GAINESVILLE, Fla. — YouTube science communicator Emily Graslie and award-winning author Robin Wall Kimmerer will be the 2021 keynote speakers for the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read Alachua County. The Big Read, a series of free virtual events that build community and highlight women in science, is produced by the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Alachua County Library District.

Two women standing and smiling
Keynote speakers Emily Graslie (left) and Robin Wall Kimmerer (right) will hold presentations and Q&As during the spring NEA Big Read. Left photo ©Aubrey Jane; right photo ©Dale Kakkak

Emily Graslie is the Chief Curiosity Correspondent at the Field Museum in Chicago and host of “The Brain Scoop,” a popular YouTube channel focused on sharing the behind-the-scenes work and research of natural history museums. She recently hosted a PBS television series called “Prehistoric Road Trip,” taking viewers on a paleontological journey through hundreds of millions of years. Her virtual keynote will take place Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. The first 25 local residents to register for the event can pick up a complimentary DVD of “Prehistoric Road Trip” at any Alachua County Library District location.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a plant ecologist and author of two award-winning books, including “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,” which centers on the interdependence of people and the natural world. Kimmerer is a professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Her virtual keynote will take place March 18 at 7 p.m. The first 100 local residents to register for the event can pick up free copies of Kimmerer’s books at any Alachua County Library District location.

Both keynote events will consist of a presentation by the speakers followed by a Q&A.

The NEA Big Read series showcases diverse voices and perspectives to broaden understanding of the world and bring people together through the joy of sharing a good book. As a continuation of the fall series, the 2021 events aim to inspire future scientists and encourage conversation and discovery.

“I’ve been seeing more engagement between the community and the library growing from the Big Read,” said Jasmine Tran, Alachua County Library District Adult Services Senior Manager. “People are excited to connect with the library and the themes of women and STEM in the series. I really hope that we’re demonstrating to children everywhere how fun it can be to be a scientist and showing them the endless possibilities for women in science.”

On Jan. 12, the last event about the award-winning memoir “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren will take place from 7 to 8 p.m.

“The final book meetup for “Lab Girl” will be an opportunity to hear from and ask questions to experts in mental health and storytelling. This is unlike anything we’ve done before,” said Florida Museum educator Chelsea Collison.

On Feb. 13, the “Girls Do Science” virtual event will allow attendees to meet scientists and educators, participate in demonstrations and learn more about becoming a scientist.

Image of three book coversFor younger community members, two book meetups feature an interview with the author, as well as presentations by marine biologists, entomologists and a paleontologist. The first children’s book meetup showcases “Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter” by Christine Evans on Jan. 30. This meetup’s target age is children in grades 1-5. The second is “Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science” by Jeannine Atkins on March 27. This meetup’s target age is children in grades 5 and up.

The spring event series is as follows:

For more information about the program’s activities, visit These virtual events are free, but registration is required.

The NEA provided a $15,000 grant to fund the series. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.


Writer: Ryan Helterhoff, 352-273-2032,
Sources: Chelsea Collison,; Jasmine Tran,
Media contacts: Kaitlin Gardiner,; Rachel Cook,