Mike Castellini ~ Polar Visionary

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Stories of a Changing Planet

Stage act
The International Polar Year spawned Polar-Palooza, a multi-million dollar, multi-media event funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring the message of polar connections and climate change to citizens around the world. And Dr. Michael Castellini was one of the stars of the show. As one of 35 "travelers", he performed with Polar-Palooza in 25 venues across the US and in 12 foreign countries, interacting with an estimated 50,000 school kids.

One of a corps of performing scientists, Mike covered biology and the charismatic megafaunas, such as penguins and seals. He and his fellow "travelers" had intensive training beforehand, learning to tell stories effectively with split-second timing accompanied by elaborate audio/visual media. And Mike always traveled with an Alaskan Native elder who would explain what it's like to live with climate change on a daily basis.

Polar-Palooza organizers also arranged for the scientists to work with local middle school teachers before or after the event, and the teachers would get Professional Development credit. Students would also get ample opportunity to talk to the scientists. Mike would often go into a local school to give a talk, or give a seminar at a university.

"This was the most fun and impactful science that I've ever done."
Mike's experience with Polar-Palooza has had long term effects on his outreach efforts. He has used his experience as a broader impact on NSF proposals, and has given presentations through COSEE Alaska, performing at the National Ocean Science Bowl. He continues to use the knowledge gained through his experience as a model. "They took scientists and trained them to do professional-quality presentations," says Mike. "Now whenever I give talks, I start with telling a story."