Recap: Emerging Professionals at the SPNHC Annual Meeting

The Emerging Professionals of SPNHC were very active at this year’s Annual Meeting of SPNHC in Gainesville, Florida. We hosted two events and held an official committee meeting, and even brought our own flyers to recruit newcomers. While we didn’t manage to live-blog the meeting (it was a busy week!), we still want to bring the highlights to those who weren’t able to make it to Gainesville. We’ll be following up on many of the projects that arose from discussions at the meeting, so it will still be possible to get involved. Read on to find out more!

Emerging Professionals Committee Meeting

We had a large group of approximately 30 emerging professionals attend the committee meeting this year! Katie Kirkham summarized our activity for the Web Committee (including our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and the blog). Stephanie Allen let us know that the winning t-shirt design will be run by SPNHC Council for approval before moving on to the printing and ordering stage. Kari Harris reaffirmed our committee’s purpose, which is to generate more activity and enthusiasm from new members to bring to the other committees. We additionally had several emerging professionals attend the meeting who expressed interest in getting even more involved with the committee, which is always great to hear!

One of our goals for the coming year is to recruit new membership to the Emerging Professionals and SPNHC. We discussed a possible Instagram account, as well as sending out flyers with the SPNHC booth as it travels to other professional meetings throughout the year. We also plan to network with museum studies programs that specialize in natural history collections to introduce them to SPNHC and the EPG as a resource that exists for them, and encourage them to join.


EPG flyers for this year’s meeting. Design and photo by Katie McComas (2015).

We also discussed future projects for the Emerging Professionals. A master list of museum studies programs worldwide has just been published on the SPNHC website! Many at the meeting mentioned that Facebook and Twitter would be good places to post job openings (and noted that the NHCOLL listserv is a great place to hear about jobs!). Finally, we are hoping to work with the Professional Development and Web committees on the SPNHC YouTube channel to create instructional videos for natural history collections work, as well as the upcoming SPNHC Wiki page that will serve as a resource for best practices.

Emerging Professionals Luncheon

This was the first luncheon hosted by the Emerging Professionals, and it was a great success! Kari Harris started with a brief introduction to the Emerging Professionals group, followed by SPNHC President Andy Bentley’s statement of support from the broader SPNHC membership. Gil Nelson was there to represent iDigBio and encourage the group to participate in iDigBio workshops. iDigBio generously sponsored the prize for the t-shirt design contest (a ticket to the SPNHC banquet), which Kari presented to Erica Krimmel, this year’s winner!


Kari Harris kicked off the luncheon at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Photo by Katie McComas (2015).


Gil Nelson (far left) told emerging professionals how to take part in iDigBio workshops and events. Photo by Kari Harris (2015).

Emerging Professionals Special Interest Group (SIG)

The first part of the SIG was set aside for informal presentation practice by emerging professionals. Gabrielle Maltaverne of South Dakota State University presented “Restoring Natural History Collections of Native Amphibians and Reptiles in South Dakota,” detailing the process of rescuing and adding to a teaching collection for use by students.

The second part of the SIG was a Q&A with an amazing group of established SPNHC professionals: Andy Bentley, Marcy Revelez, Melinda Peters, Tim White, Rusty Russell, Ann Molineaux, and Jeff Stephenson. We had a productive discussion, with a lot of insightful advice. For those unable to attend, you can find some of that advice below!

General tips:

  • Talk to everyone working at your museums, regardless of their focus area. Cross pollination is good!
  • Approach opportunities with an open mind. Don’t restrict yourself to a narrow area of work.
  • Participate in workshops, whether or not they are directly relevant to your current specialty.
  • Visit other collections to pick up tips and tricks.
  • Practice your presentations/poster talks with friends and close colleagues before presenting at a meeting.


  • Be a good listener. Take a few seconds to fully consider the question before answering, and be direct.
  • Show that you are enthusiastic and passionate with your answers.

When trying to get “generalist” jobs:

  • Come to SPNHC meetings to get a broader understanding of how other types of collections are managed.
  • Demonstrate your “collection sensibility.”
  • Be able to communicate the “so what” of collections in a way that encompasses all types of collections.

Professionalism in collection management:

  • The job is multi-faceted and requires a large skill set.
  • The old model of a collection manager is someone sequestered in a dusty collection; the new collection manager is a guide to the collection, facilitating access to specimens and data.
  • Museum studies programs are becoming more valued by employers. On-the-job experience is also highly desired (volunteer work and internships also count).
  • A background in some type of bioinformatics is welcomed. Collection managers are needed to increase the visibility of their collections and broaden the research impact of specimens.

Glossed over aspects of collections work:

  • You end up wearing multiple hats: outreach, education, and advocacy on top of collection management.
  • You’ll be working on multiple projects at the same time, and they may have no end point.
  • It amounts to more than a 40 hour per week job.
  • You’ll be dealing with budget challenges.
  • Advocating for your collection is advocating for your own job.

Next time on Cracking the Collections:

July 10 – Marcy Revelez describes her collection-based experience and gives some advice to emerging professionals in a post for Careers in Collections.