Museum staff member helps researchers connect with the public


Eleanor Gardner | Outreach & Engagement Coordinator | KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum

Eleanor Gardner brings KU research to the public.

Gardner has been the outreach and engagement coordinator at KU’s Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum since 2017. She holds a master’s degree in geology from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Agnes Scott College.

“Eleanor’s background in science is an important aspect to creating engaging visitor experiences and outreach activities,” said Teresa MacDonald, associate director of informal science education at the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum. “Her science knowledge — alongside years of experience, enthusiasm for sharing science and willingness to try new things — produces successful outreach programming and creates a positive and productive working environment with colleagues.”

Gardner’s responsibilities include helping researchers plan and execute broader impacts activities, which are required for National Science Foundation grants. These activities can include events and other educational programming aimed at enhancing scientific literacy, bolstering STEM education or increasing participation of underrepresented communities in science — anything that leverages research to provide tangible societal benefits.

One of the broader impacts activities that Gardner manages at the BI/NHM is the Scout Program. She works with local troops to pique young people’s interest in science while they earn badges. She also coordinates the Mobile Museum Program, which brings museum collections and hands-on activities to communities throughout Kansas. One mobile museum tour included specimens and casts of more than 90 species that allowed families who may not be able to visit the museum to explore microorganisms found in their local environments.

“Eleanor’s position involves coordinating a lot of different elements with multiple entities for our outreach programming, such as recruiting facilitators, liaising with numerous partners for onsite and offsite activities, providing support to presenters, setting up spaces and much more,” MacDonald said.

“She is adept at the patience, persistence and flexibility required to organize and plan all these moving parts to ensure a successful and positive experience for visitors and collaborators.”