Shannon Donovan headshot

Shannon Donovan

Science Communication Fellow
Robotics Teacher
Wickford Middle School

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

I help students of all ages explore different skill sets to help them find their passion. In our STEAM program, I develop interdisciplinary projects that help students build communication skills and technical skills, but also allow them to take risks and apply their own creativity. In recent years I have been learning with our younger students and their teachers about the use of GIS to tell stories. Maps are fundamental to ocean exploration, so I am SO excited to be part of this expedition.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

When I was a graduate student at URI I was studying how certain cells in the vascular system of plants develop so they can efficiently transport water. I had the opportunity during that time to participate in a fellowship that matched classroom teachers with graduate students to help share an understanding of and excitement for research with younger students. I had such a great experience that I decided to become a classroom teacher myself. I love teaching all audiences about various aspects of science and engineering, but I do miss being involved in primary research. This is why being involved with the Corps of Exploration is a perfect fit for me. I am so excited to learn more about how to create outstanding maps of the sea floor!

Who influenced or encouraged you the most?

The summer after my freshman year in college I got jobs washing glassware in one lab and mowing at the turf grass research farm at URI. In both cases, my curiosity led to many exciting conversations about the work that was ongoing in those spaces. Because of one of those conversations, I was introduced to a professor studying plant cell development, Dr. Alison Roberts. My persistent curiosity was noticed, and as a result, Dr. Roberts invited me to do an independent research project in her lab. The rest is history! I worked with Dr. Roberts all through the rest of my undergraduate years, I completed my MS with her, and even in recent years we have conducted outreach together to engage high school students in molecular biology research. We remain close friends and continue to share a passion for plants and the process of science. 

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

My recent personal professional development has involved data science, programming, GIS, and creating web apps. I LOVE learning new things, and these areas connect in so many ways and can be applied to SO many different career clusters. I look forward to learning more and finding ways to help my students develop some of these skills to add to their personal toolboxes.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

My science teacher career morphed in recent years to teaching engineering. That then led to the opportunities to coordinate career and tech programs and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) programs. As coordinator, I have the opportunity to share my skills with many other teachers.

What are your degrees and certifications?

BS Botany, 1995, University of Rhode Island; MS Biological Science, 1999, University of Rhode Island

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy gardening, learning new stuff, and hanging with my pups.

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

Stay curious and persist!

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

I was an SCF in 2019 on an expedition with Ocean Networks Canada when they installed the final pieces of their Earthquake Early Warning System. I have been following OETs work ever since. Recently I saw a post on Facebook that OET was looking for a veteran SCF to come aboard for a mapping leg. Given my recent professional development pursuits, this seemed like a perfect fit for me.


Shannon participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: