Saturday Mixer & Dinner
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Tsiory Andrianavalona
Tsiory Andrianavalona is a malagasy vertebrate paleontologist working on fossil sharks from the Cenozoic of Madagascar. She received her Doctorate from the University of Antananarivo in 2016. She is the co-founder of the ExplorerHome Madagascar Science Center, a Malagasy NGO working on science education and communication. She strongly believes that invested public involvement in “real” science is a change-making concept. Education is a powerful and promising tool to help shape the next generation of Malagasy people, who will be the decision-makers of tomorrow.
“Budding paleontologists: how enthusiasm for Paleontology fuels interest for STEM across a large audience.”
Madagascar is famous for its unique biodiversity and the high rate of endemism of its species. During the last decade, our understanding of the island’s fossil richness has greatly improved thanks to efforts of both Malagasy and international paleontologists working in sedimentary formations distributed across the island.
Nevertheless, the reality is also that many local Malagasy people do not understand the goals or value of this paleontological fieldwork, and may even feel that researchers have purely financial motivations. Raising awareness about the significance of this work among the broader public is a key part of successful continuation of this kind of work into the future.
To help promote this type of science appreciation, the Malagasy NGO, ExplorerHome Madagascar, brought high school students to experience paleontological excavation at the subfossil site of Analavory (Central Highlands of Madagascar) as part of their “Sciencing Out” program. “Sciencing Out” is based on the Science Investigation Learning model, and is designed to link together the general audience and specialist scientists from many different disciplines. Students are mentored primarily by Malagasy scientists, but includes key collaborations with international educators, storytellers and scientists. This program aims to facilitate better science communication, and to involve two main stakeholders: Scientists and non-scientists (including Malagasy citizens from all ages and backgrounds).
Education is the main focus of the program, but storytelling is also a powerful tool used by the participants to share their experiences among their peers and in their community. Storytelling raises awareness of the importance of scientists’ work to non-scientists, as it engages the audience and can build connection and inclusion. To make the experience as authentic as possible, ExplorerHome provides materials and supplies for the paleontological expedition, trains students in paleontological field methods, and provides training in leadership and storytelling. All components are geared towards an impactful and unforgettable experience to better shape local people’s perception of how both conservation and paleontology can contribute to efforts to preserve and appreciate Madagascar’s natural richness.
4:30 Drinks and Mixer
6:00 Dinner Seating
7:00 Keynote Presentation
8:00 Live Auction