Meet Laura Poppick: Welcome to Hermit Crab City

Laura_Turtles

Hermit Crab City was my favorite haven as a kid. Tucked within the tall, sandy bluffs of Block Island, RI, this cluster of tide pools – dubbed Hermit Crab City by my Dad – always revealed dozens of scuttling creatures if we looked hard enough. During summer vacations, my brothers and I would wade with our heads bent down until we spotted a shell moving along the shallow pool floor. We’d carefully pick each up and examine their beady eyes. I squirmed with glee as their small claws tickled my hand.

When I learned in middle school that some scientists spent entire workdays loping around tide pools, rain forests, or other far off regions of the world for research, my mind buzzed. I joined a science club that allowed me to get outside and even skip some classes to give us time for fieldwork. I loved getting mucky in streams and forests while everyone else sat antsy at their desks.

By college, the spirit of discovery that Hermit Crab City had instilled in me flared strong. My geology major at Bates College in Lewiston, ME brought me kayaking along the coast of Maine mapping rock formations, wading through rivers collecting sediment samples, and drilling through frozen ponds inspecting wintertime aquatic life.

And the summer before my senior year, I found myself steering a small motorboat in Laura_Glacierfront of a massive Arctic glacier, collecting long mud cores and deep blue iceberg samples to study glacial retreat due to climate change.

This was it. Polar bears roamed around us, nightly meals of reindeer stew kept us strong for the next day of fieldwork, and towers of ice crashed in front of us as we documented the rapid melt of a glacier suffering from 21st century environmental pressures. The kid who had romped around Hermit Crab City in the early 1990’s would not have believed my 20 year-old self’s luck to have made it all the way to the top of the world, collecting glacial fingerprints.

Field research tested my physical limits, satiated my thirst for adventure and exploration, and gave my analytical side a chance to think deeply about complicated data. But as I graduated college, and spent the next year as a field assistant in the Australian Outback and then as a lab manager for geologists at Princeton University, I felt more energized talking about the work I was doing than I did actually processing samples and crunching data. As much as the ancient rocks fascinated me, they were still inanimate rocks at the end of the day, and I felt ever more compelled to share the stories of the rocks – and the scientists who studied them – with other human beings than I did spending days alone in the lab.

My path swerved back to Maine, where I spent the next year and a half teaching and writing about science for non-scientists. I started volunteering here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, designed a website for a team of Geologists studying the ecological history of the Gulf of Maine, worked briefly as the assistant editor of the Maine State Climate Office’s newsletter, and as an educator at the Ferry beach Ecology School in Saco, ME.

As many professional paths do these days, my path swerved yet again, this time out to Santa Cruz, California where I spent a year in a graduate program for science journalism, writing for daily newspapers and popular science websites, digging deeper into the craft of engaging non-scientists with inspiring new scientific findings – this time on a much larger but less personal scale.

Now, as the Science Educator at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, I am so pleased to have the chance to share the world of science everyday with real live people. I continue to freelance write about scientific findings on the side, but am thrilled to come to the museum each day to get my hands mucky with tide pool creatures at our touch tank, examine ancient rocks from our museum collection, and explore the small ecosystem of our garden with curious visitors.

I am constantly energized by the tiny sparks we generate in little minds here at the museum — similar to those sparks that propelled me to explore Hermit Crab City and the world of science beyond — and look forward to helping foster a bright future of science exploration amongst our visitors and the local community!

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About Laura Poppick

Laura grew up exploring the tide pools and rocky coastlines of New England and loves sharing the treasures of these environments with others at the Children’s Museum & Theatre. With a degree in geology, she thinks a lot about how landscapes change through time and shape our communities and weaves this long-term sense of place into her programs. She has traveled to the Arctic and the Australian Outback for geology fieldwork and has taught science in a number of settings across Maine including at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, ME and the Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco, ME. Laura is also a freelance science writer and contributes to a variety of popular science news outlets. In both her teaching and writing, she loves the challenge of making science captivating and inspiring for young people and non-scientists.