Something smells fishy.

A few weeks ago, the Raleigh News Observer reported that Dr. Margaret Lowman, known to many in the science communication field as Canopy Meg, was going to be “shifted” out of her position as Director of the Nature Research Center. Her new position as “ambassador” appears to carry no significant responsibilities, and no one reporting to her.

This seems to be a massive waste of talent.

I have been following Canopy Meg on Twitter since I met her at Science Online a few years ago. The same day as the announcement, I happened to see this tweet:

Just launched a new NSFgrant on canopy ecology & water bears w/mobility limited students! Treetops or bust! http://t.co/nC1voKjE9D

— Meg Lowman (@canopymeg) June 5, 2013

I remember telling my husband about it as we walked to lunch. I couldn’t get over what a thoughtful, integrated research program this was – increase representation of mobility limited scientists, increase awareness of mobility issues, do cool science. It was a win-win-win. It wasn’t until later that same day that I saw a few more tweets of local Raleigh folk posting news of Canopy Meg’s “reassignment.”

There has been no news since the original story. No answers for those of us who are great admirers of Canopy Meg as a scientist, a communicator, and a female leader. I have heard that there are many outstanding female scientists who are devastated by the restructuring of the Nature Research Center’s leadership, and especially the loss of Meg.

The Nature Research Center’s core mission according to its website is to “bring research scientists and their work into the public eye, help demystify what can be an intimidating field of study, better prepare science educators and students, and inspire a new generation of young scientists.” This seems inconsistent with the restructuring going on there, especially removing a woman who has done so much for science and underrepresented people in science.

If you’re as angry as me, there are three things you can do.

  1. Letters of objection to the decisions and/or support for Meg could be e-mailed to one or more of the following major players:

    • Emlyn Koster, Ph.D. - Director, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
    • Brad Ives, J.D. - Assistant Secretary, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
    • John Skvarla, Ph.D. - Secretary, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
    • George House, J.D. - Chair, Advisory Council, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
    • Mike Murphy - Board Chairman, Friends of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences
    • Rob Christensen - News and Observer political reporter who broke the story
    • Lisa Sorg - Editor, INDY Week
    • To all of these I would recommend that you cc Mark D. Johnson - Director, External Affairs, NC Museum of Natural Sciences

  2. Comment directly on the Raleigh News and Observer article announcing Meg's "reassignment" - this thread is read far and wide across the capital and surrounding area: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/05/2941409/star-scientist-out-as-head-of.html
  3. Share this blog post far and wide. Ask your friends to join you in asking what this restructuring will accomplish, and how the Nature Research Center could possibly fill the void without Canopy Meg.

I’m hoping the advisory board of the museum and/or the director of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences will have something to say about all of this, and soon. Women in leadership positions in the sciences are rarities, and Canopy Meg embodies all of the things I wish to be as a scientist: kind, thoughtful, engaged, ridiculously smart, and encouraging. She has done so much for women and other underrepresented groups. Now it’s time for us to do something for her.