07. Committees Pt 2: The Best Team for the Job

In my first segment about committees, I talked briefly about the nature of committees as I saw them, and then elaborated on the head of my team, Professor Joel Duff. From here I want to dig into the members of my team, who they are, and why they're here on my task force.

Dr. Duff (as I almost always call him, never quite feeling comfortable calling him Joel), was one of two members of my committee who was a carry-over from my former committee. The second was the one other member who was one of the scraps in my old committee that contributed to my concept of a dream team: Professor Gavin Svenson, Invertebrate Curator at the CMNH. As I've written elsewhere, and will surely write more on again, natural history museums to me are the forefront of informal evolution education. The only other institutions that fill similar roles are science museums, and zoological and botanical gardens, and all three of these are typically focused more heavily on either more specific or more general topics. I love a good zoo, and I honestly have some truly fond memories of the Rhododendron-Park und Botanika when I visited it in Bremen during my tour of Germany. But both of those types of parks are the faces of the conservation movement, and so their focus drifts somewhat astray from my primary interests (but are more than connected to evolutionary education as a base concept). I could talk about this endlessly.

Like I said, Gavin is the Invertebrate curator at the CMNH. Natural History museums, behind the scenes, behind the exhibits, function very much the same as any academic institution. Research is performed, papers are published, professors teach at nearby universities. Gavin's research focuses primarily on the evolutionary history of mantids, and so his research group does all sorts of lovely things with their phylogenetics as well as some really awesome 3D visualization. In addition, he does work at the museum on the front end, when it comes to developing educational programming. This is where he really starts to shine as one of my two holdover committee members. He not only is another expert on evolution, but he's also intimately familiar with invertebrate biodiversity (it's worth noting that Duff is a botanist originally, covering another whole range of organisms), and he is a conduit for me to use the museum as an informal education environment. In that environment he's really excited about how my research might come into play, and I'm really excited to see how I an be more involved in the museum world and use it for my research.

Each of of my committee members has had research done in their labs that ties into my interests, whether it be informal ed or evolutionary narratives, and Gavin is a wonderful combination of both. Where Duff as my advisor plays a broad role in guiding and structuring my dissertation work, Gavin plays a pivotal role as a resource for informal education deployment as well as general evolutionary theory.

08. Committees Pt 3: The Director Will See You Now

06. Scientific Breakthrough of the Year: Goofs for Science