Engaging the public with science

By Kelsey Otley

Before I started at Bigelow Laboratory, non-profits had never been on my radar. However, I quickly learned when searching for internships that mission-driven organizations are something I can really get behind.

Being a Global Studies major, when I first arrived at Bigelow, I knew very little about the ocean and what it contains. As I began my tour of the facilities, I was not expecting to be filled in on the intricacies of the work being done on this impressive campus by anyone other than a scientist. However, even those not in the research labs at Bigelow are just as involved with cutting-edge science. In that hour I learned more about the microbial life in the ocean than I had in any science class—and it was told to me by a French Studies major.

The work to fund a non-profit is certainly no easy task. This internship has opened my eyes to the grand amount of effort and constant outreach that is necessary to maintain a great relationship between donor and laboratory. I assisted in writing personalized thank you notes and sending material to donors that reveals the impact of their support.

Throughout the summer, I also helped out at the weekly Café Sci series and the annual Open House. It was incredible how many people showed up from what seems like such a small coastal town. I was amazed at the passion that Boothbay has for ocean research. We made sure that everyone who walked in the door was greeted and recognized for supporting our organization, even if it was by simply showing up.

Before these events, I worked to distribute material around the Boothbay region to increase awareness of the events and the important ocean research that Bigelow pioneers. I was surprised by how happy local innkeepers and store owners were to advertise our events and research, but this goes to show what a great relationship the Advancement and Communications teams maintain with the local community. I was able to partake in making a good impression on local businesses when asking to advertise our work and help gain support in the area.

The summer events were a chance for our team to interact with many of our supporters. With the guidance of my mentor, Dana Wilson, I worked to make every guest feel appreciated and welcome to explore the science that goes on as a result of our generous donors. This is what fundraising is all about. We need donors to know what a significant role they play in our ability to perform such ground-breaking research, and we need to spread the word beyond the immediate region about what a huge impact this research can make. Connecting with everyone that comes to the lab is important in expanding our support network.

This internship has taught me a lot about the importance of maintaining good relationships with the partners, supporters, and local community surrounding a non-profit organization. In this institution celebrated worldwide for its oceanographic expertise, non-scientists play an equally essential role in the mission.

Kelsey Otley worked as an Advancement Intern during summer 2019 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. A Maine native, she is a student athlete at Colby College, due to graduate in 2020 with a major in Global Studies and concentrations in managerial economics and anthropology. Her mentor Dana Wilson graduated from Colby College in 2000.

Engaging the public with science