Author Archives: Barb Miller

Environmental lessons I learned in Australia

By Cameryn Cass

The first time I left America, I didn’t get very far: I went to Toronto for a mini-holiday. Though only four and a half hours from my hometown, it felt much farther than that. It was exciting and new and – dare I say – foreign. Unlike my 19-year-old peers, I was drawn to the city for something other than legal drinking: I went in search of adventure.

You see, I enjoy living outside my comfort zone. I figure the more I do, the larger that zone will become.

Former Great Lakes Echo writer Cameryn Cass on the scene in Australia

So for my final semester at Michigan State, I decided to pack my bags and live 9,370 miles (15,080 kilometers) from home in Sydney, Australia. Instead of studying abroad, I interned at a lovely nonprofit called the Ethics Centre in the heart of the city.

I had the opportunity to write and edit stories and meet philosophers and experience imposter syndrome daily. I got used to spelling color with a “u” and writing the date with the number first, followed by the month. Did you know writing the date with the number sandwiched between the month and year is almost exclusively American? I think we ought to reconsider how we write that. And also adopt the metric system.

But, back to Australia. My internship went from February to mid-April, but I stayed until July 24 (24 July). I saw Brisbane and sat beside kangaroos all afternoon at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. I hiked at Cradle Mountain and easily fell in love with Hobart, Tasmania.

I visited New Zealand and its Hobbiton, having never seen the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings films and left a piece of my heart in Queenstown.

And I got lost in the equatorial heat and traffic lightless roads of Bali, visiting my cousin there for 15 days. Continue reading

Lessons from the brink

Eric Freedman

By Eric Freedman

Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism

There’s nothing like almost dying to wake you up to the multiple realities of America’s health care system.

I nearly died in April from a still-unidentified collapse and its complications, including pneumonia, blackouts, heavy bleeding, liver damage and ICU delirium during seven weeks at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, four of them on a ventilator.

I have no memory of my first five weeks there.

When it first happened, my children and grandchildren arrived from four states, although I don’t remember their visit or their encouraging words.

For me, the experience highlighted the fragility of life and our vulnerability to sometimes-inexplicable health crises, regardless of how well we’ve taken care of ourselves: eaten – mostly – right, exercised and had regular medical exams and tests.

Beyond that, however, came deeper insights about inequities in the American medical system, starting with access to and the high cost of care.

Medical expenses can push patients and their families without good health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or VA benefits into a devastating choice between bankruptcy on one hand and foregoing lifesaving treatment on the other hand.

Talk about sticker shock. The retail price – the bottom line – for two days at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital, where my arduous medical journey began in the emergency department: $87,748. The ambulance transfer while I was comatose and in critical condition from Sparrow to Henry Ford Hospital’s ICU: $13,520. Continue reading

SciComm Identities Project (SCIP) Workshop Kicks Off at Michigan State University 

Michigan State University has become the hub of an exciting initiative as the SciComm Identities Project (SCIP) workshop on science communication begins today and runs until the end of the week. A group of 10 SCIP fellows have embarked on a transformative journey, aiming to deepen their understanding of podcasting, gain expertise in media relations, and apply this knowledge to their academic endeavors

The participants of the workshop spent the day engrossed in a variety of activities designed to enhance their skills. They delved into the realm of storytelling tools, refining their creative writing abilities and engaging in stimulating discussions on applying effective media strategies to effectively communicate their research.


This workshop serves as a vital component of a comprehensive five-year project initiated by the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island, the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University, and the URI Science and Story Lab. The overarching objective of this project is to cultivate the next generation of science communicators, particularly individuals from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, who will play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between science and society. More information about the SCIP project can be found at their official website:

With the SCIP workshop now underway, the fellows are set to acquire invaluable skills and knowledge that will empower them to effectively communicate scientific concepts and research findings to a wider audience. This initiative is a testament to the commitment of Michigan State University and its partner institutions in fostering a more inclusive and diverse science communication landscape.




Environmental journalism students win Michigan Outdoor Writers Association awards

Great Lakes Echo writer Jack Armstrong is the winner of the 2023 Michigan Outdoor Writers Association/Toyota “Let’s Go Places” competition.

It is the first time the annual award has been based on photography.

Bob Vogel, the president of the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association, presents Jack Armstrong, with the association’s 2023 “Let’s Go Places” Award underwritten by Toyota Motors North America.

Armstrong is using the $2,500 award to upgrade his photography gear as he pursues a career in communicating the outdoors experience. The money “will further my environmental photography projects, both professional and personal.”

Earlier this summer, Armstrong participated in the School of Journalism’s Education Abroad photojournalism program in Kenya where he photographed wildlife. MSU journalism professor Judy Walgren led the program.

“I’m majoring in journalism and environment, science and health reporting and minoring in media photography and environmental science,” Armstrong said. “I cover solutions to tricky environmental problems, like tech that could one day make fuel from carbon exhaust.” Continue reading