Nicole “Nikki” Buskey passed away at her home in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was 38.
Nikki was an award-winning environmental reporter and skilled science communicator. She was a devoted daughter and sister. She was an indispensable friend. An intuitive storyteller. An unparalleled wit. Her death comes as a terrible shock to all who knew and loved her.
Born on November 12, 1983, in Warwick, Rhode Island, Nikki was raised in Port Aransas, Texas. She was drawn to creative endeavors from an early age. She was a writer and cartoonist for The Splash, the student newspaper at Port Aransas High School. After graduating in 2002, she attended the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in English and Government.
Nikki later recalled, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life except the nebulous response I would issue to people when they asked: I wanted to write.”
In spring 2004, Nikki signed on as a general assignment reporter at The Daily Texan, the largest student newspaper in the country at the time. A strong writer and natural conversationalist, Nikki thrived as a reporter. She quickly moved up the ranks at the paper, becoming a senior reporter before venturing into editing news and opinions and ultimately serving as the top editor on the paper’s news desk.
Nikki played an integral role in training many young reporters, some of whom owe their ongoing careers to her astute early guidance. She fostered a lively work culture, overflowing with memes (before memes were even really a thing), jokes, and karaoke. Nikki was a gifted humorist with the rare ability to make everyone around her funnier just by engaging with her. She brought a sense of joy and levity to a newsroom that could otherwise be prone to bouts of self-seriousness. Her efforts earned her the Ron Gibson Outstanding Staff Member Award in 2006.
Upon graduating, Nikki worked as an environment and health reporter for the Houma Courier and Thibodaux Daily Comet newspapers in southern Louisiana. She chronicled the region’s continued recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and contributed to team coverage of Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and Isaac. She also wrote about the many community and wildlife impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the biggest ever in U.S. waters.
Her reporting in southern Louisiana earned Nikki the respect of peers and locals alike, winning her more than a dozen Associated Press and Louisiana Press Association awards. Nikki had a penchant for finding colorful characters and conveying them with depth and humanity. Her writing depicted the at times outlandish aspects of daily life in the bayou with compassion and respect. Her coverage of coastal land loss and restoration efforts foregrounded the disparate impacts on the region’s unique Cajun and Native American cultures.
In 2013, Nikki shifted careers toward working as a science communicator. She first took a job as a marketing and communication specialist at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Then in 2015, she joined the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she worked as communications manager until her death.
Working at Harte gave Nikki an outlet for her life-long passion for environmental policy. She managed strategic communications and created public-facing science news content—including promoting the science behind the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” Using her reporting skills for advocacy, Nikki helped marine scientists translate their scholarly findings for general audiences. She had a knack for conveying complex topics, like the coastal impacts of global climate change, with clarity and urgency.
Nikki also cherished the opportunity to return to the Texas Gulf Coast because it brought her closer to family. She loved planning weekend getaways with her sister, Dani, and was able to help her parents recover after Port Aransas was hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Outside her day job, Nikki was a prolific and incisive cultural critic, contributing to several discussion boards and online communities who revered her. She was a dedicated friend—thoughtful, generous, a source of light in dark times.
Nikki was preceded in death by her beloved mother Nancy, who died of ovarian cancer in early 2020 right as the United States was locking down in response to COVID-19. Nikki’s candid short-form writing about loss and grief, mostly shared in social media posts and private messages to friends, were a source of inspiration and comfort for many as they navigated the emotional turmoil of the pandemic.
She is survived by her father Edward “Ed” Buskey of Port Aransas; sister Danielle “Dani” Buskey of Killeen; aunt Helen Morrison and uncle Bill Morrison of Kasson, Minnesota; cousins Tami Asher of Chatfield, Minnesota, Troy Asher of Wykoff, Minnesota, Krystal Osuji of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Jewel Morrison of Spain; uncle Ronnie King of Ashby, Massachusetts; cousins Zachary King of Massachusetts; and Robyn McDonough of Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Funds for People of the Bayou and/or Friends of the Ark.
A memorial will be scheduled at a later date.