This month’s Year of the Woman feature is Paula Jasinski, the president of Green Fin Studio, a full-service marketing and communications agency serving clients in the environmental field. Paula was recommended to me by our Virginia team and I am thankful they suggested such an interesting and inspirational woman.

Paula grew up in the Northern Neck of Virginia and says this is really where her story all starts. “As I look back as an adult, I realize how much growing up in the northern neck of Virginia really shaped who I became without really directly understanding that.” She also talked about how the people who she was close to growing up helped shape her interest in science. “Bill Pruitt was one of my neighbors growing up, he ended up being the longest serving head of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission – over 28 years with 9 governors.” He was friends with her parents and just through “osmosis” she said she learned from him.

The Honorable Tayloe Murphy was also influential in Paula’s life. Tayloe Murphy introduced the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act in the General Assembly in Virginia and was also appointed Secretary of Natural Resources by Governor, Mark Warner. Tayloe Murphy was another neighborhood family friend that was a part of Paula’s time growing up. 

Paula explained how these important environmental conversations just organically came up around her family’s dining room table. “Conversations about bringing back rockfish, the importance of underwater grasses, and talk about nutrients were all just sort of our dining room table talk.” Paula’s grandfather was another force that contributed to her strong interest in science. “My grandfather was a doctor and was always immersing me in science. He’d say stuff like ‘let’s talk about capillary action and let’s talk about how antibiotics work.'” These everyday interactions and conversations in Paula’s life helped lead her to where she is today.

Due to her strong interest in science, Paula went to the University of Virginia to pursue a degree in biology, and afterwards continued her education at the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science where she received a Masters degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Management. After graduating, she went on to work for a couple different organizations, including the Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all involved in some way with the Chesapeake Bay Program.

After her time at these scientific agencies, Paula decided to pursue creating a business of her own that helped bridge the gap of communications that she felt was missing from science to the decision makers. Paula said she experienced the need for this communication from her past experience working with legislative officials.

“At both the CBP and NOAA I had the chance to work with legislative affairs. It wasn’t my official title, but I was frequently called on to help explain issues to legislators and elected officials of all levels. And it was really clear that science wasn’t understandable. ‘Why aren’t we still investing in science? Why don’t we know enough? How can we make it better? When can we stop funding the CBP?’ You’d get questions like that. And that made me think ‘wow, there really is a big gap between what we understand as scientists and what the people responsible for making decisions understand, including the public.”

Paula has knowledge from working not only with legislative officials, but also other sectors, including fishermen, farmers, and nonprofit environmental organizations. She said that there was always someone blaming someone or something else for pollution or other problems with the environment. “People believe that they would be fine if it ‘weren’t for farmers or if it weren’t for industries.’ They believed that they would be fine if it wasn’t for one specific thing.”

Paula on the other hand, didn’t like this attitude and feels that we are all in this together. “I don’t believe in demonizing one specific sector. It’s about how everyone can do their jobs more efficiently and more sustainably.” This idea of wanting to help communicate science to decision makers and the public, while also helping everyone work towards a common goal is how Green Fin Studio came together. “It is about combining art and sciences as a way to communicate complex topics to different audiences.” And Green Fin Studio has been doing this for 10 years!

I asked Paula if she had any female role models in her life. She told me that she has a lot growing up, although they were mostly not accessible for one on one mentorship. “I will say that there weren’t many women leaders in science when I was first starting out, except for big names like Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, and Rachel Carson.” However, Paula did mention someone super close to her: her mother. Paula’s mom also has her own business in tourism and public relations. “Although her business is in a completely different sector, just watching her run her own company, has been really inspiring. I learned a lot from her.”

Paula also mentioned Verna Harrison who she was lucky enough to work with on a couple different projects. Paula told me, “Verna was always trying to help the current and next generation of women. She’d approach topics in a very thoughtful and empathetic approach.” Paula really enjoyed working with Verna and said she learned a lot from her about making science comprehensible.

Paula also wanted to give a shout out to our very own, Executive Director, Kate Fritz. “I think your organization with Kate on board is phenomenal. I really appreciate her management style. As a past member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, I was able to see how she works. I really enjoy her style of work. She is all about partnerships and working together as a community.” 

When I asked Paula how she plans on celebrating the Year of the Woman, she said she plans to continue working with the next generation of women in science and science communications. “I’m involved in a lot of different professional women’s groups. It is a lot of networking, sharing, and building each other up, which I really enjoy being a part of.” Paula is passionate about working with and helping the next generation of young professional women in sciences. When asked if she had any advice for young females starting their careers she said, “Look for role models and mentors, especially women, but never be afraid to find and use your own voice. It’s also important to consider what makes you happy and then find a way to fit your life and work around that.”

I found it inspiring to hear how Paula built her impressive career by figuring out what she loves and going back to her roots. Throughout the interview Paula mentioned several times how finding happiness in her work is how she got to where she is today, and I think that’s such an important message for all of us.