Jennifer Runyan headshot photo

Jennifer Runyan

Science Communication Fellow
Museum Educator
Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California, Berkeley

Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?

I help develop and teach STEM workshops at the Lawrence Hall of Science. We focus on hands-on science where students can engage in experiments and investigations that build enthusiasm for science and engineering. I am secretly (or not so secretly) trying to bring more marine biology experiences to our museum and being a science communications fellow is a great way to do so!

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

It all started when I was 7 years old and wanted a dog as a family pet. My parents ended up buying me a fish and from then on I knew I wanted to become a marine biologist! On a 7th-grade field trip to Catalina Island Marine Institute is where it solidified my true passion. I had just performed my first plankton tow and saw all the small organisms living in just one concentrated drop of water. The phytoplankton (microscopic plant-like drifters) with their beautiful shapes and intriguing ecology had me hooked. I've been studying and sharing the wonderful world of phytoplankton with folks ever since!  

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Growing up in Southern California, my parents always took me to the beach and encouraged a spirit of inquiry. They bought me many field guides so that I was able to identify and classify every living thing at the beach and at tidepools.  

What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?

The most fascinating elements are my interactions with students and learning how they learn best. They come from such varying backgrounds with different interests and different learning abilities. Learning what motivates them and how to inspire them is the most fascinating, challenging, and rewarding part of the job. 

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I've had many great opportunities that led me to my current position: Marine Biology informal educator, Aquarist, grants program specialist, Wheeler North Reef project lead, SoundToxins program assistant, and aquaculture outreach specialist. All of these positions were actually just within two organizations. I am a huge believer in taking advantage of everything an organization has to offer. Being able to move within an organization to acquire a variety of positions and skill sets has allowed me to maximize my potential.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from University of California at Santa Cruz 2005; Masters in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College 2012; NAUI Advanced SCUBA diver certified.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and exploring aquariums and museums. I also enjoy baking desserts!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Believe in yourself and be passionate about it. I had a difficult time with math in high school and college. High school counselors and college advisers all said that I should switch majors for if I am not good at math, then I won't ever be a good scientist. I persevered and graduated in Marine Biology and have never looked back. Schools that rejected me as a student years ago have since created positions for me to work for them due to my passion and enthusiasm. It just takes faith in yourself and a lot of hard work! 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

I applied for the Science Communications Fellowship after learning about the program from hearing about it from a colleague who happened to be a previous Science Communications Fellow.


Jennifer participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: