Rachael Coccia

Rachael came to the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science from a diverse background. She was the Host and Associate Producer of an educational children's show, Aqua Kids, for two seasons while earning a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations at Fredonia State University. She then worked at NBC CT for two years before deciding to pursue her passion for ocean conservation. Rachael spent a short time with CT Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound as the Development and Outreach Coordinator just prior to starting the Marine Conservation and Policy Master of Arts program at Stony Brook University.

One of the biggest draws to this program was the chance to learn from the Alda Center. Having a strong interest in science communication, Rachael immediately reached out to the Center to get involved with their work. As a Graduate Assistant, she coordinated the 2017 international Flame Challenge competition which challenged scientists from around the world to answer "What is energy?" in a way that an 11-year-old could understand. She worked closely with Alda Center staff and Alan Alda himself to engage both students and scientists in the challenge.

Rachael Coccia

Rachael also completed the Improv class, Distilling Your Message, and Video Storytelling for Scientists with the Alda Center. "It was awesome to experience the transformation of the students throughout the improv class," said Rachael. "The first week everyone was pretty nervous and scared of acting silly but by the end almost everybody had completely come out of their shell. This really opened their minds and allowed them to think differently about their science in a way they hadn't before. I found myself being able to actually understand the physicists and chemists in the room - but more than that I could relate to their research and was truly interested in what they had to say!" Rachael was also inspired by her experience in the Video Storytelling class taught by Graham Chedd, Producer of Scientific American Frontiers. Her final video project featured the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program and can be viewed on the Alda Center's Vimeo page. She has since continued to develop videos to engage the public in ocean conservation. Visit Rachael's website to review some of her current work.

"My career goals strongly align with the mission of the Alda Center," said Rachael.

I want to bridge the gap between scientists, policymakers, corporations, and the public - so getting a chance to learn from the Alda Center was an incredibly valuable experience for me.

Rachael was featured in the Alda Center's Science Unplugged web series where she spoke about ocean plastic pollution.

In addition to working at the Alda Center, Rachael enjoyed the flexibility to choose her own capstone project and decided to work with the Eastern Long Island chapter of The Surfrider Foundation. During this time she evaluated the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program for the area, made connections with key stakeholders, and developed materials for the launch. During her one year Master's program, Rachael also hosted a pre-screening event and panel discussion of National Geographic's Before the Flood documentary, was a guest lecturer for a Sustainability Senior Capstone course, attended a 10x20 meeting at the United Nations, and developed a committee to discuss initiating a plastic ban for SoMAS.

Rachael is now the Director of Youth Initiatives at The Ocean Project where she is empowering youth from around the world to act as leaders in their communities and beyond. With a focus on ocean plastic pollution, she strives to give young people the resources and support they need to take action. The Ocean Project also coordinates World Oceans Day which is a globally recognized day to celebrate the oceans. For this, Rachael oversees the Youth Advisory Council which is a group of 20 impressive young people from around the world that are demonstrating powerful youth leadership. "I have truly found my niche in helping young people talk about critical ocean issues in a way people can relate to - by making it personal and telling a story," says Rachael.

I'm so grateful to the Alda Center for giving me the tools I need to share these urgent messages with the world in a way that inspires action, before it's too late.

Follow her on social media @RachaelCoccia

Read more Alda Alumni profiles here.