Education empowers and inspires all who participate. Whether that education is free, publicly funded, or privately paid for, when we educate our citizens, we make a better world for everyone. Education also gives meaning to scientific research. If we don't share our knowledge, it goes to waste. Think of how many thousands of manuscripts sit unknown in archives because their authors failed to advertise what they'd learned? Far, far too many.
I believe in learning for the love of learning. I realize that many people hate learning: I want to change their minds.
I believe in establishing purpose before diving deep into a rabbit hole. What's the point of lecturing about intricacies of evolution if you lose your students in the first five minutes?
I believe in teaching core skills like critical thinking and information literacy, so students can build on their successes across disciplines and into their professional careers.
I believe in active learning and hands-on activities. Because no one really learns PCR until they go through the motions and see what happens.
I believe in constant feedback for students, so that students know my expectations for evaluation and are equipped to succeed.
During my time at Wright State University, I engaged in both paid and volunteer teaching opportunities. I developed and taught a one-credit biology seminar for freshman honors students, aimed at developing scientific reading literacy and presentation skills. I also gave guest lectures on community ecology and plant-insect interactions in the freshman majors biology class in 2013 and 2014.
I was the lab instructor for both honors and non-honors sections of non-majors Health and Disease laboratories, which included teaching labs of 25 students, answering questions, and evaluating students' worksheets and papers. I taught Plant Physiology and Entomology laboratory sections, which included testing new protocols, finding and ordering supplies, preparing solutions, teaching labs of 5-15 students, developing review sessions, and evaluating students' lab reports.
Finally, I developed and taught an hour-long module for middle school students within Wright State's “Exploring STEMM” program. This module used crickets to teach students aged 10-14 how to estimate population size, and how to safely handle live organisms.
I believe outreach is essential in recruiting the next generation of scientists. As I mentioned above – if all scientists stay in their labs and refuse to share what they've learned, the world does not benefit. Most scientists care deeply about their research but don't know how to bridge the gap between “the public” and their vocabulary.
As the daughter of two wonderfully successful people who did not attend college, I've found it easy to communicate with “the public” – because “the public” is my family. I don't ever want my parents, aunts, or uncles, to resort to saying things like, “Oh, she's some crazy scientist… I don't have a clue what she does.” To that end, I've tried my hardest to keep the bigger picture in mind. Why does ecology matter? What roles do the species that I study play in our ecosystems? How will my work benefit my community?
So, what sort of outreach have I done? Scroll down to find out.
Radio and Podcast
I've been honored with several opportunities to share both my work and general science knowledge with the public. I shared my knowledge of toothwort, the primary host of the West Virginia White butterfly with the Herbs In Action radio minute – you can click below to listen.
I also did a piece on Jewelweed, which is a native plant and a folkloric remedy for poison ivy – take a listen below.
Finally, I was invited onto a now-retired podcast, Wild Ideas, to discuss the future of the West Virginia White and other native butterflies in North America.
Youtube and Streaming
I've produced two videos about my doctoral work on the West Virginia White butterfly. The video featured at the top of this page discusses the history of West Virginia White butterflies: mainly, when they were discovered, and why they're in danger of going extinct.
The other video I produced is featured here. This second video was a targeted video for a crowdfunding campaign to support my final year of research at Wright State University. To my surprise, I was able to raise $250 just through friends and word-of-mouth, which paid for me to collect specimens across the eastern United States to examine their genetic identity. I was also able to finish up work that is accepted in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.
Beyond self-produced videos, I also participate in the code- and science- streaming community, currently found at LiveCoding.tv. There, I've been featured as a streamer. I stream a mixture of data analysis for my current work at University of California Merced, alongside pet projects like grammaR, a recursive text generator. I also stream the development of three other R packages relating to forest ecology, forest gap models, and climate change. These three R packages can be found on the GitHub landing pages for MakeMyForests, disperseR, and SortieIO. You can view my archived videos, or come hang out with me on weekends when I stream.
I'm in the process of producing tutorial videos for scientists looking to learn how to program in R, Python, or other common languages. Keep in touch to find out when these videos and mini-classes will be released.
Mentoring and Tutoring
As a Botany In Action fellow, I was on the front lines, engaging with kids and adults of all ages at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA. I participated in two “Eco-Challenges”, where groups of high school students compete in various science-themed challenges; I was also able to give two five-minute speed talks about my research and why it matters. I set up displays in the conservatory to interact with visitors, and I also maintained an informational website at WestVirginiaWhite.org.
I also regularly come in contact with students interested in science online. I've been a PlantingScience mentor for several years; I occasionally engage with students at InstaEDU (paid tutoring), and I'm in the process of becoming a DataKind contributor. I'm also listed as available for volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn, and regularly search for ways to contribute to volunteer opportunities at Idealist.
I've also mentored in person. I've judged three science fairs, helped many undergraduate and graduate students succeed in individual research projects, and guided a dozen or more volunteers and field technicians through the years.