In May, as part of a team of scientists with the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) from across the U.S., Dr. Brianna Zuber visited with several California Senators and Representatives during Congressional Visits Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Brianna is a Biology instructor at Mendocino College and was selected to attend Congressional Visits Day (CVD) because of Mendocino College’s unique field station, the Mendocino College Coastal Field Station (MCCFS).
Dr. Zuber has a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, and she teaches courses in Marine Biology and Botany as well as general sciences. She recently relocated from the southeastern U.S. to California in order to work at Mendocino College. She was drawn to the college to teach, conduct research, and participate in the community outreach opportunities associated with the Mendocino College Coastal Field Station. Upon taking the teaching position at Mendocino College in fall 2016, Brianna immediately became involved with the Friends of the Mendocino College Coastal Field Station and Natural Sciences as a faculty representative.
At CVD, Brianna was a spokesperson for the Organization of Biological Field Stations of which MCCFS is a member, and she provided a voice for the active role that Mendocino County plays in fostering environmental stewardship. She also relayed the role that the MCCFS plays in providing hands-on, experiential field education and STEM experiences for students of all ages as well as how the field station provides opportunities for citizen scientists and all nature loving community members to experience a beautiful piece of Point Arena.
The first day of the CVD event featured training and orientation to prepare BESC representatives for their congressional meetings with advice on how to communicate science to policymakers, information on federal trends in science funding, tips for successful meetings with policymakers, and an overview of the legislative process. The second day of the event featured Congressional meetings at the House and Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill. Brianna was part of a team of scientists from California, Colorado, and New York whose visits included a constituent coffee with Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) who talked about her support for the sciences. BESC representatives also met with Representative John Garamendi (CA) who discussed the importance of meeting with government officials that have not shown strong support for science in the past and also offered some suggestions to help BESC representatives hone talking points on issues such as STEM education, water quality and public health.
Brianna was the lead on a meeting with Denise Devotta, a member of Representative Jared Huffman’s (CA) staff. As a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow, Denise was extremely interested to hear about the work being done by the CA/CO/NY team, and the BESC team was lucky enough to meet with Representative Huffman and thank him for his robust support of science and natural resources. The day also included meetings with Chris Choi, a member of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (NY) staff; a meeting with staff of Senator Chuck Shumer (NY), as well as staff members of Senator Cory Gardner (CO), Senator Michael Bennet (CO), and Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO).
The BESC is co-chaired by staff of the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences and has organized the Congressional Visits Day event since 2003. The goal of CVD is to inform members of Congress and their staff about the importance of federal support for biological research, as well as provide participants with science policy training and networking opportunities. This year the participants included graduate students, faculty, and other science professionals who encompassed a wide range of research interests in the biological sciences.