JEDI Scholars Botany Week by Mary Haddad
This is a guest post by 2021 JEDI Biocollections Summer Scholars Program alum, Mary Haddad.
Botany week, where do I even start? I had trouble getting started on this post for a while, wondering how exactly to describe the biocollections experiences I’d had at Alameda. Do I talk about mounting, or specimen collecting or even the intricate organizational structure of the collections?
But out of all the techniques we refined during Botany week and fun facts we learned, the most impactful experiences I had at the herbarium were the ones directly spent with Dr. Elizabeth Makings - a brilliant botanist who took the time to allow us to explore the anatomical and phylogenetic aspects of different plants in and around the collections and our campsites. She was patient and extremely knowledgeable, with amazing energy - the kind of person you could bombard with questions and random fun facts who could dish them right back at you. I have never spent a more relaxed 2 hour car drive with someone I had barely met!
She took the time to get to know us, and facilitate meaningful experiences with plant specimens in the Herbarium - and entertain my random microscope related outbursts.
And taught us a ton about the very crafty process of mounting a plant specimen, which involves a surprising amount of glue and creativity.
Don’t get me wrong, I could have sat and just looked at plants under the microscope and mounted them for hours (and we did!), but a huge and very impactful part of the experience I had at ASU Biocollections was the actual people. We had the immense privilege of speaking with some of the kindest and most patient scientists - who really took the time to understand us and make sure our voices were being heard. People like Dr. Liz Makings, Dr. Kelsey Yule, Dr. Nico Franz, Dr. Sangmi Lee, Dr. Laura Rocha Prado, Dr. Dakota Rowsey, Laura Steger, Dr. Nathan Upham, Dr. Andrew Johnston and honestly so many others - I couldn’t even begin to name them all for fear of my blog post being simply an endless list of names.
I mentioned this on the last day of the program, but throughout the 6 weeks we were at the collections I finally felt the imposter syndrome start to melt away - something I honestly never thought possible. I will be grateful to the ASU Natural History Collection for the rest of my life, for giving us something that lasts even longer than fun facts and species identification skills - the confidence that myself and other students of color are an integral part of the scientific community. And beyond that seemingly obvious fact, the understanding we are more than simply the product of a diversity initiative. We are talented, strong, intelligent and ready to take on our futures:
Faith Cisneros, a brilliant poet with a love for science communication and the arts.
Marcus Reid, a gifted photographer with a passion for cross-sector leadership and inclusivity.
And Savage Cree Hess, a quick-witted molecular biologist with a talent for designing tabletop games.
I am very blessed to have gone through this program with these amazing people, and I am confident that we are ready to take the science and non-science world by storm.
Check out other posts by our program alumni outlining some of the highlights of this year’s ASU Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Biocollections Summer Scholars Program.