William & Mary

Jes Therkelsen, Mellon Environmental Postdoctoral Scholar

Jes Therkelsen in Biratnagar, NepalSuccessful environmental policy depends upon good science, but too often, that science remains trapped in laboratories, in a world of test-tubes and technical language. With this challenge in mind, W&M faculty mentors Sharon Zuber (Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies), Dan Cristol (Professor of Biology), and John Swaddle (Professor of Biology, Director of ENSP) created a project entitled “FromTest-tube to YouTube: Communicating science using modern media.” These faculty set out to find a new Mellon Environmental Postdoctoral Scholar who could negotiate the intersection of science and the humanities, with the goal of teaching how to communicate good science beyond the laboratory and academy walls.

Enter Jes Therkelsen: filmmaker, photographer, media consultant and activist. After graduating from Amherst College in 2002 with a degree in Geology, he received a Fellowship to teach environmental science and English at Athens College in Greece. On his return to the U.S., he worked as a geologist for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection until 2005, when he relocated to Washington, D.C., to study film and media arts at the Center for Social Media at American University. Graduating with an M.F.A. in film and media arts, his work has screened worldwide and focuses on issues of human rights, sustainable development, and environmental justice.

Jes has written, produced, and directed several films. As a 2008 Advocacy Peace Fellow in Nepal, he initialized The Clean Hands Project (www.cleanhandsproject.com), a media campaign meant to empower and mobilize Nepali Dalits by teaching photography and videography. Teaching is one of his passions, and he claims to “thrive in creative and productive environments.” Jes’s photographs have been exhibited at numerous venues in the Washington, D.C., area, and he has won several awards and fellowships including being named a 2009 Washington, D.C., Artist Fellow and a 2010 Young Artist Grant recipient.

In addition to working with visual media, Jes is an avid musician, composer, and bicycler. Jes Therkelsen is founder of Sensory Media Arts, a Washington D.C. - based media production company. He has also won the Roland Wood Fellowship three times, the Institute for Humane Studies Film and Fiction Scholarship twice, was a 2007 Flaherty Film Fellow and a 2006 National Gallery of Art Film Fellow. He has won a D.C. Peer Award and a CINE Golden Eagle.

The hiring of a scholar like Jes Therkelsen who is adept at communicating environmental science through visual media is timely as well as strategically important. Addition of a “crossover” scholar to work with scientists and fine arts faculty and students adds a new collaboration to research and teaching within ENSP. Specifically, integrating filmmaking into ENSP expands the reach, relevance, and funding opportunities for William and Mary students and faculty and showcases the scientific/environmental work at W&M to a larger public audience. The title of the internal Mellon postdoc proposal—“From Test-tube to YouTube”---tells the story. Jes will oversee the conceptualization and production of environmental science educational films, but students will be responsible for researching, writing, and producing them as scholarly undergraduate research. Jes is a welcome addition to ENSP as our third Mellon scholar and we look forward to working with him!