As a citizen and scientist, I feel that I have an obligation to serve the public to the best of my ability through science, communication, and education. During my Ph.D., I was been involved in several educational outreach programs through the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, presented at the 2013 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, mentored students from underrepresented groups at the Geological Society of America Annual Meetings, helped develop online resources about fossils around the world for K-12 teachers in collaboration with ArcGIS (link here), contributed my time as a student representative to the Paleontological Society, and participated in multiple congressional visits through AGI and AAAS.
My experience of presenting and discussing science with diverse audiences and people of varied educational backgrounds has drawn on and strengthened my skills in public speaking and writing and has helped prepare me for a life of public service. Below are summaries of some of my outreach, education, and communication experiences.
Yale Peabody Museum
- I teach “Rocks and Minerals” to local elementary and middle school groups visiting the museum. We discuss the rock cycle, important rock-building minerals, erosion and weathering, and the role of minerals in our everyday lives. During the 45-60 minute class, I use hand specimens and the YPM Rocks and Minerals exhibit for hands-on and active learning
- During annual events, I meet with visitors at the “Meet the Scientist” table and help to identify fossils children find in our sand pit at the “Fossil Dig”. At the “Meet the Scientist” table, I answer questions about fossils, geology, and the job of a paleontologist. At the “Fossil Dig”, I identify the specimens found, and explain ecology of the organism and ancient ocean. Some of my favorite interactions are with young children, who can’t believe the fossil they found is older than the dinosaurs!
- In April, 2014, I gave the Sally Lanzi Volunteer Enrichment Program lecture to a crowd of Peabody Volunteers (recording here). My talk, “Fossils: how they form and why they matter” focused on what I love best – taphonomy! The talk was designed to give volunteers a better understanding of one of the most popular parts of the museum, so that they feel more comfortable discussing it with our visitors.
Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition
During the summer of 2013, I participated in the “Prehistoric Colours” exhibit. Our exhibit showed how scientists reconstruct colour in ancient animals, primarily feathered avian dinosaurs and insects. Through the week, we interacted with thousands of visitors, explaining the role of experiments and various analytical methods (e.g. SEM) in determining color in fossils and reconstructing past ecology. Visit the exhibit website here.
Geological Society of America On to the Future Mentor Program
As an OFM mentor, I spend time with a student from an under-represented group at the Geological Society of America annual meeting. I share my experience as a woman in science and discuss topics regarding graduate education, careers, and succeeding as an under-represented person in the sciences. Working with the program is inspiring, and highlights the importance of advocating for improving geoscience (and STEM) education at all levels to ensure people of all backgrounds have an equal opportunity of becoming a scientist.
I served as a Student Representative on the Paleontological Society Council from 2013 – 2015. In this position, I advocated for student needs during a pivotal two years in the Society, ensuring that their needs were taken into account during changes in our publication process and rebranding. During conferences, I helped connect student members with mentors and leaders in our field both informally. I enjoyed helping other students progress in their studies and gained vital experience in representing a larger group during policy decisions.
Congressional Visits and Leadership Forums
I have participated in multiple congressional visits, both through the American Geosciences-sponsored Geosciences Congressional Visit Days and during the 2015 AAAS Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering Workshop. I have met with members from Connecticut and New Mexico as well as minority and majority representatives from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to advocate for consistent federal funding of geoscience research and education. These visits have been a rewarding way to engage in the on-going dialogue between science and policy makers during my Ph.D., and a first-step in my goal of a career of service in the science policy realm.
As part of the AGI CVDs, I participated in the 2014 Leadership Forum on increasing accessibility to people of all abilities in the geosciences. As part of this workshop, I contributed in the creation of a consensus statement advocating for people living with disabilities in the geosciences.