Susan Flowers

Tyson Education and Outreach Coordinator


"I've been coming out to Tyson regularly since 1994, so I have this unique long view. I think it used to be a place that interesting people came to, and they thought of it as a place. Now we think of it as a community.

We are used to expecting college students to rise to the occasion, to ‘sink or swim.’ And in a rigorous place like Washington University, that is a common philosophy. But, it might be a first job for those students or their first time in a scientific research community or even a research space. And it’s very unique because it is based at a field station and ecological environmental biology research is hot and dirty and hard. 

Isn’t the goal for everyone to move forward? We don’t want to weed people out. We want to bring them in. We’re never going to foster the next generation of environmental scientists if we’re weeding people out. I feel very strongly about that.

Now we have an unbelievable consciousness of cross-team interactions, collaborations, and community building. We are doing supportive programming for graduates, undergraduates, and high school students. The Thursday colloquium includes activities that round out the experience of being an apprentice at a field station community. We have career panels and some statistics workshops. We make research posters and practice presenting with two- and five-minute presentations.

Science is a human endeavor and the emphasis is on productivity a lot. Certainly when you're dealing with a summer field season where the science has to happen, the labor has to be done. But we need to pay attention to the people who are doing the science, by making sure that their questions are answered, that they have what they need, that they feel guided in a holistic way. Their physical safety and their mental well-being under extreme conditions is going to affect the group morale and then ultimately the productivity of the team. So if you want to get good science done, you need to pay attention to your people and create a good experience for them."

Susan supports all of the students and research teams at Tyson during the summer. Learn more about all of the Tyson education programs here.