The Art of Communicating Science

The Art of Communicating Science

There is nothing typical about Maya Trotz. The globe-trotting science educator teaches civil and environmental engineering at the University of South Florida, while building partnerships focused on water sustainability here and in the Caribbean.

Born and raised in Guyana, Trotz earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and studied theater at MIT, performing in a troupe that brought Shakespeare into Boston’s inner city schools. After completing master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental engineering at Stanford, she moved to Tampa, where her passion for community outreach has flourished.

She credits theatre with honing essential communications skills. “We often lack the art of communications. We don’t know how to market ourselves, and then we complain when we’re not communicating with the public in ways that allow them to make informed decisions.”

Recently, she’s worked with Hillsborough County schools to build community rain gardens that have become outdoor labs for learning. Students help design and install the gardens using naturally low areas and water-loving plants to absorb and filter runoff that otherwise could pollute natural waterways. Grants from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and others have supported nine gardens so far. “We find teachers who are champions. They’re the ones that are pushing the idea of green infrastructure, engaging students and integrating it into their studies.”

Did you know? About 20% of the nitrogen entering Tampa Bay in stormwater runoff comes from landscape fertilizers, grass clippings, pet waste and other residential sources.

Photo By: Russell Watson

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