Geopolicy Internship

Virtual Policy Internship: Wrap Up

(This following is a report from Lyndsey Farrar and Stephanie Plaza-Torres, Paleontological Society / AGI Policy Interns)

I am extremely grateful to the Paleontological Society and the American Geosciences Institute for the opportunity to participate in the policy internship this summer. I have always been curious about how science and policy intersect and to see how our government operates. This summer I have seen this process firsthand through virtual congressional hearings on a variety of topics such as the expansion of national parks, the domestication of mineral supply chains, and the impact of COVID-19 on environmental justice.

My passion has always been collections and outreach and through this internship I had the opportunity to learn about how museums around the country and abroad, both big and small, public and private, operate. I was able to interview a wide variety of museum professionals and paleontologists, many of whom I would not have been able to meet with during a traditional AGI internship in Washington D.C. This internship turned out to be a great networking opportunity that would now have been possible without the virtual experience. I was also very grateful for the interactions that I had at the GSA annual conference and the excitement about our project was very encouraging. 

Seeing how museums have adapted during the pandemic has been surprisingly encouraging. Many institutions were able to ramp up efforts on digitization while the staff was working from home. The amount of virtual outreach has exploded. I believe that outreach, especially virtually, is important for the future of museums. With virtual outreach, museums are able to reach people they may not have traditionally and people may now be able to learn about paleontology that they may not have access to otherwise.   

-Lyndsey Farrar


Thanks to the Paleontological Society and the American Geosciences Institute for giving me the experience of being part of the policy world [virtually] for a summer. Before I started the internship, I felt a need to start exploring other social aspects of science and getting involved in efforts to push the paleontological community forward through policy, in addition to research.

This summer I got the chance to meet a wide variety of paleontology professionals, from the federal government, up to private institutions and museums, and even non-profit organizations. From them I learned the hardships that everyone faces to keep their institutions running, and all the efforts that individuals are putting towards making paleontology accessible, through educational resources, access to fossils, outreach, and research. It is not an easy task to increase transparency and accessibility, but the paleontological community is making strides forward. In particular, I got to learn about the intricacies of digital data. How connecting fossils to their publications can increase transparency of research, how the community is working together to develop standards to manage digital data, and how people are pushing forward innovative resources like 3D models of specimens, CT scan data, comprehensive museum directories, and other supplemental datasets from georeferencing and geochemical analyses.

If there is a main takeaway I took from this summer, it was that every contribution to hearing the scientific community’s needs counts, and that advocating for what you think is right and necessary in society can make a difference even if it is a small contribution. I hope that after this experience I keep getting involved either in my university community at the University of Colorado Boulder, at my local government, and with people outside the scientific community.

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to Christopher Keane and Sandy Carlson. They were amazing mentors that made this experience unique. I am grateful for their mentorship and guidance.

-Stephanie Plaza-Torres

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