Nature just comes naturally to Gabi Thompson.
Gabi Thomspon is a conservation educator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and a program assistant for the Urban Advantage Science Initiative. Gabi earned her B.S. in biological sciences from Florida International University and is currently working toward a masters/PhD in biology. When she’s not studying plants, she’s talking about them and their relationship to conservation biodiversity.
How did you become interested in conservation and biodiversity?
My interest in conservation and biodiversity runs deep in my family. In Jamaica, my grandmother has had her orchid nursery for as long as I can remember. She knew which plants to bring near the veranda so that we can watch the hummingbirds in the early morning. I learned from her that coexistence with nature is possible and beautiful. My mother and father also exposed me at a very young age to different types of science they love learning about. That joy is now my joy. Even during the hardest moments when academic advisors, professors, peers, and colleagues discouraged me, I would reflect back to my favorite experiences to remind me why I do it.
How would you describe your research interests?
My research interests are in ecological conservation. In general, I am interested in studying the relationship between humans, wildlife, and their shared environments and how to preserve that.
Who inspires you in STEM?
My family. As a first generation American, I am very fortunate to have been introduced to STEM at such a young age. From my grandmother and mom teaching me botany and agriculture to my father teaching me the world of astronomy and engineering, they have kept my interest in STEM alive everyday.
If younger you could see where you’re at now, what do you think they would say?
My younger self would be so ecstatic! Especially knowing that one day she would walk through the Hall of Biodiversity, at the American Museum of Natural History, to get to WORK. She would be relieved that all the discouragement meant absolutely nothing in the end.
What would you say to others thinking about pursing a masters or PhD in biology?
Highly recommend it, there are so many avenues this can take you if you have a variety of interest in science. Before applying, set your intentions and shop around for programs that share your values. Especially for women of color, we need to look extra closely at what the program has to offer for us. Is there someone I would like to be mentored by? What actions is the school taking that exemplifies that they support people of color?
What’s something about your field that you wish others knew about?
Not all biologist are paid for their research efforts but they can be recognized for it. There is a competitive side for grants and stipends to continue their work. Overall, they do it because they actually care about our world. Some become educators, professional development providers, park rangers, and zookeepers while they continue their work on the side. You have to be adaptable and persistent.
Also, in today’s world, you cannot be a biologist and not an activist. Everything we do is to learn, with the intention of improving, our world and local community because it is all intersectional.
Follow Gabi on Instagram at @gabishine for more biodiversity and conservation!