Science Engagement Week!
Sep 26

Science Engagement Week!

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Manager

From ghost orchids of the Caribbean to arsenic-tolerant ferns, this weekend, there is quite a lot we can learn from Phipps’ Botany in Action Fellows! These researchers are all doctoral students in plant sciences, and they are all recipients of Phipps Conservatory’s unique Botany in Action (BIA) fellowship—a fellowship that requires not only passion for science, but a heart for science outreach as well. As a part of this fellowship, the students all are brought to Phipps for four days of science communication training and public outreach opportunities. And now, the four days we’ve been looking forward to are here finally here—Science Engagement week has begun!

Botany in Action Science Engagement Week includes training sessions on topics from science writing to jargon reduction to social media, but the visit is also an immersive training experience for the fellows. They won’t just learn about how to share their research, they will have multiple opportunities to actually do so. The very first morning of their visit, the fellows will join the EcoChallenge, the kick-off the Fairchild Challenge, and each of the scientists will be interviewed by high school and middle school students throughout the morning. Later in the weekend, the fellows will give lightning talks about their work as a part of the Phipps member event Peek Behind the Petals, and directly after their talks, the fellows will take part in the Tropical Forest Cuba Festival to share their work. Following a session on science writing and blogging, the fellows will continue keeping up monthly blog posts for the year following Science Engagement Week. (You can check out the fellows’ blogs here.)

Originally a program through the Garden Club of Allegheny County (GCAC—and they still support the program today), Botany in Action has always been just as focused on supporting science outreach as it is on the science itself. The results of research can’t be fully recognized and put it into practice if they aren’t shared, and Phipps is dedicated to building bridges between the scientific community and the public for that very reason. The BIA fellows visit to Phipps gives all of these students to chance to appreciate and explore different styles of public engagement, and it’s a wonderful time for the fellows, Phipps, staff, and our guests.

Coming up this weekend, you can meet the BIA fellows during our Tropical Forest Cuba Festival! They will be tabling in Palm Circle of the Tropical Forest from 11 am – 12:30 pm on Saturday, September 29. Be sure to ask them about their stories from the field and their favorite moments in the lab—you never know what stories they might share!

2017 Botany in Action fellows.


Current fellow Lynnaun Johnson in Cuba.

Current fellow Kate Douthat in the field.