Workshop for Careers in Biodiversity Science

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Albuquerque, New Mexico

November 2019

The third western U.S. workshop in a series of U.S. workshops (following events at Natural History Museum Los Angeles and Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff) aimed at broadening diversity in the biological sciences was held at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) and the Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico (MSB) in Albuquerque, on November 8-9, 2019. The two-day event began with a shadowing opportunity, at both NMMNHS and MSB, on November 8th for participants to see ‘a day in the life’ of museum professionals. November 9th consisted of a workshop, at NMMNHS, composed of speakers, museum collections tours, panel discussions, and ended with a reception during which participants were able to meet and talk with graduate school advising and career services representatives, local professionals, and faculty mentors. Deb Novak (NMMNHS) and Teresa Mayfield-Meyer (MSB) served as local organizers, with Anna Monfils (Central Michigan University) serving as PI and leader, and Gabriela Hogue (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences), Libby Ellwood (La Brea Tar Pits and Museum), Mare Nazaire (California  Botanic Garden), and Molly Phillips (iDigBio) providing local recruitment, support, resources, experience and knowledge from prior workshops, and planning assistance.

 

On Friday November 8, 54 students shadowed museum professionals at NMMNHS and MSB. The shadow leaders included: Larry Crumpler and Jayne Aubele (NMMNHS Biodiversity and Planetary Geology); Gary Morgan (NMMNHS Ice Age Collections and Microfossils); Tom Williamson (NMMNHS Early Mammal Evolution); Nicole Volden-Ridgewell (NMMNHS Paleontology and Mineral Collections); Lindsey Frederick and Jason Malaney (NMMNHS Biological Collections Management); Corey Welch (Ornithologist/Mammalogist Iowa State University); Phil Tonne (MSB Herbarium Management); Tom Giermakowski (MSB Herpetological Collection Management); and Teresa Mayfield-Meyer and Mariel Campbell (MSB Genomic Collection Management). Roland Roberts, Program Director, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Deb Novak, and Teresa Mayfield helped to welcom students, serve as mentors, and helped to facilitate student participation. The shadowing went beyond the work itself and museum staff spoke with students about their own career paths and research interests while providing guidance and advice to students who were curious about jobs in biological sciences. 

Many of the students from Friday’s shadowing event, and dozens of others, attended the full-day workshop at the NMMNHS the following day. Corey Welch (Ornithologist/Mammalogist, Director of STEM Scholars Program, Iowa State University), Roland Roberts (Botanist Program Director, National Science Foundation) and Jeanette Pirlo (Paleontologist Graduate Student, University of Florida) each presented their experiences navigating graduate school and science careers, the rejections and accomplishments along the way, and their remarkable research involving natural history collections. Next there was a discussion and questions for panel on Applying to Graduate School with the following speakers: Mechelle Crazy Thunder (Career Center, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute); Heather Fitzgerald (School of Math Science and Engineering, Central New Mexico Community College); Tony Marin, (Assistant VP Student Affairs, New Mexico State University, NMSU); Cheryl Martin (Senior Academic Advisor, Biology Graduate Program Coordinator, University of New Mexico); Michael Ray (American Indian Program, NMSU); Roland Roberts (Program Director, National Ecological Observatory Network, NEON); and Emily Stern (Center for Diversity and Integrated Learning, Santa Fe Community College).

Jeannette Pirlo, PhD candidate at University of Florida, shares her experiences with workshop participants. Her talk touched on the personal and professional challenges she 

experienced  in academia and while pursuing a career as a paleontologist. 

There was also another discussion and questions component featuring Careers in Biodiversity Science Panelists: Katelyn P. Driscoll (US Forest Service); D. Westin Furr (New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, NMFWCO); Debra HiIl (US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services); Donavan Jackson (Wingate Highschool); Gwen Kolb (US Fish and Wildlife Service, PFW);  Rachel Loehman (US Geological Service); Maria Mullins (Bureau of Land Management); Teresa Mayfield-Meyer (Collections Assistant in UNM Genomic Resources Collection); and Bob Sivinski (Botanist).

 

The day ended with a reception where participants spoke with the speakers and organizers of the event and graduate school advising and career services representatives, local professionals, and faculty mentors including: Heather Fitzgerald (School of Math Science and Engineering, Central New Mexico Community College); Tony Marin, (Assistant VP Student Affairs, New Mexico State University, NMSU); Michael Ray (American Indian Program, NMSU); Katelyn P. Driscoll (US Forest Service); D. Westin Furr (New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, NMFWCO); Debra HiIl (US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services); Gwen Kolb (US Fish and Wildlife Service, PFW);  Rachel Loehman (US Geological Service); Maria Mullins (Bureau of Land Management); Teresa Mayfield-Meyer (Collections Assistant in UNM Genomic Resources Collection); Bob Sivinski (Botanist); Donovan Bailey (Professor of Plant Systematics, New Mexico State University); Kevin Floyd (Lecturer, Biological Sciences, Assistant Botanical Curator, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, The University of Texas at El Paso, UTEP); Melvin Foster (Science Laboratory Technician, Navajo Technical University); Ross A. McCauley (Associate Professor of Biology; Curator, Fort Lewis College Herbarium, Fort Lewis College); Neil Snow (Associate Professor of Biology/Director T. M. Sperry Herbarium, Pittsburg State University); and Vicky Zuang (Collections Manager, UTEP Biodiversity Collections, UTEP). The full program can be found at https://www.biodiversityliteracy.com/event-for-students.

Guest panelists answer questions about navigating the undergraduate experience and applying to graduate school.

Students from over 12 colleges and universities attended, including:

  • Central New Mexico Community College

  • El Paso Community College

  • Fort Lewis College

  • Indiana University Bloomington

  • Mesa Community College 

  • Navajo Technical University 

  • New Mexico State University

  • Northern New Mexico College

  • Pittsburg State University

  • The University of Texas at El Paso

  • University of New Mexico

  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A sincere thank you to NSF and the Biodiversity Collection Network for funding the event, for the NMMNHS and MSB for graciously hosting, and to all of the professionals for sharing their time and passion.

 

Throughout both days of the event, student participants were deeply engaged in conversation with the organizers, shadow leaders, and professionals, asking thoughtful questions and learning everything they could. They eagerly requested contact information to be able to follow up and enthusiastically took advantage of the opportunity to interact with a variety of professionals all in one place. Thank you, participants, for your professionalism, excitement, and curiosity. We look forward to supporting you on your career paths and encourage you all to remain in touch!