Last month you met John Rafferty, the Associate Editor for Earth and Life Sciences at Britannica. This week’s focus is on our Assistant Editor of Plant and Environmental Science. Meet Melissa Petruzzello!
She has her MS in Plant Biology and Conservation from Northwestern University. She has also studied plant-pollinator interactions in Zion National Park, was a science writer at the Field Museum, and served as a research assistant at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
What is your favorite or most unique entry that you have prepared? I am somewhat partial to my entry on quinoa. The Internet is full of random and questionable information on its history and nutritional benefits so it was really rewarding to bring together the facts for Britannica. Also, it made me eat more quinoa.
How has the editorial process changed throughout the years? How has technology impacted it? How has it impacted what we write about?
Technology has provided us the ability to see what is trending, so that we can focus on providing coverage that reflects the interests and questions of our readers.
If you didn’t become an editor, what would you have done instead? I would have become either a field botanist or a researcher/conservationist for the Nature Conservancy or the Field Museum, and probably would have pursued a PhD to research plant-pollinator evolution in California’s Channel Islands.
What is it about the work we do at Britannica that makes you most proud? I think Britannica has done a fantastic job with its transition to a digital format and am proud of the ongoing effort to honor our legacy while remaining relevant in the information age. There are so many facets to engaging an audience online; I am always amazed by how many people are working to keep us on top of technology and in touch with our readers. I think we are all proud to contribute to Britannica’s trusted name in a way that now instantly reaches a global audience.
What are you known for around the office? Well, I had a pretty cool Halloween costume last year. I was the Britannica Boy from Britannica’s old 80′s commercials. Also, our president Jorge Cauz once called me “Ms. Chlorophyll,” so there’s that.
What is your most prized possession? One of my favorite possessions is a broken bottle covered with dead barnacles that I found on a beach in Mexico. I use it as a candle holder and love how the light shines through the shells. I think it is a beautiful metaphor for a lot of things and it always makes me think about our relationship with nature.
If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would it be? Well, if I had to pick just one, it’d probably be Asa Gray. He was an amazing American botanist and pen-pal with Darwin; I’d love to hear about his travels and his thoughts on science and religion. If I could have a dinner party, I’d also invite Annie Dillard, John Muir, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to discuss conservation and the importance of nature in understanding ourselves.