richmond Folk Festival. I volunteered again as a blogger for the festival. I began again with some of the site set-up. But this time around, I had other work to do—paid work—so missed more of the performances than I would have liked. I shot a lot of the scene and performances—that work is available in my Flickr collection Richmond Folk Festival, 2008—but I did not get to write as much as I had hoped. I have three stories I hope to try to write from the festival someday.

My Mechanicsville

My MechanicsvilleMy Mechanicsville is a labor of love, nothing more nor less. All I do here is post photographs, videos, and sound recordings featuring the life and landscape of Mechanicsville, Va., where I have lived since May 1998.

This began as an assignment for a multimedia storytelling class I took as a Media, Art, and Text Ph.D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University. One of our assignments was to create a custom Google map of the community we chose to cover (in my case, the village of Mechanicsville). The first photos posted on this Tumblr site were taken to accompany that map.