The University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute launched in 2018 thanks to the vision and generosity of longtime museum supporters Jon and Beverly Thompson. In the five years since then, the TESI team has developed programs focused on our mission of communicating scientific research that advances public understanding of the Earth’s natural systems — air, water, land, and life.
Around campus and throughout the state, the Institute has become known for its Scientist in Every Florida School program (SEFS), public events, digital outreach, environmental leadership opportunities for UF undergraduates, and the ability to partner with scientists on education and outreach activities.
Through these efforts, we have reached key audiences including UF students, researchers at UF and throughout Florida, lifelong learners, policy leaders and decision-makers, and Florida K-12 public school teachers and students. We also have recruited dedicated TESI faculty, staff, and students all committed to making a positive difference for Florida’s future. As TESI’s founding director, it has been immensely rewarding to see how TESI has developed, gained brand recognition, and become a positive force, not just at UF, but throughout the state.
In addition to the initial gift from the Thompsons, TESI has been able to thrive thanks to philanthropic gifts from individuals and support from the Batchelor, Felburn, Smallwood, and Henry David Thoreau foundations. We also received major funding from the UF president and provost, the UF vice president for research, and the Florida Museum of Natural History. In 2022, we were awarded a major National Science Foundation grant to promote learning about artificial intelligence in Florida’s middle schools.
The Institute wouldn’t be what it is today without our many partners, not just at UF but throughout Florida. We sincerely thank you.
My term as founding director ends on June 30, 2023. In July, I will return to the Florida Museum as a faculty member— teaching, finishing up research, and advising students prior to my retirement from UF in 2024. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Megan Ennes, assistant curator of museum education at the Florida Museum and one of TESI’s founding faculty members, will be succeeding me as the next TESI Director. I wish her much success as she carries the TESI mission into the future.