Thirteen Students Publish Op-Eds on Invasive Species

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Clockwise from top left: CELS students Lily Herberger, Adam Kovarsky, Matthew Pederson, Tia Mitchell, Joseph Loffredo, and Maggie Kimball. Not pictured but published: Matt Borys, Marina Capraro, Heather Keir, Wesley Swanson and Stephen Tranghese.

Thirteen students in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) made the giant leap from writing scholastically to getting their work published in mainstream newspapers this December. As classes were coming to an end, students in Dr. Laura Meyerson’s Invasive Species Ecology, Management and Policy class were getting excited about more than just winter break.

“I was super excited, and I couldn’t wait to tell my professor!” recounts Joseph Loffredo, Environmental Science and Management junior, of the moment he learned his Op-Ed on defoliation caused by invasive gypsy months was published in the Warwick Beacon.

Loffredo and his classmates authored and published the Op-Eds as part of an assignment about invasive species, which are aggressive, non-native plants and animals that disrupt ecosystems. The students spent the semester learning about the ecological effects of invasive species and the importance of using different styles to communicate scientific concepts to the public. Students were asked to pick a species to study, then to develop three uniquely different writing products, including a scientific grant proposal, a YouTube public service announcement, and an Op-Ed based on that species.

“They are an incredibly talented and dedicated group of students,” Meyerson remarks of her students’ success in publishing Op-Eds in notable news outlets such as The Westerly Sun, The Valley Breeze, EcoRI News, Southern Rhode Island Newspapers, and more.

“The Op-Ed assignment gave the students an opportunity to take an action that could make a difference,” explains Meyerson, Professor of Natural Resources Science in CELS. Meyerson believes that engaging with the public on environmental issues is a powerful tool, a lesson she learned from her experience as an Aldo Leopold Environmental Leadership Fellow, a fellowship designed to provide researchers with the skills to communicate pressing environmental issues.

“Getting an entire class to voice the issues they are passionate about can make a valuable impact,” reflects CELS student Adam Kovarsky, whose Op-Ed, “A Crabby Day on the Bay,” about how invasive Asian Shore Crabs are changing Narragansett Bay was published in Newport this Week.

Loffredo and Kovarsky both note that publishing was exciting, and eye opening. “It’s also a little nerve-wracking to know that your work is out there for so many people to see,” adds Loffredo. But in the end Loffredo concludes, “I’m passionate about what I wrote, and I hope that the people that read my work can sense that.”