Workshop for Careers in Biodiversity Science
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
A few snippets of the Friday Career Shadowing day.
The fourth workshop in a series (following events at Natural History Museum Los Angeles, Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, and New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque) aimed at broadening diversity in the biological sciences was held at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian), in Washington D.C. on April 21-22, 2023. The two-day event began with career shadowing opportunities at the Smithsonian, on April 21st for participants to see ‘a day in the life’ of museum professionals. April 22nd consisted of a workshop at the Smithsonian composed of keynote presentations, panel discussions, and ended with a reception during which participants were able to meet and talk with graduate school representatives, local professionals, and faculty mentors. Over 120 students applied for one or both days and there were over 100 participants including museum professionals, researchers, and students engaging in this event.
Carla Easter, Karen Fitzgerald, Ashley Peery, Meghann Toner, Mary Sangrey and Carol Butler (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution) served as local organizers, with Anna Monfils (Central Michigan University) serving as PI and leader, and Gabriela Hogue (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences), Vanessa Delnavaz (Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History), Muriel Poston (Pitzer College) and Molly Phillips (Independent) providing pre-workshop logistical support and on the ground facilitation during the workshop. Thank you to Libby Ellwood (iDigBio), and Mare Nazaire (California Botanic Garden) for providing support, resources, experience, and knowledge from prior workshops, and planning assistance.
On Friday April 21, students shadowed museum professionals at the Smithsonian. The shadow leaders included: Meghann Toner, Carol Kelloff, John Pfieffer, Kate Bemis, Celia Emmelhainz, Molly Kamph, Danielle Davis, Michelle Pinsdorf, Myria Perez, and Bill Moser (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution) and Miguel Montalvo, Tor Mowatt-Larssen, and Katie Cisz (Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary). Anna Monfils, Vanessa Delvanez, Muriel Poston, Jeanette Pirlo, Tanisha Williams, Molly Phillips, Karen Fitzgerald, and Ashley Peery 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.
From left to right: Dr. Roland Roberts (NSF) gives a talk about opportunities in the biodiversity research, Dr. Muriel Poston moderates the career panel, and Dr. Tanisha Williams talks about her academic and personal journey.
Many of the students from Friday’s shadowing event, and dozens of others, attended the full-day workshop at the Smithsonian the following day. Tanisha Williams (Botanist, Bucknell University) and Jeanette Pirlo (Paleontologist, California State University, Stanislaus) 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, Roland Roberts (National Science Foundation) gave a talk on opportunities and funding sources in the biodiversity sciences. Afterwards Anna Monfils led a session on applying to graduate school with two representatives from local institutions, Dr. Haw Chuan Lim (George Mason University) and Dr. Scott Powell (George Washington University) serving as panelists. The program concluded with a large panel on careers in the biodiversity sciences moderated by Muriel Poston. Panelists included: Dr. Harlan Svoboda (Herbarium Curator, U.S. National Arboretum), Ana Chuquin (Botanist, National Park Service), Zoe Davidson (Acting HQ210 Budget Lead, Bureau of Land Management), Dusty Pence (Ecologist, Bureau of Land Management), Nicholas Bezio (Scientific Illustrator and Ph.D. Student, University of Maryland), Dr. Susan M. Tsang (Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History, Philippine National Museum of Natural History), Hannah Connor (Environmental Health Deputy Director and Senior Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity), and Dr. Dara Satterfield (CITES Policy Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). The workshop concluded with a reception where speakers and facilitators from both days were able to spend time networking and mentoring participants over light refreshments. The full program can be found at here, a full list of speakers and facilitators here, and more information about shadowing activities is here.
Students from 27 colleges and universities attended, including:
• American University
• Baltimore City Community College
• Brown University
• Bryn Mawr College
• Cal Poly Humboldt
• Duke University
• Florida Institute of Technology
• Gallaudet University
• George Mason University
• George Washington University
• Georgetown University
• Howard University
• Montgomery College
• Morgan State University
• Northern Virginia Community College
• Pennsylvania State University
• Rutgers University
• Southern New Hampshire University
• Stevenson University
• The George Washington University
• Universidad Técnica del Norte
• University of Maryland - College Park
• University of the District of Columbia
• University of Vermont
• University of Virginia
• Virginia Commonwealth University
• Virginia Tech
Connecting during the Saturday reception.
Efrain Tejada and Karen Fitzgerald, two of our amazing Smithsonian hosts!
A "selfie" with some of the on-site facilitators.
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!
A special thank you to Efrain Tejada, Ben Utting, and many Smithsonian volunteers and staff who made our group feel very welcome in the Q?rius Center, which was our home base for the event. Q?rius (pronounced "curious") is an interactive and experiential learning space and we couldn’t think of a more perfect setting for this event.
The event is in collaboration with the Smithsonian, Central Michigan University, Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education (BLUE), Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT), the Society of Herbarium Curators (SHC), the Botanical Society of America (BSA) with funding support through the National Science Foundation (NSF; DBI 1746715, DBI 1730526, DEB 2138730).