Meet the Closing the Gap Guest speaker for June 2022, Marley Parker!

This month, we have West Albany High School’s Tori Thorp, Oregon’s 2022 Student Journalist of the Year, with us one last time before she heads off to college! Tori interviews Marley Parker (she/her), a science communicator who does photojournalism for science expeditions while traveling to the far reaches of the planet.

Q: Please describe your educational/training background.

I have a B.A. in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. I am also a certified open water scuba diver, licensed drone pilot, and certified Wilderness First Responder.

Q: Please describe where you work & your occupation.

I run my own business! I am a full-time freelance photographer/videographer/science writer and I specialize in documenting oceanographic research expeditions. I regularly do contract work for organizations like the Ocean Exploration Trust and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Q: Career-wise, what have been your proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments so far?

A few cool, specific moments: photographing whales in Antarctica, filming deep-sea corals in the South Pacific, and flying a drone in the North Atlantic.

In general: starting my own business and working with incredible scientists from all over the world.

Q: What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?

I want to continue joining research expeditions, but I also want to keep sharing my story and encouraging/empowering other people (especially young women) to pursue meaningful, non-traditional career paths. To do that, I’m booking lots of speaking gigs, writing a book, and developing a series of workshops.

I would also love to work in the Arctic and Africa (the only places I haven’t been to yet!)

Q: What have been some of your biggest career challenges?

Being a young woman working in male-dominated environments, dealing with imposter syndrome, and learning new systems and technologies on research vessels (which are often fast-paced, high-stakes environments)

Q: Many young women might not be aware of the careers available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?

This is such a great question and a subject I care deeply about. When I was a college student, I had no idea that the type of work I do now even existed! That’s one reason I regularly visit classrooms to share my story and experiences with students, and I’m working hard to develop more content (blog posts, a book, workshops, etc) to convey that message as widely as possible.

Podcasts like this one are great, but we can always do more. I think we should start requiring high school seniors and/or first-year college students to take a class called “Awesome Careers You’ve Never Heard Of…”

Q: Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow a similar career path?

Believe in yourself, no matter what. There have been so many times when I’ve questioned myself – I felt insecure or incompetent or not good enough. Those kinds of thoughts are a waste of energy that do not help me get where I want to be.

You’ve got to be brave and bold. You’ve got to put yourself out there, even when you’re nervous or scared. And then you’ve got to keep doing it – again and again, and again.

Q: What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

Since my work involves so much time at sea, I try to spend a lot of my free time in the mountains going on long hikes or camping trips. When I’m at home, I love to cook homemade vegetarian and vegan food, read books about other badass women, write letters (snail mail!), and spend time with friends.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A question I often get is “what’s the scariest/craziest thing you’ve ever done?” People usually assume I’ll say something like “jumping in the water in Antarctica” or “swimming with sharks in the Galapagos” but by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done was quit my stable, secure job at a university to start my own business as a full-time freelancer. Making that transition was daunting and nerve-wracking but it’s also the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.