Stories from the Field

Staff Spotlight: Lilly Pearson

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When your first outdoor adventure is a week-long wilderness canoe camping trip with your parents at the tender age of 18 months, you might have a hunch that nature is going to play a big role in your future! That hunch has certainly borne true in the case of Lillian "Lilly" Pearson, a researcher and educator who is driven by a desire to discover and share the wonder of the natural world with her students.

"When I look back to some of the reasons why I first started to appreciate the natural world and science, I think of my childhood fascination with museums, aquariums and nature collections," Lilly recalls. Her career path has taken her from field research to museum curating to a master’s degree in Marine Science and Geological Oceanography. Lilly now works as the Lab Steward at our Golden Gate campus, where she introduces students to the campus' lab spaces and marvels alongside her pupils at the marine lab's aquatic inhabitants.

My motto has always been "What good is my research if it is not communicated to others around me?" I enjoy the curiosity that science promotes, but I also want the curiosity to be channeled into actionable questions and solutions.
Lilly Pearson, Lab Steward at NatureBridge Golden Gate

Lilly grew up in Madison, WI and has called the Bay Area home since 2015, following some truly epic adventures that took her around the globe. "I let my desire to pursue outdoor adventure navigate my path forward after college and sought out research internships around the world: sailing 3,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean conducting oceanographic research, scuba diving in Israel to investigate evidence of tsunamis in archaeological sites, excavating fossils along the Panama Canal and finally ending up in California at Point Reyes National Seashore where I investigated human and natural threats to fossils in the park." After landing in California, Lilly decided to pivot from a research focus to an education-centered path. Those two passions—science and education—coalesced for her when she arrived at NatureBridge. 

"I strongly believe that the ways in which we are first introduced to concepts influences how we connect with them throughout our lives,” Lilly affirms. “I think NatureBridge presents unique opportunities for our students to deeply experience science and nature in ways they never have before, especially in a world where technology permeates almost every part of our lives. In particular I’ve appreciated how our programs can cultivate emotional ties to nature, [which is] the first promoting stewardship of our amazing planet."

I love showing our students that science is all around us and nature continually presents phenomena to examine and explore. I want to break down the image of science in a stuffy lab and show students that anyone can be a scientist and you can have fun conducting experiments outside. It doesn’t take a degree or title to spark curiosity, learn and take action in our outdoor world.
Lilly Pearson, Lab Steward at NatureBridge Golden Gate

Lilly was recently selected as a recipient of the prestigious Bishop-Marcus Award, a program that provides opportunities for NatureBridge staff to enhance their professional development, expand their personal horizons and bring part of what they gain back to the NatureBridge community. Lilly’s winning proposal, of course, centers the learning labs at the Golden Gate campus! She says: “My hopes for participating in the Bishop-Marcus program is to refresh our lab spaces so that they will continue to fascinate and inspire awe in our students for years to come. They represent a major attraction for students who come to our campus and I want to promote their longevity by learning more skills with which to steward and add to these spaces. I think we were all meant to continually learn throughout life and I’m excited to explore new topics and bring back useful knowledge and skills to NatureBridge.”

Congratulations, Lilly, and we can’t wait to see how your experiences as a Bishop-Marcus Award recipient impact your continued growth, your students and the entire NatureBridge community!

Lilly sits on a rocky shoreline wearing a rain jacket and tall rubber boats as she makes notes on a clipboard

Editor's note: Lilly Pearson is one of two recipients of the 2023 Bishop-Marcus Award. You can read about the other recipient, Sarah Sugarman, here.

Photos courtesy of Lilly Pearson

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