2021 Winter Speaker Series

Join the Maria Mitchell Association this winter as we welcome back some of our amazing intern alumni to discuss their fascinating research and projects. Topics will include open science, terrestrial biology, marine debris, astronomy, and more!

The speaker series is scheduled for alternating Wednesdays between January 13th – March 24th, 2021 from 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST over Zoom. See below for details!

Learn about our winter speakers below!

2021 Winter Speaker Series

Join the Maria Mitchell Association this winter as we welcome back some of our amazing intern alumni to discuss their fascinating research and projects. Topics will include open science, terrestrial biology, astronomy, and more!

The speaker series is scheduled for alternating Wednesdays between January 13th – March 24th, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST, over Zoom.

Please keep checking back for updates in the schedule and for Zoom registration links.


Andrew Mckenna-Foster Watch on YouTube

“Sharing is Caring: Data Sharing for Scientists and Citizens”

From civic apps to COVID treatments, a new paradigm of data sharing affects all of us in significant ways. In this talk, Andrew will discuss how new technologies, policies, and practices encourage free access to data and are together changing how scientists and governments work. He will share how his formative experience working at the MMA led to a new career in the data sharing world.

Bio: Former MMA Director of Natural Science Andrew Mckenna-Foster started at the MMA as a Museum intern in 2004. Probably best known as the “spider guy” on Nantucket, he spent the next 12 years working closely with MMA interns, researchers, and volunteers on a wide range of research and education programs. During that time he received a Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, sat on the boards for the Nantucket Shellfish Association and NCTV18, and held several committee positions with Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative. In 2016, Andrew left the MMA to return to school and in 2020 he graduated from the University of Washington with a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. He is now a Product Specialist at the data repository company Figshare and continues to help with data related work on Nantucket.

January 13th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST


Sara Schoen Register

“Splitting Up a Complex Mess: Integrating Statistics to Understand the Limnonectes kuhlii Complex”

41% of known amphibian species are declining, but have you ever considered the decline of the species we have yet to identify? As a conservationist, it’s terrifying to think about because we won’t notice until the loss is irreversible. Some species are cryptic, meaning we don’t notice them, others are cryptic because they look almost identical to another species. These similar species can be lumped together into a single species and accidentally create a species complex. Species complexes hinder conservation efforts because the populations seem stable and healthy, but what if they aren’t a single species and we treat them like one? What happens when we lose one? Will we only know what we’re missing when it’s gone or is there another way? The good news, species complex are a difficult, yet solvable problem. We just need some help from statistics to create new tools to delimit species complexes and define clear differences between species. This is the only way to understand declining populations and define biodiversity in an area.

Bio: Sara Schoen received her Masters in Biology from James Madison University where she conducted research on the Limnonectes kuhlii complex, a cryptic species of Southeast Asian stream frogs. In that time, she determined a novel statistical method for refining the morphometric characters to distinguish and delineate between candidate species. These results and new methods have been recently published, and more papers are in motion to continue to push these new techniques to aid in further understanding the kuhlii complex. Schoen is interested in using statistics to answer biological questions and aiding in conservation of species. Due to this, her projects focus on statistical analysis of big data and allow for her to take part in various research, including her current PhD project to investigate and analyze the Global FinPrint data with an interest in moray eels and barracuda.

January 27th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST


Tanveer Karim Register

“Unraveling the Universe with Spectroscopy and Big Data”

Abstract: The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is an upcoming cosmological survey and experiment that will create the most precise 3D map of the Universe to-date by mapping the positions of 30 million galaxies spanning the past 11 billion years. By precisely measuring the position of these galaxies, DESI will try to shed light on the mysterious Dark Energy, the leading explanation for the accelerated expansion of the Universe, as well as test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity at the largest scales. In this talk, I will be discussing what dark energy is, how DESI works, how we plan to measure distances of such a large number galaxies, and what interesting sciences we can expect over the next ten years. In particular, I will be discussing how I am using DESI data along with cosmic microwave background (the earliest relic light of the Universe) data to figure out how matter is distributed in our Universe.

Bio: Tanveer Karim is a 4th year PhD student and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at Harvard University working on the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) experiment. Tanveer’s dissertation work focuses on using a type of galaxy called emission-line galaxies to study the distribution of matter in the Universe and measuring cosmological parameters that can help us test different cosmological theories.

Prior to this, Tanveer completed his BS in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester in 2017. He was also an MMA intern in 2016 studying and characterizing the Fermi Bubbles and he subsequently published two papers on this project. He also enjoys science outreach activities and mentoring students interested in astronomy. Outside astronomy, he enjoys reading and learning languages.

February 10th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

Abby Mintz Register

“From Near to Far: Exploring How Stars Form and Galaxies Evolve”

How do stars and galaxies form? Surprisingly, there is a lot about these processes that is still unknown! To shed some light on these mysteries, we will take a look at star clusters in our local neighborhood and then travel to distant galaxies billions of lightyears away. We will learn about how massive stars’ turbulent shockwaves impact star formation in their environments and locate the missing matter in faraway galaxies to see what it can tell us about their pasts and futures. How did our universe get to its current state? Let’s find out together!

Bio: Abby Mintz is a senior at Yale University studying astrophysics and statistics. She is passionate about researching the origins of stars and galaxies, which she had a wonderful time doing as an MMA Astronomy Intern in the Summer of 2019. She has since conducted research on the turbulent conditions of star forming regions at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and continued her MMA research on the evolution of distant galaxies at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She believes that the best part of researching the cosmos is sharing the results with others and is looking forward to bringing the wonders of space to the MMA speaker series!

February 24th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST


Izzy Gaw Register

“The Debris Diet: How Microplastics are Infiltrating the Marine Food Chain”

One of the most pervasive anthropogenic stressors facing marine life today is plastic debris. In 2010, an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the ocean, and these input estimates are slated to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. One of the most challenging aspects of marine debris management is that over time plastics break down into microplastics (<5 mm in size) for which the total degradation time is unknown. Not only are these ubiquitous microplastics contaminating marine fauna and their habitats, but they also have the potential to absorb pollutants thus posing a threat to ocean food webs. After fauna ingest these pollutant-absorbent microplastics, the toxins can bioaccumulate and biomagnify, which can negatively affect fish behavior and physiology. While the effects of pollutant-absorbent microplastics are relatively well studied, the baseline physiological effects of uncontaminated plastics are not well understood. This talk will explore how fauna ingest these microplastics and what happens to the microplastics inside their bodies.

Bio: Izzy began her career in marine biology at the Maria Mitchell Aquarium. She stayed with MMA for a total of three seasons, where she rose from volunteer to intern then to co-manager with Jack Dubinsky. Izzy holds a Biology degree from Skidmore College, and is currently a master’s student in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa where she is studying the effects of microplastic ingestion on cryptobenthic Gobiid fish.

March 10th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST


Rachel Bowyer Register

“Hidden Patterns in Galaxy Motions: What They Can Tell Us About the Universe”

Galaxies move at hundreds of miles per second through space, yet they are so far away, that they appear stationary to us on Earth.  However, recent advancements in observing techniques have made it possible to observe the motion of hundreds of thousands of galaxies all across the sky.  These observations are revealing complex, streaming and swirling patterns in galaxy motions that are rich in information about our universe’s formation and evolution.  Specifically, these motions can tell us about the formation of structure in the universe and about primordial gravitational waves.  In this talk, I will discuss the emerging field of “real-time cosmology” and how patterns in galaxy motions can be used to study the early universe.

Bio: Rachel is an Astrophysics graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She researches cosmology and the early universe, specifically, what observed galaxy motions can tell us about gravitational waves and the formation of structure in the universe.  She began her research career at the Maria Mitchell Observatory in the summer of 2017.  At Maria Mitchell, Rachel worked on a project to map the dark matter structure in galaxy clusters using the effects of gravitational lensing.  Aside from research, Rachel enjoys undergraduate teaching and is interested in using the principles of Universal Design to develop accessible curriculum.  Rachel is committed to mentoring young scientists, and frequently serves as a mentor to women and minority undergraduates.

March 24th
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST


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