By Chris Patrick, staff writer
Celia Cackowski began as a Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) education specialist affiliated with Virginia Sea Grant on January 11. She’s currently spending the bulk of her time revamping The Bridge, a web portal to K-12 marine science education resources.
“The Bridge is an amazing resource,” says Cackowski, who first used the portal when she served as a GK12 fellow during graduate school. She liked the site’s broad range of topics and data-based activities. “Many science educators have come to rely on the site, and I think they will be impressed with its new incarnation.” In addition to updating The Bridge, Cackowski will manage its social media accounts, coach teachers on how to use data resources, and present the site at conferences.
The Bridge project was initiated in 1998. Cackowski says she’s looking forward to redesigning the site to improve the experience for its 150,000 annual users.
Cackowski’s love of education took root when she served as a GK12 fellow at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. The fellowship, funded by the National Science Foundation, partners science graduate students with public school teachers to bring current research into K-12 classrooms. Before this teaching experience, Cackowski was planning a career in fisheries research.
“Now that I’m working in education and outreach I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Cackowski says. Her favorite part is encouraging students to get excited about science.
“I think everyone should have a fundamental understanding of the natural world,” she says. “When kids understand the way the world around them works, they can see their place in it more clearly.”
After spending two years as a GK-12 fellow, Cackowski began working full time in the University of Rhode Island’s Office of Marine Programs. She served on the outreach team for the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year international project in which 2,700 scientists from more than 80 countries assessed the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. Cackowski then worked for two years as an outreach scientist for Bob Ballard, the underwater archaeologist and geological oceanographer who rediscovered the Titanic.
Cackowski’s interest in marine science grew out of childhood fishing trips with her grandfather on Long Beach Island, a barrier island off the coast of New Jersey. After graduating from Roger Williams University with a bachelor’s in biology in 1997, Cackowski spent more than a year working at the VIMS Eastern Shore Laboratory’s oyster hatchery.
“VIMS feels like home,” she says.
Outside of work, Cackowski is an avid photographer. She loves to take pictures of lights. She also dabbles in jewelry design.