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How do you become a scientist?  What’s it like to be a scientist?  What do scientists learn about? Can anyone be a scientist?

As we kicked off the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read programming on Saturday, Sept. 19th, 2020 with a Lab Blitz, these are the questions we sought out answers to!

The NEA Big Read is a series of free events building community in Alachua County by uplifting the stories of women in science. The program is a partnership between the Florida Museum of Natural History and Alachua County Library District.

Over the next 6 months this dynamic program will explore the memoir Lab Girl by award-winning scientist Hope Jahren and other titles for our younger participants including Swimming with Sharks, Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist and Finding Wonders.


The Lab Blitz scientists included:

Over the course of the program, these scientists from a variety of backgrounds and career levels shared their stories, specimens, and sage wisdom to an engaged audience full of science-curious listeners.

Intertwined with seeing cool stuff, we heard three main takeaways from the Lab Blitz panel:

  1. The path to science is rarely, if ever, a straight one!
  2. Anybody can be a scientist (in fact you probably are one already)!
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

I’m sure Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl, and the many women scientists from history featured in the Big Read children’s books like Eugenie Clark, Evelyn Cheesman, and Mary Anning would agree!

To see the program for yourself and find out what neat specimens the scientists brought to the show and tell portion, watch the video here:


To learn more about the topics presented by the scientists check out the resources they shared!

Pressing plants:

Making a plant press:

Tree of Life:

Mint Minutes (episode 1):

Citizen Science Opportunities:

About the Miami Blue butterfly:

Insects of North America field guides:

More on invertebrate fossils:

More environmental archaeology info:

Get help identifying all the cool stuff you observe with iNaturalist!