Toad&Co Ambassador Spotlight: Becky Nesel from @GeoBeckly

Our Ambassador Program celebrates making a difference together and your version of “doing good.” Our partners’ goals and community involvement are all different, yet play a unique role in representation, education, community involvement, getting outside, and pursuing joy in life.


Becky is a geologist based in New York who is passionate about science communication. She is the host, writer, and a producer of the show ‘New York Rocks with Geo Beck’ and also shares her love for geoscience on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram as @GeoBeckly.


Becky’s curiosity and excitement for the natural world is contagious, and we had the opportunity to chat with her about science communication, why rocks rock (we had to), careers in STEM-focused fields, and what we can learn about ourselves in nature.


Toad: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Becky! Let’s start with your journey as a geologist and science educator. When did you know you wanted to be a geologist? What does your day-to-day look like now?


Becky: When I was younger, I was always super curious about rocks and the natural world. I remember wondering how things got there, like mountains, rivers, the landscape itself. I would collect handfuls of driveway pebbles and shove them into my coat pockets at preschool, and my mom would have to sneakily throw them into the driveway when she did laundry.


I didn’t realize that geology was a potential career path or college major until I was already in college. One day I was looking at the online catalog of majors at my university and saw geology as an option. I thought to myself, “I’ve always loved rocks and I love being outside, maybe I should try this.” When I took the first class I knew right away that I wanted to keep going - I just felt so full of curiosity and hunger to learn more about our planet’s history. It was a huge surprise to me that I ended up studying science because when I first got to college and was looking at potential paths of study, I remember saying “Whatever I end up choosing as a major, I know it won’t be a science,” because I thought that it would be too difficult for me or that I wasn’t smart enough for something like that.


It took several years after graduating for me to find this career as a science communicator. I experienced a short time of working in the construction and engineering industry as a geologist before realizing it wasn’t for me and that I needed to make a change.


Now, my day-to-day looks different depending on what’s going on. Most days I work from home on the computer, working on brand partnership admin work, researching for video ideas, writing voiceover scripts and recording them, editing videos for Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube shorts, occasionally working on long-form videos for YouTube, and lots more. In the busier season when I’m doing more traveling, the days can be pretty chaotic (in the best way). This past summer, I went to Nevada for a week for work, then I was home for not even 24 hours before leaving on a 10-day road trip to Canada for a geology conference with a friend. Sometimes, I’m also doing things like giving virtual or in-person talks or leading geology walks in my local area. I love how my job is always changing and each day looks different. It keeps me excited for what’s to come and I feel super grateful that I get to plan out the details of each day and week.


Toad: The daily variety sounds like a great driver for even more curiosity! Can you tell us why science education is important? What do you hope viewers take away from your content?


Becky: Science communication is such a beautiful field because there are so many ways to define it. It’s incredibly expansive. You can be a writer, artist, graphic designer, video producer, TV show or podcast host, park ranger, museum curator, tour guide, teacher, or several of these all at once!


At its core, science communication is a bridge that connects scientific research, often inaccessible academic language, and the voices of scientists themselves, with the general public. Not only is it relaying information, but it’s helping bring that information to a wider audience in a way that they can relate to it and be excited about it. This is super important, especially right now with the effects of the climate crisis becoming increasingly severe. The more we know about and feel connected to nature, the more likely we’ll be to take action to conserve it.


Science has a history of being widely inaccessible to the general public, with many barriers to receiving and understanding information. People are also just trying to survive and many of us frankly don’t have time or the resources to dive into the details. Science communicators sort of translate all the important work of scientists and share it with others in an accurate, concise (and hopefully engaging) way where they can feel informed and empowered.


The choice to start using social media for science education started out as a personal motivation. I had just left a job I had been very unhappy and uninspired at, and I wanted to feel that excitement and wonder for geology and our planet like I had in college when I was actively studying it. I decided to start making videos on YouTube, and later TikTok and Instagram, as a way to feel this again and to share it with others.


Whenever I post a piece of content, my main goal is that those watching it will see the world around them in a whole new perspective. Before watching a video of mine, they may have never once thought about what kind of rock the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal is made of (700-million-year-old pink granite that formed miles underground), the fact that the Pyramids of Giza are built on - and with - limestone bedrock that formed in an ancient tropical ocean, or that the curbstones on the streets of Amsterdam are filled with fossils of ancient corals, shells, and other sea life. But after watching, they’ll maybe start thinking about what other stories are hidden all around them that they’ve never noticed before. I want my videos to act as a pair of glasses you put on and feel endless wonder.


Toad: Building on that endless wonder – this is going to be a hard one – what is your favorite fun geology fact?


Becky: Ahh, I’m so bad at favorites in general. I don’t even think I have one favorite movie or song! Hm, I’d have to say my favorite geology facts to tell people are anything related to the geologic history of building stones. Like anything I said above would probably fall into this category.


Another one is: Machu Picchu was built on intersecting faults and the Inca utilized this to their advantage, and most likely knew about the faults. The highly fractured granite rocks made a natural quarry where the builders sourced the building stone from, and they also created a complex water collection system using the natural fractures in the bedrock. This is just the tip of the iceberg of geological connections with Machu Picchu!


Also: The Appalachian Mountains and many other mountain ranges in the Northeastern US used to be likely as tall as the Himalayas. They’re just all so old and eroded down to their roots now. So don’t let anyone ever tell you that mountains in the East are boring!


Toad: You mentioned that part of your work includes presentations and talking with students. What advice would you give to young girls who are interested in learning more about a STEM-focused career?


Becky: I’d say just start - don’t wait! I just visited a third grade classroom to talk about geology, and there was one girl who was so interested and had so many great questions. At the end she said something like, “I want to be a geologist when I grow up, but ugh… I have to wait to study it now because I'm too young.” I told her she does not have to wait until high school or even college, she can start learning about it right now if she wants! I think this applies to us no matter what age we are or whatever phase we’re at in our careers.


My main piece of advice is to be curious. Lean hard into that curiosity and follow it where it leads you. It will show you what you love, what you hate, what gives you endless questions, what excites you and what doesn't. Lastly, let your future-self surprise you! Like I mentioned before, I never was confident I could be successful in science, or even in this career of science communication. I have surprised myself so many times by doing things that scared me or were out of my comfort zone. I just decided to try them, to start, to make the thing, to keep going even though I wasn't completely sure or 100% confident.


Toad: We love that advice! Leaning into that, what do you think we can learn about ourselves through nature and being in the outdoors?


Becky: Oh wow, so, so much. We can become friends with ourselves and show ourselves how powerful, independent, curious, inquisitive, creative, and brave we are. We can become connected to our planet, realize we are a part of nature, not separate from it. We can surprise ourselves here too by trying new things like solo hiking or camping, learning the names of native plants, learning the geologic history of a mountain we’re climbing, and physically and mentally reach goals that we didn’t realize we could.


Toad: Let’s chat inspiration. Who is an inspiring female scientist who shaped your interest in geosciences?


Becky: Marie Tharp! She was a geologist and cartographer who was essentially the catalyst in the acceptance of the Theory of Plate Tectonics. In 2022, I was part of the Google Doodle that honored her and her career through an animated interactive video.


Toad: On the theme of our Ambassador program, what does “doing good” mean to you?


Becky: It means to operate through compassion, curiosity, and love for our planet and fellow humans.


Toad: One last question! Finish this sentence: every day I aspire to…


Becky: Every day I aspire to share a sense of wonder and excitement for our natural world and its history and show everyone how fascinating our planet is.