Marielle is an urban conservation biologist, policy analyst, designer and Op-ed Contributor to The New York Times. She is also Founder and Executive Director of NYC Wildflower Week, an organization that connects New Yorkers to nature in the Big Apple. In her work, Marielle preserves and restores native biodiversity in the city and region as an essential foundation of our sustainable future.
Marielle attended her first OEP seminar back in the summer of 2010. Since then, she has become one of the most prominent public voices on urban ecology in the city, with two fourteen-week columns in the New York Times, tracking seasonal changes in New York in autumn and spring.
I spoke with Marielle over the phone about her experience with the OEP:
When did you first get involved with the OpEd Project?
“Two years ago in June I went to a day-long public seminar led by Katherine Lanpher. I immediately thought to myself: “she’s speaking my language.” Katherine spoke about the importance of owning the work we do and putting it out in the world for others. For me, as well as the twenty other women in the room, this was a very illuminating, almost shocking experience. At the time, I was at a juncture in my career and wasn’t fully satisfied with what I was doing. Having launched my organization, NYC Wildflower Week, I was taking stock of what I was already doing and looking to expand and move forward.
In a thousand years, I would’ve never sent my work to the New York Times without the encouragements of Katherine Lanpher and Katie Orenstein. Katherine went above and beyond what she needed to do to foster a burgeoning relationship between me and the New York Times editor. When I went back and forth, up and down with my first op-ed, she stayed right there with me. Although I myself did the writing and the work, I would’ve never thought to even knock on that door if it hadn’t been for the OEP.”
How did the OEP make you re-evaluate your knowledge and its relevance to the public?
“The OpEd Project showed me that there had been this underlying interest I had that I hadn’t had an opportunity to explore. I had written pieces about plants before, but they weren’t opinion-driven. Doing the seminars changed the way I saw the work I was doing and caused me to re-evaluate where I wanted to take it next. Instead of continuing to do some of the same things I had been doing, I geared my work towards something different after my first op-art, When New York City Bloomed was published in March of 2011. I became more actively engaged in publicizing my knowledge and my work.
The OEP changed the way that I voiced my opinion. It made me realize that the work I had done and the issues I was concerned with were important to the public and should be given air time, that they were not represented anywhere else. After publishing When New York City Bloomed, I came up with the idea for the series autumn. The Times loved the idea and I was given my own fourteen week column. Spring followed soon after.”
How have your op-eds impacted your career?
“Before working with the OEP, I was not sure how to expand and move forward in my work. My op-eds served as the seeds out of which new opportunities germinated. As an Op-Ed Contributor for the Times, I am treated differently. My op-eds have given me leverage to do more and go further. Writing for the Times has also just been fun and wonderful. All my editors love my work and are really good to me. In short, my op-eds changed the way I view my own work, validating my own strongly held feelings that I’m “on the right path”, so to speak.”
Congratulations Marielle! Your public voice has blossomed beautifully! We are so heartened here at the OpEd Project by your wonderful progress, and look forward to seeing your work expand in even bigger ways.
Look out for Marielle’s upcoming op-ed, to be published in the New York Times on the first Friday of August.
-Xueli Wang, PVF intern