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My DC: Discovery News Trace Dominguez On Why Sinkholes Are Scary

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TRACE DOMINGUEZ
This man is scared of sinkholes. | Courtesy of Trace Dominguez
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Who: Trace Dominguez, producer at Discovery

Neighborhood: Lives in Columbia Heights, works in Silver Spring

Years in D.C.: 4

Current Gig: Producer and on-camera personality for DNews, a two-new-videos-per-day channel. Since DNews launched in September 2012 the YouTube channel has gained over 30,000 subscribers and received over 2 million views.

The channel is tailor-made for the science appreciator, the layman that wants to understand how we got to the moon without ever having to learn calculus.

Dominguez took a break between producing segments to talk about sinkholes, eating bugs and, what's that falling from the sky! It's a meteor! Or a plane. It's just a plane. It's landing safely.

What's your job at Discovery? Producer for DNews

Is that what brought you to D.C.? I moved here for graduate school back in 2009. I went to American University for a MA in Public Communication.

What exactly is public communication? Communicating with the public?

It's a heavy PR focused MA, with some flexibility for those who have already worked in the field or aren't interested in working at a PR firm, but [are] more interested in learning to communicate with specific audiences

How did the degree lead to producing for DNews? American University offers a cool program where they take graduate students, and undergrads, to New York to meet with representatives of Fortune 500 companies. I met with a woman who worked for Discovery Communications! I'd remembered watching it as a kid, and thought, "That could be a cool job!" I kept in touch, going to job fairs and information sessions and re-introducing myself until she literally threw up her hands and said "We're going to hire you, okay?!"

So I got an internship with Discovery News — which led to a job with TLC for a couple of years. Discovery News had an opening last year for an Associate Producer and here I am!

Have you always been fascinated with science? Absolutely! It was my favorite subject and Discovery was my favorite channel.

When I was in 5th grade my Mom put me on a bus for a 45 minute ride over to go to Science Saturdays at the University of Michigan. We did experiments, learned the scientific method and built parachutes to try and drop eggs off building rooftops.

Why didn't the egg dropping lead to a career in a laboratory? To be honest, I tried! My first major in college was Chemical Engineering. That math is a bitch.

I thought I could force myself to learn it, but after I failed Calc I, retook it and only got a C. I decided it wasn't for me

I really liked chemistry and physical sciences. I still do.

You're currently producing videos and appearing in videos for DNews. Every day you're covering a new topic. How do you determine your stories? We have a pitch meeting every morning where we each bring a few stories and talk them through. We get them from blogs, news organizations, universities and research orgs, even Reddit! We want to cover science in a different way than just, "Hey guys here's the story!"

I like to say we try and answer the third question. Question 1: What's the story?, Question 2: Why should I care, Question 3: ??? We want to find that third thing.

Click through the slideshow for a smattering of DNews videos, subjects including from why Internet trolls exist, eating bugs, couples that drink together, sinkholes and more -- story continues below...

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You're obviously learning a lot each week, but are you changing your lifestyle? For example, you've done a few stories about changes in diet, like the Paleo Diet and the Blood Type Diet. Are you eating differently? I've definitely thought more about it.

I bought a Nike Fuelband. That's about as far as I've gotten.

Your videos are excellent time wasters, in a good way, especially during work hours for office workers. How do you waste time at work? Tumblr and Reddit. I can justify surfing them both because they have rich science communities, but sometimes I get sucked into memes and hilarious gifs. And by sometimes I mean all the time.

Is the Discovery News team ridiculously good at trivia? Oh heck yeah we are.

There was a news article about being a know it all — we all had to stop and take stock of our lives to see if we were getting too nerdy.

The problem is we know a lot of stuff, but we move so fast that we can't internalize everything.

It's good for the pub trivia community that we're on different coasts.

Can you watch movies and television shows without noticing scientific errors? Is it possible to enjoy "Doctor Who" or "Star Trek"? It's possible, I've just got to suspend my disbelief for some of the crazier principles. I really love that a lot of SciFi is at least trying to pull from actual known science. The harder shows to watch are ones with poor video editing now; since I do all my own, I sometimes have to stop myself from pointing out green-screen mistakes, crazy edits or continuity problems.

If you watch enough of your videos the world can seem magical or horrifying. Does the world seem any different since you're engrossed in scientific stories all day? It does! Maybe I've got rose-colored glasses, but I see a lot more potential in the world of science. Lots of new biotechnology and space advancements. And lots of little things like new species. I look at insects differently… they're freaky, but damn cool.

What's one of your stories that you wish more people saw? While back at home in Michigan over Christmas I met up with my friend Linda. She's an award winning pie maker who's a family friend. I was talking about how insects would be the food of the future, because of their low fat content and environmental impact paired with a high nutrient content. She agreed to let me come to her house and make a quiche with her -- including some sautéed crickets. We did the whole thing, made the quiche and I ate it, right there on camera. It wasn't bad!

I wish more people saw it because: 1. It shows I can do some fancy cooking and 2. I ate bugs for our viewers. Sauteed bugs. That's how much I care.

If you're interested in watching that video just scroll up to the slideshow!

Is there anything new that scares you? Meteors and sinkholes.

That Russian meteor was crazy. We had no idea it was coming. None. The shock wave broke a million square feet of glass which injured over 1,000 people. We're just flying around in space without any way to protect ourselves from stuff like that.

Sinkholes because… I mean. It's a sinkhole.

Isn't the Discovery office a giant, glass building? Oh man….

I'm glad I don't sit near a window now.

Sometimes we put a shark on it, maybe that can fight off the meteor.

Are there any advantages to producing science pieces in D.C., or near it? Our team is split between San Franciso and D.C., so this way we get a bit more breadth and variety in our sources. They can visit Silicon Valley and universities there, while I get the Smithsonian and universities here. Plus I'm close enough to New York if something happens there -- my hope is to have an excuse to talk to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Are there any science-friendly bars or restaurants you enjoy? Anywhere with bugs on the menu or crazy cocktails? There used to be a bug restaurant in D.C. that I wanted to try, but it closed a decade ago. I know you can get a taco at Oyamel with grasshoppers.

I tried it. It's spicy. And it was better than my quiche.

Trace Dominguez can be seen on the DNews YouTube Channel. Follow him on Twitter @trace501.

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