This summer, Nidhi Sharma, ’18, found herself wading in shallow water of the Florida Keys collecting samples for research on the role of sponges in marine ecosystems.
As she and her classmates in Malcolm Hill’s biology lab focused on what sponges inhale from and exhale back to the environment, Sharma also took note of the water temperature and photographed trees bleached by saltwater, both possible indications of climate change.
“I was moved by the fact that many of the sponges we worked on were being impacted by climate change,” she said.
Conversations with Hill allowed her to see this politically charged topic from a different perspective.
“For Malcolm, who has made sponges his life’s work, climate change is personal,” she said. “Nature is fading away, and people aren’t paying attention to it, and soon it will be too late.”
Hill encouraged her to share the science, so she created a blog with photographs, videos, and interviews based on conversations with “scientists, park rangers, fishermen, random strangers,” she said.
Some of their responses surprised her. “I wasn’t looking for a specific point of view; these people are so close to the ocean, and they’re living one foot off the ground,” she said. Climate change will impact them deeply “if we continue down this path,” she added, “but a lot of them don’t believe in it or are in denial.”
While she’s not setting out to argue with anyone about the science or impact of climate change, Sharma hopes her work can help educate.
“Science can seem like this cold, methodical, distant thing, but it’s so fresh, vibrant, and new,” she said.
“One of the reasons I’m doing this blog is to make science more accessible, exciting, and fun, something people want to read about.”