Outreach has always been a core value of mine. It reflects my understanding that we have a responsibility as scientists to engage the public, improve scientific literacy, and provide underrepresented groups equity of access to a rigorous science education. Access to education is a constant underlying goal of mine in my position in academia, and in addition to the practical benefits of science outreach (and in particular evolution outreach), it is a way to give back.
I have been an active member of UW-Madison’s JF Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution since 2013, and served as the Chair of Education Outreach from 2014-2016.
In my leadership role with the Crow Institute I have organized and co-led workshops at the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST) annual conferences. We cover topics in K-12 education such as tree-thinking, molecular evolution, and evolution misconceptions. Working with K-12 educators has given me insight into incoming undergraduates’ varying levels of training. I hope to continue to work with high school teachers throughout my career to better understand how to help first-year undergraduates through their introductory science coursework. I see this as one piece of the puzzle in addressing retention of students of color and students from low-income school districts in the sciences.
I have also co-organized and hosted annual evolution outreach events in Madison, such as Darwin Day, and I have organized evolution activity booths for events such as Wisconsin Science Festival, Science Expeditions, and Family Science Nights. If you are interested in any of our materials, please feel free to send me an e-mail!
I have mentored middle school students online through the Botanical Society of America’s Planting Science program. I had a great experience, and I highly encourage any plant scientist to consider mentoring students through this program!