NOVA: Citizen Science at its best

nova logoNOVA, the 42- year- old PBS television series, is citizen science’s best friend – thoughtful, balanced, free  of charge,  and available to millions of people via several media platforms. That makes Senior Executive Producer Paula Apsell NOVA’s fairy godmother. Apsell has shaped and guided the award-winning science documentary series for 30+ years, calling upon a battalion of top scientists, thinkers and educators throughout the world.

“Science is connected. Every discovery is part of a bigger story.”

Creatures of Light NOVA episode

Creatures of Light NOVA episode

NOVA goes wide and deep in storylines that range from ancient worlds, nature, and evolution to space and flight, technology and engineering.  Its broadcast archive is a treasure trove of viewable episodes plus short videos and teacher videos for classroom use.

Want to look inside Einstein’s mind? There an episode for that. What about the Kepler observatory mission to deep space, or the first American in space? Ditto.

Watch episodes on Fukushima’s meltdown, Otzi the “ice man” reborn with contemporary science, why lethal seas are killing precious coral reefs, and investigating the intelligence of dogs. Search here for your favorites among 149 episodes.

NOVA’s Online Presence

Public television is one gateway to sound science in an engaging format, but NOVA – through Apsell and her team –has gone farther with a deep online presence via its web site, Facebook page, video resources, interactives and classroom materials. NOVA is the most-visited site on  It’s in classrooms nationwide, and is the most widely used video resource among high school science teachers.

Courtesy WGBH Foundation

Paula Apsell. Courtesy WGBH Foundation

Apsell’s modest beginnings after college started at WGBH, the PBS affiliate in Boston: she typed the broadcaster’s daily TV program log. It gave her the entrée to radio broadcasting with an award-winning children’s radio series and as a radio news producer.  But fate awarded her a bigger prize: the chance, first in 1975, and again in 1985, to help shape the WGBS-based NOVA series, and a star turn in enlarging NOVA’s impact with every possible new technology tool. She also directs WGBH’s science unit, which gives her the chance to develop documentaries, spinoffs, and new media products such as The Fabric of the Cosmos with Brian Greene and Making Stuff with David Pogue, and NOVA Science Now with Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Rise of the Robots NOVA episode

Rise of the Robots NOVA episode

Check out all of the resources:

NOVA Science Now


Teaching Resources



India's wandering lions NOVA episode

India’s wandering lions NOVA episode

NOVA has won every major broadcasting award – some, many times over — including the Emmy, the Peabody, the AAAS Science Journalism Award, and the Gold Baton duPont-Columbia, as well as an Academy Award® nomination for “Special Effects.” In 1998, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation awarded NOVA its first-ever Public Service Award.

When PBS says NOVA has set the standard for science programming on television, Paula Apsell’s name is always close behind.