La La Land Part 2

I leap from the 30 foot high platform and grasp the trapeze as I reflect on what I’m leaving behind and jump towards my future goals.

I finish climbing the rope course, the last activity of the fellowship that includes scaling a 60 foot high tower, scrambling up swinging logs and ropes.


Standing victorious after climbing the tower

It hasn’t been all fun and games; I’ve learned a lot of practical skills including rope-making, lashing (tying ropes together), shelter-building, and basket-weaving. One of the top five essential survival skills, coiling basket with rafia (thin leaves from the Malagasy Rafia palm) could be used to collect food and bring it long distances if stranded in the wild.

The weather has been nice and warm save for a spot of rain, though it was very cold when I visited Madison, Wisconsin for the National Science Policy Network Conference after Halloween. I learned a ton about communicating science and met lots of great people, including my new friend Danni Washington, who is the first African American female science TV show host (listen to our interview here).

Upon return, there just happened to be another science communication conference on campus. I bumped into my friend from college as I checked out the posters and hung out with her the rest of the evening until I was busted than none other than Cara Santa Maria (another science tv show host). After some flustered explaining, Jason Goldman (who is an old friend of my boss and a wildlife reporter) allowed me to stay the rest of the conference. I received lots of training in freelance pitching, storytelling, and science communication through the conference workshops. I also had fun meeting lots of fun people and C-list celebrities over meals, s’mores, and hikes. It was inspiring to meet so many passionate science communicators and a valuable experience.

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Alie Ward, a fantastic science communicator and enthusiastic speaker at SciCommCamp! I’ve been listening to her podcast, Ologies, while taking care of the animals and it’s great.

I did some horseback riding and had another adventure climbing out near Santa Clarita with a first responder who was there after the shooting. When not taking care of the fish, lizards, and farm animals, I spent time making moccasins out of deer leather. A key principle of the fellowship has been bal tashlit, which translates to “do not waste.” It was fun crafting my own shoes out of the hide of a deer and reusing all its parts.


I spent the final day hiking with the team up to some caves hidden in the valleys. Scrambling up the rocks to look over the campus, it was easy to believe it was the largest jewish-owned property outside of Israel. The hills looked lush from all the rain, and the sandstone rocks left all sorts of grooves from water flowing. It was fun living on this beautiful property, and I will miss the gorgeous sunsets!

One comment

  1. Karen Schlichter · December 14

    Jake, Very cool and unique experience! I’m sure you have some great stories!! See you soon in Virginia! Aunt K


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