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Chocolate tasting, Jazz and Banjo Picking, Welcome Kirk Broders, Welcome Leila Nilipour, Smithsonian’s New Communication Chief visits STRI, Congrats Ummat and more

February 1, 2019

Chocolate tasting, Jazz and Banjo Picking, Welcome Kirk Broders, Welcome Leila Nilipour, Smithsonian’s New Communication Chief visits STRI, Congrats Ummat and more

Welcome Kirk Broders

New staff scientist Kirk Broders joins us thanks to the Simons Foundation microbiome initiative. Broders comes to STRI from Colorado State University where, as associate professor in Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, he improved prediction of plant disease spread and severity and developed genome-enabled surveillance systems and other quick responses to emerging pathogens. Previously, as a faculty member at the University of New Hampshire, he studied the ecology and evolution of invasive and emerging plant diseases. 

Originally from rural Nebraska, Kirk attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 2004. His 2008 doctorate in plant pathology is from The Ohio State University where he studied the ecology and epidemiology of soilborne pathogens of corn and soybean. Kirk also completed a post-doctoral position at the University of Guelph.

The first themes he will address include the impact of climate change on the spread and evolution of fungal pathogens and developing global models to predict the likelihood of new diseases. 

Welcome Leila Nilipour

The communications office would like to present Leila Nilipour, science and culture journalist from Panama City who previously worked for the Panama City mayor’s office and La Estrella de Panamá newspaper. She won Panama's Premio Nacional de Periodismo for best cultural journalism in 2017 and curated literary and writing workshops for the 2018 Feria Internacional del Libro. Leila is a founding member of Concolón, Panama’s first independent NGO dedicated to the promotion of nonfiction writing.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Texas and a masters in food policy and applied nutrition from Tufts University, Leila is fluent in Spanish, English and Farsi. Last year she helped to promote the Smithsonian’s Conservation Commons Initiative as their first writing intern, establishing a Smithsonian Voices blog and posting on the Twitter handle @earthoptimism.

Smithsonian’s New Communication Chief visits STRI

Julissa Marenco, who became the Smithsonian’s first Assistant Secretary for Communications and External Affairs in Feb., 2018, visited STRI for the first time in December. Marenco oversees the Smithsonian’s Offices of Public Affairs, Government Relations, Visitor Services and Special Events and Protocol in Washington, D.C.. Well prepared for this daunting role, she offers experience as chief external affairs officer at the Federal Communications Commission and four years as president of the ZGS Communications Station Group where she oversaw 13 Telemundo television stations, three radio stations and more than 200 employees.

Marenco had an inside look at government as an Environmental Protection Agency White House Fellow. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Rowan University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Throughout her career, Marenco has promoted bilingual communication initiatives and has emphasized the importance of latino participation in influential public roles.

Julissa Marenco (center), accompanied by Matthew Larsen and the STRI communications team. Photo by Jorge Alemán.

Cafeteria announcement

The STRI Cafeteria is scheduled to resume service on Monday, February 11.

Congrats Ummat

Tupper Fellow Ummat Somjee received a Company of Biologists grant to study metabolic rates in the New Zealand Giraffe weevil.

Chocolate tasting, Jazz and Banjo Picking

We are extremely fortunate to have enthusiastic and engaged friends on our Advisory Board and in the Fundación Smithsonian who gather several times a year to learn more about STRI’s new discoveries and educational programs.

Hosted by our Advancement team, they met in Panama from Jan. 5-8, joined by the Smithsonian’s new Assistant Secretary for Advancement, Rob Spiller. Special guest, STRI Emeritus geologist Tony Coates, was honored at the board dinner for his contributions to science and to the STRI community.

Among the highlights of this trip was a visit to the Agua Salud project, one of the most intensive studies of the impact of land use on carbon storage, water availability and biodiversity conservation in the world.  In the spirit of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the founding of Panama City, board members visited Panama Viejo and had an opportunity to hear from Ashley Sharpe and Nicole Smith Guzman about their ongoing archeological research.

At the board meeting, deputy director Bill Wcislo led a discussion about the impact on tropical biology research that STRI has had by supporting budding scientists who bring the newest information and technology. Our director Matt Larsen introduced the board to our three most recent staff hires: Ashley Sharpe, Sabrina Amador and Kirk Broders, who spoke about their research aspirations for the next several years.

“This visit was one of the best I can remember. We began with a jazz evening at Danilo’s, and terrific site visits to Agua Salud and Gamboa. Monday’s tours and chocolate tasting were very popular,” said Steven Hoch, chair of the Advisory Board. “The celebration of Tony Coates’s career brought out the best of what it means to be part of our vibrant community. At the board meeting we had an excellent turn-out of both boards, so thanks to those who travelled or had to leave families on a holiday weekend.”

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