Joel Sercel

Dr. Joel Sercel is the CTO and CEO of Trans Astronautica Corporation. TransAstra is a NewSpace company dedicated to accelerating the process of human exploration and industrialization of cislunar space and near Earth asteroids. Funded by a combination of private sector investment plus NASA grants and contracts, TransAstra is building the technology to provide in-space transportation and related services with a fleet of reusable space tugs supplied by propellant derived from asteroid and lunar resources.

Dr. Sercel has over 30 years of NASA, industrial, other government agency, and academic experience and education all of which is directly related to space technology development and innovation. Sercel’s professional experience includes a 14 year career at JPL; 12 years teaching, researching, and advising graduate students at Caltech in the area of space systems engineering; two years as a senior government official serving as the Chief Systems engineer of a $22B Air Force communications satellite network (TSAT) leading a team of 122 systems engineers and several years as a private technology and management consultant

Joel conceived and initiated the NSTAR project (the first deep space solar electric propulsion system) and served as the first Principal Technologist of the NSTAR project. He presently has patents pending in the area of space resources technology and is known as the inventor of Optical Mining™, a practical method for extracting the ingredients in rocket propellant from asteroids. 

Dr. Sercel is a five time NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fellowship awardee. 

3 words to describe Nature?

Nature. Includes. Everything 

3 things Nature taught you?

While we will never understand everything about nature, we have learned enough to know that nature follows laws that are understandable to the mind of Man.

When you discover a truth about the universe, it unlocks other truths and they all fit together.

When scientists think they have a mature theory that they understand, they are in for a big surprise.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

A kelp forest in the Channel islands

Looking across the Sierras at night at a thunderstorm on the next mountain

The night sky in the Arizona desert on a clear day

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Peace

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Connected

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Wonder

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

The flow of time

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Lucky

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Small

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

One part each, no preference. Love them all

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

As I am part of nature, that would be a 10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

The Milky Way galaxy spread across the night sky and the realization of the immensity of it all and the potential for an infinite future for humanity and our progeny coupled with a sense of awe that we exist.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLijoedlE2A


Cecilia Vanman

Cecilia Vanman worked as a footwear designer in the fashion business, when she took up scuba diving and freediving as hobbies. These interests and her love for the sea grew into such major fascination, that she decided to study marine biology, eventually graduating with a MSc Distinction in Marine Mammal Science in 2005. 

Today as an Expedition Leader and Marine Mammal Biologist, Cecilia Vanman has planned, led and participated in expeditions and scientific projects in the Arctic and Antarctic, the Indian Ocean, the Black Sea, Scandinavian waters, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. She has circumnavigated the British Isles, Spitzbergen and Iceland and has led three expeditions through the Northwest Passage. 

Cecilia has also created the logistical frame work for film productions as an expedition leader for the likes of Disney Nature, Leonardo di Caprio and National Geographic Society. One of her greatest passions is science communication and bringing stories home from her expeditions in remote places to wider audiences through public talks. Cecilia is also a freelance photojournalist and her coverage includes reportage work with the Danish Navy Seals, the Danish Helicopter Rescue Service, the Danish elite unit Sirius Sledge Patrol in NE Greenland as well as articles on sustainable living, freediving, scuba-diving and natural history filmmaking. 

Cecilia was invited to join Women Adventurers Club, Denmark in 2011 and 2015, she became the first Danish woman to be appointed Fellow of The Explorers Club

3 words to describe Nature?

Powerful. Healing. In trouble

3 things Nature taught you?

Curiousness

Patience

Interconnection

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Island of Langeland in Denmark

Disko Island in Greenland

South Georgia in the Southern Ocean

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...? 

Free and humble

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...? 

Calm

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...? 

If a busy volcano: like I should enjoy its’ beauty, but have a plan for a quick exit

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...? 

Grateful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...? 

Electrified and alive. But depending on the situation in the field, perhaps quite vulnerable.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

Thrilled in the beginning and I love the power of it all. After days of howling winds during field work, however, I can become almost overcome with a sense of restlessness. It can also add to cabin fever, which is good for no one in a remote camp. At sea, howling winds mean stormy conditions, which are never desirable.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I am an ‘Ocean-person’ through and through and while I enjoy being there and traveling through them, I could never live in a landlocked country. The Ocean represents freedom and independence to me. More than any nature scape it puts me in my place as a human.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10 and beyond.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Taking the family rowing boat, piling it high with cushions, blankets, my favorite book at the time and an anchor to go to a spot to read; there to be gently rocked by the sea and watching the soaring birds above in between. This escape to nature meant the world to me at a time when things could be difficult at school. Looking back it also set me on a path…

 


Aki Soudunsaari

Aki Soudunsaari is the co-founder & strategy director of Naava, a company based in Finland that creates air filtering indoor green walls. The company won the the Contract Best of NeoCon Silver Award in 2019, the Fennia Prize in 2017, and was an Honoree for the Interior Design Best of the Year in 2017.

After working as a teacher of physical education and health sciences, Aki worked on his PhD in the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics and was a visiting scholar in Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship at San Jose State University. He ran Global Venture Labs' growth venturing programs for a few years, where multidisciplinary students solved companies problems and learned entrepreneurial thinking and processes.

Aki was nominated for EY's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, PWC’s Most Valuable Entrepreneur in 2015, Young Academic Entrepreneur in 2014 and was invited by the President of Finland to join the Finland's 100-year ceremonies in 2017.

3 words to describe Nature?

Life. Flow. Responsibility

3 things Nature taught you?

Respect for others and the environment

Healthy humility

The impact our surroundings have on us, biological creatures

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Korouoma. 30 minutes away from my childhood home in Posio, Lapland, Finland, is a natural-born canyon which in the winter times, ices into one of the biggest iced waterfalls, perfect for ice-climbing and enjoying the fresh spring ray of lights. (NOTE: eg https://beyondarctic.com/adventure-collection/korouoma-ice-climbing-adventure)

Hietaranta beach in Helsinki. This beautiful small beach at the seashore is where I beach volleyball multiple times per week in the short Finnish summer - sports, friends, fresh air, nature, sea, and sand.

Lauttasaari. We live in a beautiful small island right outside the Helsinki city center in the archipelago. Surrounded by the Baltic Sea, beautiful parks and forests, this kind of a small village is a perfect place to combine the city living with the calm of nature. 

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Calm like a rock that the ocean caresses with every wave. 

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Mindful - it makes my senses sharpen up. I’m safe and where I belong.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Small. Imaging the force of time that has shaped the Earth brings my own life to a perspective, making my troubles seem less significant. 

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Aware of that particular moment and my breathing. 

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Powerful, one with the thunder.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

It gives air presence, which is normally a bit difficult. Air is always invisible.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Forest for sure, so human-friendly and species-specific environment. By the way, have you ever thought that while nature surrounds us, we lock it out? We lock it out with us spending 22-23 hours indoors in the built environment. We are the indoor generation, and I know our biology and bodies have not yet evolved enough for us to be healthy and happy constantly being alienated from nature.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10. Nature is powerful, it surrounds us, astounds us, cleanses us, makes me who I am - the reason why we exist. We are not separate from nature, we are a part of it. Nature is everything. 

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I grew up in the Arctic Circle, Lapland, Finland, just next to where Santa Claus lives. It is a very rural area, the density is about one person per square kilometer. I spent all my childhood outdoors, in the middle of untouched forests and crystal clear lakes, under the Northern Lights, breathing the cleanest air in the world. I had a privilege that I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It was a luxury I didn’t understand before traveling all around the globe in megacities, not being able to choose the air I breathe or jump out to nature whenever I felt like it. I appreciate and cherish the human-friendly childhood environment more and more every day.


Mary Poffenroth

Whether through making original content for TEDed and Wiley & Sons, writing for Science & Forbes, or speaking to live audiences at TEDx & SXSW, Mary Poffenroth’s goals are the same: Make Science Accessible for All. A Salzburg Global Fellow and first generation college student, she holds two masters degrees, one in biology and the other in science communication from Imperial College London. She is the author of Write Present Create: Science Communication for Undergraduates and has taught nearly 20,000 students both in person and online since 2007. Her work has been featured in legacy media outlets such as Time magazine and National Geographic as well as garnering views in the millions with YouTube’s Mahalo. Mary began her research career in astrophysiology at NASA Ames Research Center Moffet Field in 1999 and now focuses her research on the intersection of fear science, communication, and personal/social change as STEM faculty for San Jose State University. Listen to a recent interview with Allie Ward about Fear here Part 1 & Part 2

3 words to describe Nature?

Cleansing. Terrifying. Balancing

3 things Nature taught you?

To be self reliant

To duck under a bush when being shot at

To not pee on your pants while being a lady peeing in the woods

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Muir woods

Big Sur

Any beach on the planet 

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Like I’m Home

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Like adventure is afoot

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Exhilarated

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Sunrise = refreshed

Sunset = most likely a bit tipsy if I have taken the time to watch, I am most likely with friends drinking wine on a beach

 When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Ooohh when is the lightning gonna come

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

Ready to jump into (faux) furry blankets with my puppy and a good audio book

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Ocean first, Mountain and forest are the same for me as an equal second, desert is a stark last place

 On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10… obvi

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I was the outcast for loving nature in my family. My mother abhorred it unless it was tamed by a planter box. But i would find ways, big and small, to sneak into and onto the wild in an attempt to connect to something I did not have words for at the time.


James Zhang

James Zhang has been on the cutting edge of digital entertainment for nearly two decades. Since its founding in 2007, James has built Concept Art House into one of the video game industry’s most celebrated art services companies, and continues to establish lasting partnerships with industry powerhouses such as 2K, Activision/Blizzard, Epic games, Kabam, and Tencent. 

James is also a partner at Fifth Era which manages Blockchain Coinvestors - the World’s leading blockchain venture fund of funds. He additionally serves on several Advisory Boards including: 1World Online, a crowdsource service that combines social polling with analytics, DreamView studios, a CGI-product company for eCommerce, Playfull, a gaming rewards platform, Readyup, an Esports events platform and Redemption Games, a leading casual game developer.

3 words to describe Nature?

Cyclical . Balanced. Unpredictable

3 things Nature taught you?

Humility – I’m just one of 6+ billion people living in nature.

Symmetry (Perfect design) – As a concept artist who’s designed my share of creatures and fantasy worlds…nothing I’ve designed is as perfect as what already exists in nature. My dragons may be cool on screen or paper, but they aren’t real and not in harmony with the earth.

Serenity – I’ve found solace is more easily attained on a nice hike or laying by the beach.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Oakland hills – Just the proximity make is special for me. My weekly nature fix. I hike it almost every weekend if I can.

Sierra Nevada – Far enough to ‘get away from it all’, but close enough to get to on a weekend. From Lake Tahoe to Yosemite, from Immigrant Wilderness to Mount Whitney…Sierra Nevada mountain range is where I learned to fall in love with Nature. 

Mount Haleakala – Amazing terrain. Parts of it feels like another planet – Mars? Other parts are jungles teaming with life. During sunset, the fog sometimes rolls in under the summit. It’s an incredible view.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Depends on the time and waves, from shore or in the middle of the Ocean… Generally, I feel free and alive. At night, in the middle of the Ocean feels…I would feel insignificant. 

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Depends on the season. Spring/Summer: I feel replenished and refreshed. Autumn/Winter: I generally feel nostalgia. I feel private.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Excitement, energetic, especially an active volcano

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Reflective, emotional, humble, grateful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Vigilant, Alert, sometimes frightened if loud/close

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

Cold, lonely, melancholy 

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Ocean or mountain. Probably ocean – I love fish/fishing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

9.2

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Cat fishing in Alabama creeks. I grew up in Northern Alabama during the late 80s and early 90s. The city I grew up in, Huntsville was population 100,000 and basically nestled in between rural woods and farms. Some of my favorite memories in high school was going into the backwoods and remote farms with my buddies. For most of 1994, my 3 besties and I would go fishing just about every weekend. 

The best time to go for catfish was at night. We would eat dinner, then meet up for fishing. Sometimes, we wouldn’t get back until after midnight…even on school nights.

We had the best time exploring creeks and ponds. We’d find something different on every trip. We’d catch everything from boots to rocks, logs, turtles…sometimes even fish! On one trip we almost stepped on a cottonmouth (Copper head) sunbathing in the path. On another trip the mosquitos were so bad, we ended up making a fire to use as a repellent. It didn’t work. I came home that night with 20+ bites on my back. They got me right through my t-shirt. My back looked like a pepperoni pizza. 

Our favorite place to fish was a place we called “The Double S P”. Or “The Secret Sacred Place”. This was a place where we had a 100% batting average. Getting there was hard…we had to trek across soggy mud, a foot deep in some areas. Once you get there, it was a narrow creek only 15 feet across in certain areas. Sometimes, the fish jumping made a splash so loud, we described it as someone throwing a recliner in the water. Sometimes, the splash could get you wat while sitting on the shore. The biggest fish I caught there was a 30 inch, 5.5 pound catfish. I’m sure there were bigger fish. The S.S.P. never disappointed. We always had a good story and no one ever went home without catching a fish there. 

Those fishing trips in ‘94 turned me into a lifelong hobby angler. Sometimes, I wonder if that creek is still there. Without us to control the catfish population, there may be some real river monsters there now…

 


Chunlei Guo

Chunlei Guo is a professor in Optics and Physics at University of Rochester. He is a Fellow of American Physical Society and Optical Society of America. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief for one of the most widely recognized handbooks in lasers and optics, CRC Handbook of Laser Technology and Applications (2nd Edition).

Often inspired by species in nature, from lotus to butterflies to spiders, his research at Rochester led to the discoveries of a range of highly functionalized materials through laser processing, including the black and colored metals, and superhydrophilic and superhydrophobic surfaces. These technologies have a broad range of applications and have been covered extensively by the media, including the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Discovery, The Economist, Popular Science, Time, ABC, and many more (read here). Over the past few years, he has been working closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in developing technologies for global sanitation, water conservation, renewable energy, and sustainability. He discussed his work in the TEDx below.

3 words to describe Nature?

Peaceful. Inspiring. Eternal.

3 things Nature taught you?

Humility

Kindness

Knowledge

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Okavango delta (Botswana)

Himalaya mountain range (Tibet)

Cappadocia (Turkey).

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Calm

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Curious

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Energized

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Passionate

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Awakening

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

Reflective

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I like them all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

A hiking trip with a few childhood friends. We were going further and further along a woody road with no end in sight. We were nervous but all wanted to keep going...