2018 COPUS Unconference

In the Fall of 2018 we had another fabulous COPUS Unconference. We met in Montana near Flathead Lake, connecting folks from across the country who are scientists, and/or work in science education, science communications, and science equity & inclusion projects. As part of the unconference, we hosted a science fair at the North Lake County Public Library, inviting the community of Polson to join us. It was awesome!

Nominate Someone: COPUS 2018 Awards

Nominate a hero in your life!
Deadline is Monday, July 9, 2018 at midnight (PST).

Paul Shin Award
Each year an individual or individuals will be selected to receive the Paul Shin Award in recognition of dedication to communicating science to the public, whether in person, in print or online, or a combination. Read the guidelines and nominate now!

Judy Scotchmoor Award
This award is intended to recognize someone within the organization who has contributed at an exceptional and inspiring level of effort toward COPUS’s success. The award will be made when appropriate and not necessarily annually. Read the guidelines and nominate now!



Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve hosts a community open house – May 12, 2018


On Saturday May 12, 2018, from 10 am to 3 pm, Stanford University’s premier terrestrial outdoor research and teaching laboratory in the hills near Palo Alto—Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve—will be open to the public for discovery and exploration in one of California’s most diverse ecological settings. The last time a community open house took place was more than 10 years ago.

Formally established as a biological preserve by Stanford University in 1973 and a part of UNESCO’s Golden Gate Biosphere and the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, the preserve is recognized internationally not only for the ecological, geological, and other kinds of research and teaching that have gone on there for more than a century, but also as a gem of nature hidden in the midst of Silicon Valley.

The purpose of this year’s open house is to help the surrounding communities and all who are interested learn about the preserve and the role it plays in Stanford’s mission and in regional and international nature conservation efforts. At this family-friendly event visitors of all ages will have the chance to interact with Stanford researchers and educators conducting work at Jasper Ridge, to take self-guided walks, and to visit exhibits that highlight both current and past research that has made the preserve world-renowned.

Among the special features of the preserve are its diverse vegetation, which include nearly every natural plant community found in west-central California. More than a thousand species of vascular plants, mosses, lichens and fungi have been recorded. Animal communities are no less impressive, with more than 280 vertebrate species (animals with backbones) that range from mountain lions at the largest to shrews at the smallest, plus an untold number of invertebrate animals—snails, worms, insects and so on—that are vital to healthy ecosystems.

This rich assemblage of plants and animals, combined with the remarkably diverse landscape that hosts them, provides an ideal natural laboratory in which to learn how nature works, which over the years has yielded—and continues to yield—important discoveries by researchers from Stanford and around the world. Currently about 60 different research projects are underway each year, some long-term, such as wildlife monitoring through a camera-trapping network that has been in place since 2009 and ant surveys that have been running more than two decades. Other studies play out over shorter time-spans (up to five years), such as determining how microbes affect subsurface soil processes, or how microscopic-size ecosystems evolve deep within sticky monkey-flowers. Educational use abounds, with more than 5000 people learning at the preserve each year, drawn from more than 20 courses at Stanford, from other colleges and high-schools in the area, and from the general public who during the academic year can reserve educational tours via the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve website: https://jrbp.stanford.edu/visit.

The 1193 acres that now comprise the preserve have a rich historical legacy that will also be featured during the open house. Prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers, Muwekma Ohlone encampments and villages were numerous. After Spanish contact, ranching and timber operations eventually proliferated, and the town of Searsville grew only to be abandoned once Searsville Dam was completed in 1892.

Everyone is welcome to attend the family-friendly Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve Open House. The event is free, but a ticket is required, which can be obtained here: JRBP Open House Ticket. Please note that pets are not allowed and smoking is prohibited throughout the preserve, including outdoors.

Parking will only be available off-site at 2882 Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, just east of the Sand Hill exit off of 280, about two miles from the preserve. Shuttle buses will run between the parking area and the preserve beginning at 9:30 a.m. Limited ADA parking will be available on-site at the preserve (located at 4001 Sand Hill Road, Woodside) by prior reservation, which can be made here: https://jrbp.stanford.edu/content/contact-us. Bicyclists will be able to park their bikes on-site at the preserve.

Further details about the event, including safety information, what to bring and what not to bring, can be found at: https://jrbp.stanford.edu/content/open-house-information.

A Student’s Perspective: 24 Hours in DC

By Layla Chamberlin

On October 14, 2017, Berkeley’s COPUS intern team participated in SEM Link’s annual STEM Career Fair in Washington DC (click here to see an awesome photo slideshow). The fair was organized for the greater DC community by scientist and educator, Tokiwa Smith. All were welcome at this event, but it particularly highlighted some outstanding local scientists and educators of color. With fun, hands-on activities, it invited students and families to celebrate their love of science, engineering, and math. Impressively, this event was 100% free, open to the public and easily accessible.

I joined the COPUS team this fall, and it’s been my first student internship experience at UC Berkeley. It was only a few weeks into the internship when our team accepted Tokiwa Smith’s invitation to participate in the SEM Link fair. I had never participated in a science fair nor visited DC before, and we were already boarding our plane to fly across the country before I could say “Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science!”

We left Oakland around 7pm on a Friday, and after one layover, our plane finally landed in DC around 7am the next day — just as the sun began to rise. Being in a new city, far away from the Bay Area, was refreshing after so many routine days and laps around the Berkeley campus. As we crossed the bridge and entered the city, I heard the Jurassic Park theme song play in my head. (Thanks John Williams – that song still gives me chills). As a first-timer to the city, I was mesmerized by the magnificence of the massive colonial architecture on 14th Street and the modesty of the quaint brick homes behind the face of the historical epicenter. Our first stop was at a lovely local restaurant called Ted’s Bulletin where we hydrated, caffeinated and satiated ourselves before we went to the University of the District of Columbia, UDC, to set up for the fair.

When we arrived at the university, we were warmly welcomed by SEM Link’s founder, Tokiwa Smith. On the way over to DC, my team told me so many wonderful things about Tokiwa — meeting her in person did not fall short of my expectations. Despite me being in an unfamiliar place with a relatively new team, Tokiwa exuded a confidence that was comforting, relaxing and made me feel ready to work our booth. As we began neatly laying out our cellular diagrams, color-in cartoons of organelles, and microscope with slides, I was excited to see the other participating groups enter and set up their tables. There was everything from circuit boards to forensic science!

Around 10am, the students and families started to arrive. Despite the diversity in age, from three years old to juniors in high school, every kid that visited our stand eagerly asked interesting, perceptive and engaging questions. I was humbled to learn that so many of the kids there had already begun to code in their early elementary school classes, and many aspired to be engineers, astrophysicists, and neurosurgeons. It was even more inspiring to see these thirsty young minds working side by side with amazing scientists, engineers and teachers, all of which had given up their Saturday to bring science to the community.

As the fair filled up and kids were racing around, fervently asking questions and dragging their friends to go with them to the various stands, we (the COPUS interns) began honing our skills as educators. I learned that this style of teaching, casual and curiosity-driven, is very effective in facilitating a scientific dialogue with children. In comparison to a classroom exercise, it allows kids to interact with the material on a much more intimate level. Our table didn’t come with a worksheet or a set of instructions, and kids could explore on their own terms.

One girl, who was a second grader, sat with me for an hour and looked at each of the 25 microscope slides multiple times. Our slides were a slice through biodiversity – showing sections of tissues from mushrooms, plants, insects, and vertebrates. For each slide, I asked her what organism she thought it came from. And for each tissue type she observed, I told her a bit about how it functions in the organism. By the end of my hour with her, she began to make her own hypotheses as to why specialized cells are structured the way they are. Not all my interactions were this long, but no matter the length of time spent with each child, each conversation was just as charming and rewarding. Krystin Ventura, another COPUS intern, said that when she told one girl that the DNA in her mitochondria comes from her mother, the girl looked up at her mom, giggled and said, “That’s really nice of you.”

It was all over too soon and by 3pm we were wrapping up and heading out. By Sunday morning, we were already back in the SF Bay Area; concluding a quick 24-hour trip! But it was an experience I won’t soon forget. It was heartwarming to see both parents and students, and people of all genders and colors become engaged learners and equally share the same curiosity for science. For every child that held on tightly as they peered into our microscope, their parent or guardian also looked through the lens with deep fascination.

That morning, on the way to the science fair, I learned that our 67 year old Lyft driver had never visited any of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. (These public museums are completely free to all visitors.) Before retiring, he had worked in a government job located in the heart of the city. He was an African American man that had grown up in Washington DC — lived and worked there his whole life. He’d never visited a national museum, even though his son is currently a security guard at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. He said it was due to the excessive traffic and tourism in the area. But some of our team wondered – as a child and teen, were his schools welcomed into the museums for tours? Did the museums make an effort to reach out to his neighborhood and welcome his community? As an adult, it’s easy to see why a person would choose to avoid traffic and touristy spots, but with the resources so close by, it’s telling that he’d never had an experience with them as a kid.

DC has been a city with inspirational African American leaders and strong education institutions for a long time – Howard is a renowned university and has been around since 1867. However, in the early 1900s, President Woodrow Wilson made all federal government agencies segregated – schools, parks, and recreation facilities were segregated back then. This segregation stood until President Franklin Roosevelt was in office, when it began to be dismantled. But much was still segregated in DC all the way into the mid-to-late 1950s. And continued racism and injustices spurred riots in the city in the 1960s. By then, DC had become a city with a majority African American population – however, dating back to the 1870s, the U.S. president had dictated the local leadership. The people couldn’t elect their own city leadership! Thanks to a lot of activism in the community, in the 1970s, DC finally gained the right to elect their own mayor. And ever since, African American leadership has worked to transform the city into what it is today – a beautiful, vibrant metropolis with an awesome array of places to see and go.

With all this history in mind, it’s clear that a lot has changed in DC over the last 67 years. A child’s experience in Washington DC in the 1950s or 60s could have been very different from today. But even today, it’s readily apparent that there’s far more work to be done to make sure all people feel welcomed and respected in our public institutions and places of learning.

Seeing all the joy in the room at the science fair, I was struck with the importance of outreach events like the ones SEM Link provides. We can’t assume that just because there’s already museums in a community that all science education needs are being met. It’s ignorant to assume that all those who have curious minds will seek out established institutions for their learning.

This experience brought home to me the importance that we need to start opening doors when people are young, and make sure those doors stay open and welcoming throughout their lives. As we work to reimagine how STEM education can be, and prioritize equity and inclusion in our efforts – ensuring science is truly welcoming and accessible to allwe need to support organizations like SEM Link that are bringing science to the people and letting them know that science is for everyone.


Special thanks to Krystin Ventura for obtaining a grant from UC Berkeley (SOF Program) so that we could make the trip! And also thanks to COPUS and the UC Berkeley URAP Program for providing additional funds for materials and travel. And lastly, a very special thanks to COPUS member Tokiwa Smith, for creating this opportunity in the first place!

One more thing – I want to give a shout out to UDC, which has a fabulous campus! And two cheers for all of our country’s federally recognized HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

STEM Career Fair in DC: Sweet Success

By Krystin Ventura

COPUS member and Founder & Executive Director of SEM Link (Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Link, Inc.) Tokiwa Smith is an expert in science education and outreach. She’s been organizing SEM Link’s signature STEM Career Fair for over 10 years in Atlanta, Georgia, and is expanding SEM Link’s influence each year. Last weekend, SEM Link held their second annual STEM Career Fair in Washington, DC, where over 100 attendees from the community were able to engage with hands-on science exhibits and meet STEM professionals from a variety of fields.

Tokiwa was motivated to start organizing these career fairs as a way to address the lack of hands-on STEM activities in many communities. She believes that the best way to positively influence the next generation of scientists is to illustrate the diversity of career opportunities in STEM to K-12 students and their parents. She says, “I wanted to create a space for parents to be a part of the STEM Career Exploration process for their children by having an event that they can bring their kids to and engage in hands on STEM activities together.”

In addition, she ensures that students who attend a SEM Link event will be able to interact with a diverse ensemble of exhibitors and presenters. “As an African American woman, I want to make sure that kids that look like me are able to take advantage of these types of opportunities,” she says.

New for this year in DC, Tokiwa graciously invited the COPUS member network to join in and table at the event. Representatives from the SF Bay Area COPUS hub (Monica Albe, Krystin Ventura, Yennie Shyu, and Layla Chamberlin) were excited to participate and had a wonderful time meeting all the kids and their families that day and showing them a little bit about cell biology. They are looking forward to next year already!

In the future, SEM Link is hoping to see STEM career fairs expand to other communities in the nation. Tokiwa is the author of A Guide to Hosting STEM Events, a resource she recommends to anyone interested in coordinating a STEM outreach event.

To help SEM Link connect even more students to STEM career fairs, make a financial contribution to the “Donate Your Lunch Money” Individual Donor Campaign.

“Science is Awesome. That is all.” t-shirt design by COPUS member David Ng.

Wildlife Corridors

NOVA and PBS: Wild Ways

NOVA/PBS featured wildlife biologist Whisper Camel-Means and the Flathead Reservation in a “Wild Ways” look into wildlife corridors and conservation efforts.

Watch for the segment about 30 minutes in to hear more about “one of the most wildlife friendly road projects in the world.”

COPUS is excited to see this project highlighted — we’ve loved it ever since Whisper presented on it at the 2015 Yellowstone COPUS Unconference!


2016 Paul Shin Award

By Keeley Takimoto

COPUS is proud to announce Russell Ledet as the winner of the 2016 Paul Shin Award recognizing “unsung heroes” who have demonstrated commitment and passion in work related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education/outreach, STEM equity/inclusion, and/or scientific literacy.

Looking at Russell today, you see a seemingly tireless and impeccably competent science professional. A Ph.D. candidate at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine working long hours in prostate cancer research, he also mentors and serves on the board of directors for Clear Direction, the STEM mentoring organization he co-founded along with Julia Derk. It would be easy to assume he has spent his whole life in the field. But as Russell notes, when it comes to successful scientists, “everybody sees the building, nobody sees the foundation”.

Traditionally, the foundation of a STEM career has been characterized as a “pipeline”: a linear pathway through academia that future scientists enter as kindergarteners and emerge from as fully-fledged post-docs. The reality is much less straightforward, as Russell can attest. He had little access to working scientists or high-level STEM institutions growing up, making it hard to connect his experience to theirs. Without a “clear direction” into science, he instead enlisted in the US Navy after high school. It was there that he got to exercise his love of reasoning and analysis by working in cryptology and computer science, and it was there that he had his breakthrough about working in STEM:

“If [kids] don’t see what it’s like to live in that space, you’re talking to deaf ears.”

Matching wits with an opponent during the 2017 COPUS Unconference Day of Service in Ixil

This idea was at the forefront of his development of Clear Direction Mentoring. Clear Direction works to help young people who, like Russell, don’t see an obvious path into the field. The program pairs PhD and MD/PhD students with high school juniors from underprivileged and underrepresented New York City boroughs with an expressed desire to study STEM. Clear Direction mentees explore diverse aspects of STEM in the real world, from attending lectures from experts on the financial, political, or industry aspects of STEM, to lunchtime discussions and experiments with other mentors and mentees.

The mentorship process seeks to “redefine mentorship” to create a relevant, personalized, and ultimately supportive program for each student. “For anyone to be a mentor,” Russell says, “they’ve got to believe that any kid could end up in their position one day…without [the mentee’s] viewpoint, how is our approach relevant?” Mentors are matched to students based on interest, and the experience can involve everything from hands-on lab work to advice on navigating high school during the two years of formal mentorship. Today, Clear Direction has 30 mentors working to inspire students in over 1,000 mentorship hours to date.

Russell presenting on Clear Direction at the 2017 COPUS Unconference

COPUS member Lance Powell, who served on the awards committee, states that the group was in complete agreement that Russell should receive the award. “We were impressed with the success he has had in reaching underrepresented high school aged youth in the sciences and matching them with mentors who they work with long term, and then following them to and through college,” says Lance, noting that the work Clear Direction does exemplifies the ideals of COPUS and Paul Shin. “As a result of his work, not only are more kids finding their passion in science, they are finding opportunities through science to improve their lives.”

Congratulations to Russell — COPUS thanks you for your tireless efforts in STEM and STEM outreach!

Ixil Science Fair – first ever!

COPUS Day of Service 2017: Ixil, Yucatán, Mexico

By Krystin Ventura
En español (thanks to Luis Abdala for the translation!)

What does a leaf look like under a microscope? How did an asteroid cause the extinction of the dinosaurs? How do bees make honey? The young science enthusiasts of Ixil, Yucatán can give you the answers!

On January 15, 2017, the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) collaborated with the local non-profit, Proyecto Itzaes, to hold the very first science fair in the village of Ixil, Yucatán, Mexico. Proyecto Itzaes program coordinators, Jessica Cetz Dzib and Francisco Pech Cutz, were especially instrumental in orchestrating such a successful day. This event tied perfectly into Proyecto Itzaes’ mission to bring educational resources to rural Maya villages on the Yucatán peninsula, and to infuse the thrilling experience of discovery in these communities.

A diverse group of scientists and educators from Mexico, the United States, and Canada prepared interactive booths spanning chemistry, agroecology, mathematics, physics, and beyond, with the goal of inspiring a sense of scientific curiosity (see full list of science booths below). With hundreds of villagers in attendance — the majority of them children — it was a huge success: by the end of the day, several determined young Ixil engineers had even built a twenty-foot roller coaster out of paper towel rolls and masking tape.

Vital to the success of the event was the bidirectional communication of scientific and cultural learning, between scientists and educators, children and adults, and spanning four languages (Maya, Spanish, Salish, and English). Many of the hands-on activities had particular significance to the local economy and culture, thanks in large part to the involvement of scientists and educators from the region. Community members shared their knowledge of local plant species for use in traditional medicines and home remedies. A local beekeeper displayed one of his hives and shared his extensive knowledge of the trade, including the fact that the Melipona bees native to the area don’t sting! A lively dance festival, photography art show, choir performance from the local schoolchildren, and even a comedy act accompanied the science fair. Additionally, COPUS members brought in microscopes, art supplies, and science gadgets that were not only used for the science fair, but found a permanent home with Proyecto Itzaes for future events. Everyone came away with a greater appreciation for something — be it science, local culture, or the delight seen in a small child’s eye when they learn something new.

The idea for the Day of Service originated two years before at the COPUS Yellowstone Unconference. Members agreed that at future unconferences, we’d partner with nearby organizations to give back to the local community. Our first ever Day of Service in Ixil was an excellent start to this new tradition, and so much more than “giving back.” It was an opportunity for COPUS members to come away with new perspectives, fresh ideas, and a personal connection with a very special place. Just as exciting, this event drew in a new audience for Proyecto Itzaes, broadening awareness and support for their incredible work. And one thing we know for sure — the people of Ixil have some remarkable young minds and talented mentors that when given the opportunity, are powerful contributors in our scientific community.

Science Booths:

Mathematics — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Aldo Escobedo and Jessica Cetz Dzib

Chemistry — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Emanuel Koyoc

Traditional Medicine – Ixil volunteer Luisa Tec

Robotics — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Saul and Eric

Agroecology — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Lucia Cen

Health — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Edgar Pech and Carmen Cetz

Bees — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer

Chess — Proyecto Itzaes volunteers, and COPUS member Russell Ledet

Roller Coaster Engineering — COPUS members Luis Abdala, Tokiwa Smith, Tom McFadden

Microscopes (dissecting, slide, and foldscopes) — COPUS members Christopher Alvaro, Stu Koretz

Properties of Water — COPUS member Lance Powell and Austin Ayer

Beans of the Yucatán — COPUS members Jorge Carlos Berny Mier y Teran and Kimberly Gibson

Bats of the Yucatán — COPUS member Diana Moreno

Birds of the Yucatán — COPUS member Daniela Tarhuni

Evolution Card Game — COPUS member David Ng

Surface Tension — COPUS members Bill and Ruth Swaney

Asteroid Impacts — COPUS member Lisa White

Perception Shifting Goggles — COPUS members Maya Bialik and Stephanie Sasse

Presentation on mass extinction — COPUS members Rodolfo Dirzo and Guillermina Gomez

Architecture and Art (with kids blocks) — COPUS members Monae Verbeke and Diego Roman

Nest/egg Camouflage Game — COPUS members Monica Albe and Mattias Lanas

En español

Día de Servicio 2017 COPUS: Ixil, Yuctán, México

Autor: Krystin Ventura

¿Cómo se ve una hoja debajo de un microscopio? ¿Cómo un asteroide pudo causar la extinción de los dinosaurios? ¿Cómo hacen miel las abejas? ¡Los jóvenes entusiastas de Ixil, Yucatán te pueden dar las respuestas a estas preguntas!

El 15 de enero de 2017, la Coalición para el Entendimiento Público de la Ciencia (COPUS, por sus siglas en inglés) colaboró con la organización no lucrativa, Proyecto Itzáes, para llevar a cabo la primera feria de la ciencia en la localidad de Ixil, Yucatán, México. Los coordinadores de programas de Proyecto Itzáes, Jessica Cetz Dzib y Francisco Pech Cutz, fueron claves en la organización de este exitoso día. El evento compaginó perfectamente con la misión de Proyecto Itzaes de llevar recursos educativos a pueblos mayas rurales y de inyectar en estas comunidades la emocionante experiencia del descubrimiento.

Un grupo diverso de científicos y educadores de México, Estados Unidos, y Canadá prepararon stands interactivos que incluyeron actividades relacionadas a química, agroecología, matemáticas, física, entre otros, con el fin de inspirar un sentimiento de curiosidad científica (ver abajo lista completa de stands). Acudieron cientos de pobladores de Ixil a la feria, – la mayoría de los cuales fueron niños – por lo que el evento resultó un enorme éxito: al final del día, varios jóvenes (futuros) ingenieros de Ixil terminaron de construir una montaña rusa de seis metros de largo usando masking tape y rollos de carton de papel de baño.

La comunicación bidireccional involucrando el aprendizaje científico y cultural entre científicos, educadores, niños y adultos, utilizando cuatro idiomas (maya, español, salish, e inglés), fue de vital importancia para el éxito del evento. Muchas de las actividades manuales e interactivas tuvieron un significado particular para la economía y cultura local, lo cual en gran medida se debió a la participación de científicos y educadores de la region. Miembros de la comunidad compartieron su conocimiento de las plantas locales usadas en medicina tradicional y para producir remedios caseros. Un productor local de miel desplegó una de sus colmenas y compartió su amplio conocimiento de esta actividad productiva, incluyendo el hecho que ¡las abejas meliponas nativas de la región no poseen aguijón! Un animado festival de baile, una diversa exposición fotográfica, un número por parte de un coro de niños locales de una escuela, e incluso un acto de comedia fueron algunas de las actividades que se sumaron a la feria científica. Adicionalmente, los miembros de COPUS trajeron microscopios, insumos artísticos, y artilugios científicos los cuales fueron utilizados en la feria y fueron donados a Proyecto Itzáes para su utilización en futuros eventos. Todos los participantes adquirieron una mejor apreciación de algún fenómeno, idea o sentimiento relacionado a ciencia o cultura local o bien simplemente la satisfacción de ver en los ojos de un niño el sentimiento positivo de aprender algo nuevo.

La idea del Día de Servicio se originó dos años antes durante la no-conferencia de COPUS en Yellowstone. Los miembros acordaron que en no-conferencias futuras COPUS uniría fuerzas con otras organizaciónes para aportar conocimientos a las comunidades locales. Nuestro primer Día de Servicio en Ixil fue un excelente inicio para esta nueva tradición y fue mucho más que solo “aportar conocimientos” a la gente local. Fue una oportunidad para que los miembros de COPUS desarrollaran nuevas perspectivas, ideas frescas, y una conexión personal con un lugar muy especial. De igual forma, el evento atrajo una nueva audiencia para Proyecto Itzáes, incrementando la conciencia y apoyo en relación al increíble trabajo que esta organización esta realizando en Yucatán. Y una cosa que sabemos es completamente cierta: la comunidad de Ixil posee destacadas jóvenes mentes y talensosos mentores los cuales tienen el potencial de contribuir a la ciencia si se les proporcionan las oportunidades.

Stands científicos:

Matemáticas – Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Aldo Escobedo y Jessica Cetz Dzib

Química — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes Emanuel Koyoc

Medicina tradicional – Voluntario de Ixil Luisa Tec

Robotica — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Saul y Eric

Agroecología — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes Lucia Cen

Salud — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Edgar Pech y Carmen Cetz

Abejas — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes

Ajedrés — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes, y miembro de COPUS Russell Ledet

Construcción de montañas rusas – Miembros de COPUS Luis Abdala, Tokiwa Smith, Tom McFadden

Microscopios (disección, muestras) – Miembros de COPUS Christopher Alvaro, Stu Koretz

Propiedades del agua – Miembros de COPUS Lance Powell y Austin Ayer

Frijoles de Yucatán – Miembros de COPUS Jorge Carlos Berny Mier y Teran y Kimberly Gibson

Murciélagos de Yucatán – Miembro de COPUS Diana Moreno

Aves de Yucatán – Miembro de COPUS Daniela Tarhuni

Juego de cartas de evolución – Miembro de COPUS David Ng

Tensión superficial – Miembros de COPUS Bill y Ruth Swaney

Impactos de asteroides – Miembro de COPUS Lisa White

Gogles que afectan la percepción visual – Miembros de COPUS Maya Bialik y Stephanie Sasse

Presentación de extinciones masivas – Miembros de COPUS Rodolfo Dirzo y Guillermina Gómez

Arquitectura y artes (con materiales para niños) – Miembros de COPUS Monae Verbeke y Diego Roman

Juego de camuflaje con nidos y huevos – Miembros de COPUS Monica Albe y Mattias Lanas

Member Spotlight – Tokiwa Smith

Tokiwa Smith is a Chemical engineer, STEM Educator and social entrepreneur. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc also known as SEM Link a nonprofit organization that she founded in 2005 that exposes youth to STEM and STEM Careers that has programs in Atlanta and the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) areas.
She is also CEO and Principal Consultant for Kemet Educational Services, a STEM Educational Consulting Firm that she started in 2010 that focuses on ensuring that pre-college, community college and undergraduates students are prepared to pursue STEM careers. Tokiwa recently relocated back Atlanta, Georgia after spending 7 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she first connected with COPUS.

She recently attended her third Unconference, this January in the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico, where we were able to connect with her and learn more about her.

Tokiwa is a native of Miami, Florida and is an alumna of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). She has spent her career working for and developing STEM educational programs for precollege and undergraduate students to provide opportunities for them to be exposed to and be prepared for STEM careers. Through the work of her consulting firm, Kemet Educational Services she is using her background as an engineer and professional experience to bridge the gap between the STEM community and individuals and organizations that want to add STEM to their programming and/or learn how to engage kids in hands on STEM activities by providing them with strategies and tools to do so. Through the work of her nonprofit SEM Link, she is doing one of the things that she loves the most, exposing youth to STEM by engaging them in hands on STEM activities and connecting them with the STEM community.

Tokiwa’s nonprofit SEM Link, is currently in the midst of its “Its All About the Pi” Spring Fundraising Campaign , which ends on April 28th. The funds from this campaign, which individuals can make their tax deductible financial contribution online will support their programs, which include the 10th Annual STEM Career Fair and Exhibition on Saturday, April 15th at Georgia Tech. This event will provide K-12 students and their families with an opportunity to explore careers and meet and interact with professionals in these fields. In addition, Saturday, April 8th, Tokiwa will go back to her alma mater FAMU and along with SEM Link volunteers engage middle and high school students in a hands on chemistry activity at the STEM Expo on STEM Day hosted by the College of Science and Technology.

Some things she’d like to talk to other COPUS members about:

SEM Link
All About the Pi

One of Tokiwa’s memorable Unconference moments:

One of Tokiwa’s most memorable moments from the unconference were from our outreach event. “This is the first time that we incorporated an outreach component to the Unconference. It was great to see us work together as a COPUS core as well as connect with the local STEM community to have a great STEM event for the kids. I met some great future STEM professionals from the Yucatan Peninsula that day, including a little boy named Omar that already knew that he wants to be a civil engineer when he grows up.”

By James Zhou

A Big Thank You

COPUS gives a big, heartfelt thank you to the lovely town of Ixil, our awesome collaborators at Proyecto Itzaes, and all our supporters for making the Science Fair in Ixil, Mexico possible! We’ll be sharing more stories about that and our Yucatán unconference soon….

Meet Jen Collins

jencollins_300Jen Collins is an Education Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Her STEM education and outreach work (mainly in the biological/zoological sciences) is for public audiences. Jen has been a long standing member of COPUS and we’re grateful for her contributions to large collaborations (like the UCMP’s Understanding Science and Understanding Evolution websites).

She’s currently focusing on 1) training volunteers of the Sant Ocean Hall how to effectively communicate about how science works and climate change in the context of exhibits and interactive activities; 2) connecting researchers to education and outreach efforts; 3) exploring ways to use objects to engage visitors in conversation.

Some things she’d like to talk to other COPUS members about: 

  • Evaluation
  • Visitor engagement strategies
  • Working with volunteers
  • Science education researh

Jen’s located in Virginia and is interested in connecting with folks all over the map.

One of Jen’s memorable STEM moments:

“Watching engineers, scientists, lab techs, and welders gathered around a drill pipe onboard the JOIDES Resolution trying to solve a problem with the deployment of a tool into the seafloor. They talked, pointed, talked, tweaked, then finally brought out the duct tape!”

Connect with Jen:

Support Scientific Empowerment!

Donate here to help us reach our goal: $10,000 for the Mexico Unconference and Science Fair.

As of January 11th, we’ve raised $5,050. Thanks to all of you who’ve donated so far! Let’s keep it going — it’s not too late to give a gift!

Your donation allows us to connect science educators and activists from around the United States with science super stars and students in the Maya community of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated — and check out our awesome rewards:

  • $50 = after the January unconference, receive a thank you card with a group photo of us all in Mexico.
  • $100 = after Mexico, receive a thank you card and a drawing from one of the students from the science outreach event.
  • $250 = after Mexico, thank you card, and a penpal opportunity with a Proyecto Itzaes budding scientist.
  • $500 = COPUS will give you or your organization/company a shout-out on our website and social media (with links to your site and their logo). Link and logo will stay on our website for one year from posting date.
  • $1000 = Cindy Wilber will give you a personal tour of ‘Hidden Yucatan.’ Airfare not included, but housing (right near beach) and food and a tour guide is!


Email us if you’d also like to donate school/science materials for the Maya community.

We’ll be posting updates about our fundraising goals each week, so check back here and please share with your friends!

COPUS is a completely not-for-profit, volunteer network of individuals and organizations across the nation focusing on scientific literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and STEM equity/inclusion. Funds are used for fostering community and collaborations in STEM education (such as our unconferences) or providing educational materials to communities in need. Donations are collected through our University of California at Berkeley hub and are 100% tax deductible.

A huge thank you to Tom McFadden of SciencewithTom for creating our beautiful crowdfunding video. And special thanks to Tokiwa Smith of SEMLink, Edward Samaniego of ES Visual Studies, Diego Román, and all other COPUS contributors for the awesome pictures and videos used.

Gearing Up for the 2017 Unconference…

img_5140Where’s our next unconference? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico!

This unconference is going to be incredible, and styled a little different from the last one. The new style will allow all attendees to really get to know each other and bond not only over activities and presentations, but through shared experiences and interactions with the local community.

It is a casual, warm, intimate experience for around 25-30 people to share their expertise, best practices, ideas for innovations — and hopefully inspire cross-disciplinary/cultural/regional collaborations. As our mission states, “COPUS is a diverse trans-disciplinary network of individuals and organizations dedicated to public engagement with science. Members represent a wide range of stakeholders and constituencies who work together to articulate a shared vision and accelerate our collective impact.”

This gathering is several things:

  • A celebration of STEM education/outreach and the individuals that work tirelessly to promote it.
  • An opportunity for the COPUS members to share and learn from the local scientists, educators, and community members through an interactive STEM fair event. Our goal is to empower the local community with science and science connections — but to learn from their expertise and gain understanding from their experiences and perspectives too!
  • An opportunity for professional development and networking.
  • An opportunity for us all to share with each other and recharge for the year – bringing home cool new ideas and possible connections/ideas for grants, etc.

We will be in the town of Chicxulub Puerto about 35 km from the north side of Merida and about 45 minutes from the airport. For this unconference, we’re partnering with Proyecto Itzaes to connect in with the local community of teachers, scientists, and families.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change):
Note: through out the unconference, we will be focusing on providing professional development and networking opportunities for all attendees.

  • Friday, Jan 13th: arrivals and evening networking social
    (for those that are here for the full day, we’ll hold a strategic meeting, review our 2016 COPUS events/activities, prepare for Day of Service)
  • Saturday, Jan 14th:
    1) sharing of expertise & member activities from 2016
    2) finding points of overlap (grants and collaborations)
    3) working group formation for 2017
    4) award ceremony & presentations (Paul Shin & Judy Scotchmoor Awards)
  • Sunday, Jan 15th: Day of Service
    interacting with local scientists and teachers, science fair with the Maya community
  • Monday, Jan 16th: Meeting wrap-up, departures
    for those that are here for the full day, we’ll have a “Day of Action” —
    1) data sharing for projects
    2) make headway on working group action items
    3) reporting on Day of Service for website/social media & grants



Cynthia Kramer, SCOPE founder and COPUS member, is committed to connecting the amazing resources in Missouri and other states across the nation, to parents and teachers, and by invoking interest in kids to excite them about STEM.

Scope’s Mission: To share information and connect real life opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) related: activities, programs, organizations, scholarships, internships and workforce opportunities; in order to better the lives of citizens, our economy and global leadership in innovation.

There’s so many things you can do at the SCOPE website! These resources are especially awesome for folks in the midwest (Iowa, Missouri, and surrounding areas).

Meet Monica Albe


Graduate Student Services Advisor, UC Berkeley

Berkeley, California, USA

mjalbe@berkeley.edu  | LinkedIn |Facebook | Twitter

Currently working on: helping graduate students in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Talk with me about:

  • communications
  • equity & inclusion
  • science education

My STEM Story:

Monica Albe is a Graduate Student Services Advisor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. She has worked closely with the Berkeley Natural History Museums for many years, and she’s also worked with many of the other science departments and institutions on campus through Science@Cal. Before becoming an advisor, she was an external relations specialist on campus, focusing on communications for all the science and math departments in the College of Letters & Science. She has a background in biology and has been at UC Berkeley since 1999.

Remembering Lee Allison


Regretfully I can’t remember how we actually first met. It seems that he was just always there. Lee had an impressive geology career and was serving as the State Geologist and Director of the Kansas Geological Survey during the critical years of cyclic episodes of creationism that overtook the Kansas science standards. So most certainly our paths crossed at the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution in 2000 if not before.

But in 2005, Lee Allison walked into my office at UC Berkeley, sat down, and said “Judy, we’ve got to do something about these anti-evolution guys – they are anti science!” That was all it took to trigger the idea and then the actions that gave birth to COPUS. That’s who Lee was. He had an unmatched and undeterred energy and enthusiasm about him. Plus, he had an overwhelming passion for understanding the history of our earth and a deep-lying respect for the science that could provide the answers and stimulate more questions.

It seemed that with every encounter with everyone, Lee sparked creative and expanded thinking. That was as true late in his career as it was at our Berkeley meeting in 2005. So before I knew it, we had secured funding from NSF to bring in some folks for brainstorming a national initiative with three goals:

  1. developing a shared appreciation of science, its contributions to the quality of life, and its underlying role in advances in technology and engineering
  2. informing and engaging the public in and about science, its process and products
  3. making science more accessible to everyone

And we even came up with a name – the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science – COPUS.

Soon there was a COPUS Core of people sharing ideas of concrete steps toward those lofty goals. This resulted in the Year of Science 2009 and the crazy idea of holding an unconference and Lee found the perfect venue – the Biosphere. There in the Arizona desert, the COPUS Core expanded into the COPUS Corps and an annual unconference became the norm… all because of a guy with an impish grin, a huge heart, and an amazing energy.

It was always fun and comfortable being around Lee – whether at a meeting of the minds in DC or sharing a beer at GSA or hanging out with COPUS friends at an unconference. You just wanted to be around him. He will be sorely missed.

By Judy Scotchmoor

Meet Tom McFadden

tommcfadden-and-bill-nyeTom McFadden (pictured left, next to Bill Nye the Science Guy) is a Middle School Science Teacher (The Nueva School) & Founder of “Science With Tom.”

His STEM education and outreach work (mainly in the biological sciences) is for K-12 audiences and the general public. He’s currently focusing on increasing student engagement with science via music and YouTube (and interviewing diverse scientists about their work).

Some things he’d like to talk to other COPUS members about: 

  • Running your own entity (both for profit and non profit)
  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Digital Outreach
  • Curriculum
  • Opportunities for live musical performances and workshops

Tom’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, and particularly interested in connecting with others nearby.

One of Tom’s memorable STEM moments:

“Learning about protein synthesis in 9th grade biology. The realization that each cell in our body is teaming with billions of micro-machines whirring away turning the outside world into ourselves.”

Connect with Tom:

Meet Marcos Chu


Marcos leads a group of professionals that volunteer their time to build resilient learning communities. They build robots using the same materials and equipment students use when participating in robotics activities and competitions. They are platform neutral and do not favor a particular robotics competition organization — they encourage youth to follow their dreams in the PRESENT time, looking at the PAST for inspiration and the FUTURE for hope for a better tomorrow. Marcos and his team believes in laying the foundation for the future, and their hope is to inspire children that will become professionals of tomorrow to become better problem solvers.

Three words that describe Marcos:
Steampunk, demo robots, brasileiro.

The dots Marcos connects:
Marcos’s hope is to be able to network with other energetic individuals that would be interested in building STEM learning communities that are geographically no more than 30 minutes from each other along BERSDT STEM Corridor that will be parallel to old U.S historical highway 66.

Meet Mattias Lanas


Mattias is a freelance science illustrator, artist, teacher and naturalist currently based in Bogotá, Colombia. He loves to show the world how art and science are a strong pairing of disciplines, and uses illustration to convey stories about scientific concepts. Mattias can’t think of a day better spent than one out in nature exploring tropical jungles in search of rare plants. Check out his work on his website: mattiaslanas.com

Three words that describe Mattias:
Illustrator, naturalist, enthusiastic.

The dots Mattias connects:
Mattias helps communicate science concepts to the public. He is a firm believer in education and likes to emphasize the similarities between artists and scientists in his teaching.

Meet Roger Conner


Roger Conner is the Executive Director of GO-Science (ENCRSC). He is the former VP of Communications for the International Association for Business Leaders. In addition, he has served as the Training and Development Director for the Department of Defense in a classified role. Roger’s research interests are focused on informal science education and the utilization of advanced web technologies to deliver STEM programming to geographically dispersed populations who lack access to advanced content, pedagogical experts, and advanced computing resources. Roger also directs a Gates Foundation program that uses immersive learning technologies for common-core delivery and assessment in a K-12 setting.

Three words that describe Roger:
Geek. Systems thinker. Looks for better ways to do everything.

The dots Roger connect:
Roger connects scientists, researchers, and educators to the general public in an informal hands-on science education environment.

Meet Rocio Sanchez


Rocío Sanchez is Manager of Graduate Student Affairs with the Dept of Plant & Microbial Bio at UC Berkeley. In this role she advises doctoral students through academic and research milestones. As an adviser, she both creates and connects students to services and resources that support personal, academic, and professional development. She is active in efforts to diversify STEM fields through outreach, recruitment, and retention programs for undergraduate and graduate students at CAL. These include SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) and ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students), and Amgen Scholars programs. She serves on graduate admission committees and promotes diversity through evidence-based approaches and meaningful conversations with faculty, students, and administrators.

Three words that describe Rocio:
Chicana, adviser, soccer fan!

The dots Rocio connects:

Rocio connects students to science through mentorships and student support programs that are committed to educate and train a diverse generation of scientists to be the future leaders, researchers, educators and professionals.

Meet Morgan Thompson


Morgan Thompson is a geneticist, but her passion is informal science education. She is exploring modes of evidence-based dialog & engagement to create new (e.g. Science Presentation as a Performing Art, Emerson College Science Communication Collaborative, etc.) & develop existing programs (e.g. Voice of Young Science USA, Science in the News, Ask for Evidence USA) that provide communication training & public service. Morgan is Assistant Director of Career Development at University of Massachusetts Medical School where she trains Ph.D. students & postdocs in communication & professional skills (http://career.umassmed.edu). She serves on the Public Outreach Committee of the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Morgan enjoys kayaking, backpacking, gardening, cooking, & random crafts.

Three words that describe Morgan:
Experimentalist, maker, nurturer

The dots Morgan connects:
Morgan connects scientists, particularly early career researchers, to opportunities for training in communication and direct engagement in their broader communities.

Meet Jessie Herbert


Jessie Herbert is the STEM Education Program Manager at the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area. Jessie earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Montana in 2008 and has worked in informal education since then. She became a certified SciGirls trainer in 2011 and trains educators to implement gender-sensitive curricula in their classroom. She also currently co-directs the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative. As a passionate learner, Jessie enjoys teaching and learning about all types of science. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Education from the University of Montana.


Three words that describe Jessie:
Energetic, Passionate, Enthusiastic

The dots Jessie connects:
Connecting people, Connecting programs

Meet Jenny Cutraro

jennycutraroIn her own words: “Every report card I brought home from grade school noted “Is too talkative during class,” but I prefer to translate that to “Enjoys communicating with her classmates.” Today, I’ve channeled that love of talking into a career in science communications and education.”

Jenny is a producer for  youth and family programming and is currently the co-managing editor at SciStarter. She has been a writer and editor at WGBH in Boston, where she produced materials for the Emmy-­nominated PBS KIDS ecosystem science program PLUM LANDING. You’ll sometimes find her writing about science, education, and creativity for outlets including The Boston Globe, Science News for Students, and the New York Times Learning Network as well. When she’s not talking about science, you’ll find her kayaking with her family, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and looking for slimy things under logs.

Three words that describe Jenny:
Curious, kayaker, nerd

The dots Jenny connects:
Science + k-12 education + journalism

Meet Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer

Monica Feliu-Mojer
Mónica grew up in rural Puerto Rico, surrounded by nature and with a cow in her backyard, which sparked her interest in all things biology. A scientist-turned-communicator, she loves building connections to make science and scientists accessible to all. Her bilingual outreach and communication efforts focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics and opportunities, as well as increasing equity, access and diversity in science and science communication.

Mónica has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the COPUS Paul Shin Memorial Award (2013) for her efforts to increase public understanding of science among Hispanic audiences. Her work has been featured on international media outlets, such as UnivisiónVOXXI, and Scientific American among others.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University. Mónica is the vice-director and news editor-in-chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico (@CienciaPR), an organization leveraging social networks to engage Hispanic scientists in science communication and education. Mónica is also the Science Outreach Program Manager for iBiology, an UCSF-based non-profit organization that produces educational open-access videos on research and science-related topics featuring the world’s leading biologists.

Three words that describe Mónica:
Borinqueña, curious, loves stories

The dots Mónica connects:
She leverages online communities to connect scientists, educators and the media to empower people through science.

Meet Diego Román

Diego_200x281Dr. Diego Román is an Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, specializing in bilingual and science education.

He holds a B.S. degree in Agronomy from Zamorano University in Honduras and a M.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-­Whitewater. He earned a M.S. degree in Biology, a M.A. in Linguistics, and a Ph.D. degree in Educational Linguistics, all from Stanford University.

Prior to starting his studies at Stanford University, Dr. Román taught middle school science to English Learners and newcomer students for seven years, first in rural Wisconsin and then in San Francisco, California.

Three words that describe Diego:
language, science, travel

The dots that Diego connects:
Latino/Latina students in science education, international education, language acquisition

Meet Lance Powell

Lance_PowellLance Powell has used the environment as a vehicle to teach science in the Bay Area for most of the last 19 years. He has been involved in a variety of schools ranging from the inner city of San Francisco to where he is now, down the Peninsula in the Menlo Park area. As an educator, he strives to bring science alive while improving student thinking and work habits. He is all about hands-­on science, inquiry work and getting kids outside.

Currently he is serving as an instructional science coach and helping his colleagues bring in the new Next Generation Science Standards into their courses. His most recent acknowledgement earlier in 2015 was the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education.

Three words that describe Lance:
dynamic, creative, passionate

The dots Lance connects:
Besides the numbered ones, Lance connect kids with the outdoors and the science behind environmental issues that affect them… and maybe even an internship or job.

Meet Colibrí Sanfiorenzo-­Barnhard


Colibrí lives and works in Puerto Rico.

She is in the process of establishing a consulting firm that supports community groups and NGO’s in science education, organizational structure and administrative/fiscal support.

She integrates basic science (mainly ecology) into art projects, outdoor activities and urban participatory design.

She also connects larger NGO’s with community groups and farmers interested in conservation. Starting from scratch is hard but she loves what she does and is filled with joy everyday!

Three words that describe Colibrí:
outdoorsy, helper, researcher

The dots Colibrí connects:
NGO’s, community groups and individuals working towards the well-being of
Puerto Rico

Meet Joel Abraham

Joel_AbrahamJoel K. Abraham is an assistant professor of biology education in the Department of Biological Science at California State University, Fullerton. Joel and his students study a wide range of topics, including non-­native plant invasions in California ecosystems, sustainable urban agriculture, student conceptions and competencies in science, and teacher education and hiring practices. Many of his students have community-­based research projects, partnering with local urban gardens and schools.

Joel received his PhD in biology at UC Berkeley, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT. He is active in a number of programs and committees aimed at increasing diversity and public engagement in science.

Three words that describe Joel:
Ecology, Education, Community

Meet Gina Schatteman

Gina_SchattemanGina is the Co-­Director of iExploreSTEM, a non-­profit volunteer organization that
produces and supports public STEM events, primarily in rural and remote areas. Their focus is
STEM festivals, but they also work with communities to help them produce other types of STEM events as

Read this feature about Gina from “Stem Women on Fire.” (http://stemwomenonfire.weebly.com/gina-schatteman.html)

Gina is engaged in research to help us better understand the impact of public science events on
the public value, appreciation, and understanding of science. She is an emeritus associate professor
at the University of Iowa where she taught and ran a lab researching the use of stem cells to treat
vascular disease in people with diabetes.

She likes being outdoors, especially in the mountains, and loves (non-motorized) winter sports.

Three words that describe Gina:
scientist, STEM festival advocate, policy wonk wannabe

The dots Gina connects:
She organizes science festivals, and these require the building of broad-­based coalitions in communities. She works to connect STEM education stakeholders in Idaho to share policy best practices in promoting STEM careers and enhancing STEM education.

Meet Amber Finley

Amber_FinleyAmber Finley is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, and is also Spirit Lake Dakota and Standing Rock Lakota on her maternal grandmother’s side. Although she was raised in California, her home is Mandaree, located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota. Amber was a two-time graduate of Fort Berthold Community College before receiving her Bachelor of Science in Fisheries & Wildlife Biology from Univeristy of North Dakota in 2006. In 2008, she earned her Master of Science in Environmental Management from the University of San Francisco. Amber is a Gates Millennium Scholar alum, a lifetime Sequoyah member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and serves as a mentor for several diversity-­based organizations.

After returning to Grand Forks, Amber worked with other members of the American Indian community, exploring avenues for cultural awareness, development, and expression. In 2010, the group established Northstar Council, an organization with the mission of empowering indigenous people through research, education, and outreach. Finley is the Executive Director of Northstar Council.

In 2015, Amber received the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Three words that describe Amber:
Honest, Kind, Humble

The dots that Amber connects:
Culture, Science,Traditional Knowledge, and Communities

Meet Denny Casey


Denny Casey is Director of Education and Public Programs at Virginia Museum of Natural History. He is also an adjunct instructor with state and private universities as instructor of science methods and education courses. His degrees are in natural science education and science curriculum and instruction, all from Virginia Tech.

His research interests include:

  • education for social justice, social constructivism
  • history and nature of science and technology
  • earth systems science education.

His professional service includes: Journal of Virginia Science Education and Web Administrator for Virginia Association of Science Teachers and the Virginia Junior Academy Of Science, Virginia Master Naturalist Program, Virginia Resource Use Education Council, and National Science Teachers Association Council as District VIII Director, 2015-­2018.

Three words that describe Denny:
Science educator and researcher, nature and techno-geek, community volunteer

The dots Denny connects:
Formal and informal natural history and STEM education throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia; educators, science, and professional development.

Meet Eve Klein

Eve_Klein_300x282Eve Klein manages the Portal to the Public Network, based at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. Eve’s background is in the physical sciences, and she also has a masters in education (her research was in public perceptions of science). She is interested in when and where adults acquire the science knowledge needed for safety, productivity, and civic engagement.

A Little About Portal to the Public:
The Portal to the Public approach helps Informal Science Education (ISE) organizations connect public audiences with current science in their own communities through direct interactions with local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) researchers and experts. The Portal to the Public framework has been implemented at over 44 institutions that form the Portal to the Public Network (PoPNet), a diverse community of practitioners dedicated to sharing ideas and strategies for scientist-and-public engagement. Through funding from the National Science Foundation, PoPNet has expanded to a range of informal science settings including university outreach groups, zoos, aquariums, and nature centers. The Network continues to expand and would like to connect with new institutions and other ISE organizations. Find out more information on joining PoPNet here.

Three words that describe Eve:
Adventurer, scrabble fiend, learner

The dots Eve connects:
She brings hands-on, inquiry based science activities to rural schools to provide students with positive, empowering learning experiences.

Meet Amy Vashlishan Murray

amymurray1Amy is an Assistant Professor of Science at Emerson College in Boston; a liberal arts school devoted to communication and the arts. Working closely with talented Emerson undergraduates and a local community of early career research scientists, Amy pursues a passion for addressing communication barriers between scientists, the media, and the public. She has established a Science Communication Collaborative that partners scientists and future artists and communicators for mutual communication training and has worked to build a foundation for the “Ask for Evidence” campaign in the US. To Amy’s great satisfaction, #askforevidence has been adopted in her household (by 3-­year old, Jackson, and husband, Shane) as a verbal shorthand for expressing scientific skepticism.

Amy was the 2014 COPUS winner of the annual Paul Shin Award, honoring the unsung heroes of science communication and engagement. Morgan Thompson, PhD, Assistant Director at the Center for Biomedical Career Development, nominated Amy for the award, saying Amy is “shaping the foundational scientific understanding of future communicators – both conceptual knowledge as well as the process of science and ability to critically evaluate evidence.” The Emerson Science Communication Collaborative “pairs undergraduate students interested in science communication with local early career scientists in a semester-long series of exchanges to further the training and skills of both audiences. Scientists are provided a rare opportunity early in their careers to practice media skills and effective communication with lay audiences in a non-threatening, low-risk environment that utilizes the expertise of Emerson students. The undergraduates come to know the person behind the scientist, helping to dispel popular misconceptions about the process of science and providing more accurate, nuanced, and diverse portraits of who does science. Culminating projects range from children’s books to public service announcements to a musical composition based upon the genetic sequence of a strain of H1N1 flu virus.”

Three words that describe Amy:
Scientist-educator, Idea-­collector, Evidence-­lover.

The dots Amy connects:
She connects arts and communication students and the scientific community and she connects anyone who will listen to evidence.

Meet Lisa White


Lisa White is Director of Education and Outreach at the UC Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley. In this role she promotes teaching and learning of science, particularly of evolution, the fossil record, and the nature and impacts of global change, through online resources and hands-­on science. A geologist and micropaleontologist by training, she previously held positions of Professor of Geosciences at San Francisco State University and she is active in efforts to diversify the geosciences through wide-­ranging field and research experience programs for urban youth. These include the SF-­ROCKS (Reaching out the Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco) and METALS (Minority Education Through Teaching and Learning in the Sciences) programs that benefit from collaborations with scientists and faculty at the University of New Orleans and the University of Texas at El Paso.

California Magazine put it well:
“As an African-American woman in one of the least diverse scientific fields, White, director of education and public programs at the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology, is accustomed to playing the part of role model. ‘There are very few female black geoscientists who study paleontology, so I get it,’ she says with a chuckle. ‘I’m going to be asked reach out to youth a lot.'”

(…and we know Lisa doesn’t see this as a chore — she loves it.)

Watch Lisa in Nova’s “Making North America” where she highlights California geology in episodes one (Origins) and three (Human).

Three words that describe Lisa:
Paleontologist, educator, sports fan!

The dots Lisa connects:
She connects communities to science through places — both local and global — that are meaningful to their lives: parks and outdoor spaces, neighborhoods, educational centers, and museums.

Read more at UC Berkeley’s news site, where Lisa was highlighted for being featured in a PBS special, or at California Magazine, where her outreach work was recently highlighted.

Lisa, in her role as Director of Education and Outreach, at the UCMP, is spearheading a new “Understanding Global Change” website project — soon to be be a sibling to the already existing Understanding Evolution, and Understanding Science resource websites.

Understanding Evolution — Teaching Resource


What is the Understanding Evolution website?

Understanding Evolution is a non-commercial, education website, teaching the science and history of evolutionary biology. This site is here to help you understand what evolution is, how it works, how it factors into your life, how research in evolutionary biology is performed, and how ideas in this area have changed over time.

Looking for a great resource to help explain evolution to people at any age? Check out the site tour to see all the resources offered — http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/tour.php

They have an abundance of materials!

  • Evo 101 — an in-depth course on the science of evolution
  • Teaching Materials — the ultimate resource for teachers!
  • Resource Library — a browsable archive of articles, tutorials, interactive investigations and more.

The Understanding Evolution site has been a long, on-going collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education. For more information, see their credits page. UCMP continues to develop and maintain partnerships with other scientific and educational organizations in a joint effort to support evolution education. For a listing of these organizations, see their collaborations page. Consider collaborating!

Thanks to Lisa White, and everyone at the UCMP, for making this great resource available to the public.

Understanding Science — Teaching Resource


Visit the Understanding Science website (http://undsci.berkeley.edu/) to learn how science really works.

The mission of Understanding Science is to provide a fun, accessible, and free resource that accurately communicates what science is and how it really works. The process of science is exciting, but standard explanations often miss its dynamic nature. Science affects us all everyday, but people often feel cut off from science. Science is an intensely human endeavor, but many portrayals gloss over the passion, curiosity, and even rivalries and pitfalls that characterize all human ventures. Understanding Science gives users an inside look at the general principles, methods, and motivations that underlie all of science.

This project has at its heart a re-engagement with science that begins with teacher preparation and ends with broader public understanding. Its immediate goals are to (1) improve teacher understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise, (2) provide resources and strategies that encourage and enable K-16 teachers to reinforce the nature of science throughout their science teaching, and (3) provide a clear and informative reference for students and the general public that accurately portrays the scientific endeavor.

The Understanding Science site was produced by the UC Museum of Paleontology of the University of California at Berkeley, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists and teachers, and was funded by the National Science Foundation. Understanding Science was informed and initially inspired by our work on the Understanding Evolution project, which highlighted the fact that many misconceptions regarding evolution spring from misunderstandings of the nature of science. Furthermore, research indicates that students and teachers at all grade levels have inadequate understandings of the nature and process of science, which may be traced to classrooms in which science is taught as a simple, linear, and non-generative process. This false and impoverished depiction disengages students, discourages public support, and may help explain current indications that the U.S. is losing its global edge in science. Even beyond the health of the U.S. economy, the public has a genuine need to critically assess conflicting representations of scientific evidence in the media. To do this, they need to understand the strengths, limitations, and basic methods of the enterprise that has produced those claims. Understanding Science takes an important step towards meeting these needs.

Thanks to Lisa White, and everyone at the UCMP, for making this great resource available to the public!

Science Festivals Near You


The mission of the Science Festival Alliance (SFA) is to foster a professional community dedicated to more and better science and technology festivals. Check them out at http://sciencefestivals.org/

Whether you are a science lover, looking for opportunities for science enrichment for you and your community, OR you’re a scientist or working with an organization that is hoping to connect with the public through science outreach activities — visit the Science Festival Alliance out to learn more about annual science festivals.

When the SFA began in 2009 only a handful of science festivals existed in the United States, and they were not working (or even communicating) with each other. Since that time, the country has enjoyed a surge in the number of science festivals, and the SFA is now networking together dozens of independently operated festival initiatives. Whether you are considering starting a new science festival, would like to partner with existing festivals, or are just interested in learning about the latest developments, the Science Festival Alliance is the best place to begin.

The SFA is not an independent organization, nor is it the exclusive project of a single institution (though two full-time staff members dedicated to the SFA are housed at the MIT Museum). It is a collaborative network involving institutions, initiatives, and individuals that have committed to work together to best serve our communities through the festival format.

Thanks to Ben Wiehe for helping to raise awareness of this amazing resource within the COPUS corps!

Love Citizen Science?


SciStarter is the place to find, join, and contribute to science through recreational activities and citizen science research projects. Their database of citizen science projects enable discovery, organization, and greater participation in citizen science. Check them out at http://scistarter.com/

If you are a scientist or a representative of a citizen science organization or community: SciStarter is the organization and community to tell eager people about your work and get them interested in helping out. If you do not represent a project, but have a favorite citizen science you’d like to see added to the SciStarter Project Finder, consider inviting someone from the project to add the project or drop a tip about the project.

SciStarter’s Mission is to bring together the millions of citizen scientists in the world; the thousands of potential projects offered by researchers, organizations, and companies; and the resources, products, and services that enable citizens to pursue and enjoy these activities.

They aim to:

  • Enable and encourage people to learn about, participate in, and contribute to science through both informal recreational activities and formal research efforts.
  • Inspire greater appreciation and promote a better understanding of science and technology among the general public.
  • Create a shared space where scientists can talk with citizens interested in working on or learning about their research projects.
  • Satisfy the popular urge to tinker, build, and explore by making it simple and fun for people—singles, parents, grandparents, kids—to jump in and get their hands dirty with science.

Thanks to Darlene Cavalier for helping to raise awareness of SciStarter within the COPUS corps!

Meet Wayne Himelsein


Wayne Himelsein is President of Informed by Nature (http://informedbynature.org/), a non-profit with the goals of advancing the public understanding of science, and concurrently, the Senior Managing Partner of Logica Capital, a successful investment company. At Logica, Wayne heads the investment team and R&D, as well as engages with investors globally. Prior to Logica, Wayne built and managed several hedge funds that invested in his quantitative strategies. Wayne’s financial career began in 1995, when he traded securities and developed algorithms that were used to launch his first hedge fund. Wayne’s lifelong passion for science has served him well in his financial pursuits and in his personal quest to explore deep questions. An appreciation of the powerful tools of science led him to establish Informed by Nature in 2004. Wayne holds a BA from Berkeley and resides in Los Angeles.

Three words that describe Wayne:
Science lover, business builder, people person.

The dots that Wayne connects:
He connects anyone who has an internet connection to content demonstrating the amazing breadth of science. He connects students who have an interest in science to programs that help strengthen that interest.

Join the Ask for Evidence Campaign

Ask for Evidence Logo

Ask for Evidence is a public campaign that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies.

We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, treat disease or improve agriculture. Some are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not.

How can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should Ask for Evidence.

Join the Ask for Evidence Campaign!

  • Share your experiences of asking for evidence.
  • Use the hub of resources and expertise to make sense of the evidence you receive.
  • Share the site with friends and colleagues: http://askforevidence.org/

Ask for Evidence was launched by Sense About Science in 2011. Sense About Science is a charity that helps people to make sense of science and evidence and promote use of evidence in public life. This takes us from responding to outlandish diet claims by celebrities to helping parents understand vaccines, from working with people with chronic diseases to beat misleading ‘cure’ claims on the Internet to pressing for sound use of statistics in media reporting.

Thanks to Amy Vashlishan Murray for helping to raise awareness of this campaign within the COPUS corps!

Meet Ben Wiehe


Ben Wiehe is manager of the Science Festival Alliance. He grew up going to smallest public school system in Connecticut. He went to a liberal arts college in Maine: physics and philosophy major with time abroad for Tibetan studies. He then worked his way around North America (Chiapas to Aleutians) for a long while. (After grad school in Chicago for social science, he worked for natural parks, science centers, and public television). Three years of getting science cafes started around the US led into his current position at MIT managing the Science Festival Alliance. Ben has been a part of COPUS since the beginning!

Here’s Ben’s take on COPUS:
“COPUS has been important for me for a long time. I’ve always felt that I get more out of my involvement with it than I give. Of course over the years my needs have shifted. And this is the thing that is most important about COPUS to me — I’ll sum it up to folks that don’t know much about the group:

COPUS identifies emerging leaders with little institutional backing for their passion and provides them with a supportive network.

I’ve gone through that change to an extent, and so have many of the original members. Natalie has now launched a new nonprofit. Danielle is making waves in all kinds of directions. Darlene has sorted through several of her passions and figured out how to make them reality via I-­can’t-­count-how-many business models. etc…

So welcome! Stay involved, give back — one of the things an emerging leader needs to thrive is the opportunity to lead.”

Three words that describe Ben:
He is a a social creature, hack of all trades, scavenger.

The dots Ben connects:
He connects science festival organizers to each other, and to regional/national collaborators.

Meet Sheri Potter

Sheri PotterSheri Potter, BS, is a social intrapreneur with a strong commitment to developing more effective strategies to connect people to science. Among other things, she has been the director of community and stakeholder engagement for the Association for Women in Science, the leading advocate for women in STEM. She has also been a project director for SciStarter implementing a collaborative program to bring citizen science to classrooms, hand-in-hand with NASA’s GLOBE initiative and National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program.

Sheri’s personal mission is to build a scientific citizenry of people who understand how science works, why science matters, and what scientists do – and to help them connect that knowledge with their own lifelong journey as a citizen who benefits from, participates in, and uses science.

Sheri worked at the American Institute of Biological Sciences for over ten years in multiple capacities, including as director of membership and public programs. She helped launch the Leadership in Biology initiative, Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, ActionBioscience.org and Year of Science 2009. Sheri earned an Executive Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania and has a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Three words that describe Sheri:
I’m with you.

The dots Sheri connects:
Sheri connects cool people to cool people to spread ideas and opportunities that promote people using and celebrating science.

Meet Jeanette Lim

Jeanette_LimAs the content coordinator for AskNature.org, Jeanette Lim expands and curates AskNature content with the help of a collaborative community of students, scientists, and educators interested in sustainability and nature­inspired design.

She brings a life­‐long fascination with the natural world, along with a PhD in biology, to her work with the Biomimicry Institute.

Here is a sampling of some fun reads that Jeanette help create:
Slime Rapidly Expands and Protects: Hagfish
Lizards Under Pressure
The Solar Powered Hornet

Three words that describe Jeanette:
Biologist, educator, maker

The dots Jeanette connects:
She helps connect designers, engineers, and other innovators with biology that
can inspire sustainable solutions to human challenges.

Meet Madhusudan Katti


Madhusudan Katti (Madhu for short) is an evolutionary ecologist studying biodiversity in social-­ecological systems such as cities, and seeking ways to reconcile biodiversity conservation with human well-being. He is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University, Fresno.

He communicates science to diverse audiences through a variety of media:

He founded the Central Valley Café Scientifique (http://valleycafesci.org/) and has run it for over 8 years.

He produces and hosts a monthly radio show “Science: A Candle In The Dark” for Fresno’s 88.1FM KFCF station (podcast at http://bit.ly/sciencecandle).

He writes commentaries for the local NPR station, various online and print outlets, and on my Reconciliation Ecology blog (http://coyot.es/reconciliationecology).

Three words that describe Madhu:
scientist, writer, teacher

The dots Madhu connects:
urban ecology, evolution, biodiversity, conservation, science communication

Meet Cindy Wilber

Cindy WilberCindy Wilber is many things — the Education Coordinator at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (at Stanford University), the Executive Director and founder of Proyecto Itzaes, the Education Director for Centro de Educación Ambiental de la Peninsula Yucateca (CEAPY) and the advisor to the Stanford SEEDS student group (Strategies for Ecology Education diversity and Sustainability).

A Little About Jasper Ridge:
Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (JRBP) is located near Stanford University’s campus in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The preserve encompasses remarkable geologic, topographic, and biotic diversity within its 481 hectares (1,189 acres) and provides a natural laboratory for researchers from all over the world, educational experiences to students and docent-led visitors, and refuge to native plants and animals.

In addition to facilitating first-rate research, this highly accessible field station provides undergraduate educational experiences and plays an active role in educating the general public.

A Little About Proyecto Itzaes:
Proyecto Itzaes, a non-profit organization that is a free, community service based, educational program in Yucatán, Mexico. PI serves communities where traditional subsistence lifestyles dependent on farming and seasonal fishing can no longer support families and is currently serving the villages of Chicxulub Pueblo, Ixil, Dzemul and the tiny village of Too. PI’s original village of Chicxulub Puerto became fully self-sustaining in 2005!

Major programs:

  • early childhood reading and family literacy programs
  • science in the villages program
  • computer literacy
  • health and environment programs
  • cultural and language preservation
  • bio-intensive gardening programs

Cindy lives and works in both Palo Alto, California and in Chicxulub Puerto, Yucatán, Mexico.

Three words that describe Cindy:
teaching, science, outreach

The dots Cindy connects:
University to k­‐12 to public to Mexico to ESA and more

Meet Bill Gomez

Bill_GomezAfter working for a Palo Alto based pharmaceutical company for many years, Bill retired in 1992 to pursue his interests in environmental education and marine science.

For 20 years Bill has been a volunteer at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve where he leads tours and works on field research projects.

He pursues his marine interest by leading tide pool tours at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and scuba diving with people who have strong marine interests. He enjoys communicating science to people with a wide range of backgrounds and watching them absorb new information and concepts.

Three words that describe Bill:
Ecology tour leader, field research voluteer, marine biology enthusiast

The dots that Bill connects:
Bill connects Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve science to students and visiting public. He connects high school and college students to marine inter-tidal science through leading tours at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. By volunteering, he helps teach science and math at Redwood High School.

Meet Barry Greenwald


Barry Greenwald is a Chicagoan who has called Minnesota home since he moved there after college. Teaching as a full-­time occupation is his third career — after enjoyable years as an agricultural research technician, and later in sales and administration.

He’s now in his 15th year of teaching urban high school students in St. Paul, in courses ranging from biology, IB Biology, environmental science to earth science. He does volunteer work on the World Food Prize Minnesota Youth Institute, as well as local citizen science activities.

Three words that describe Barry:
A grateful father to my daughter; teacher; always on the lookout for good humor.

The dots that he connects:
Barry connects scientists and instructors from the University of Minnesota to high school classrooms. He makes connections for his high school biology and environmental science students between the classroom and their “real lives” — current and future — outside of school.