Shannon Pelini, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY
LIFE INSIDE THE LAB
What is your work/research topic? A description of my research program c/o my husband: We examine how global change—climate change, nutrient pollution, fire,etc.—affects organisms (mostly land invertebrates) and overall ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon cycling, plant production). This is a big picture lab that loves to get dirty! Insects, spiders, soil, crops, carbon, nitrogen, the list of cool shit they study goes on! We have adapted our research to fit a variety of locations and topography. Tropical latitudinal gradient issues? No problem; we’ve studied climate change on the Big Island in Hawaii. Looking to study in the forest where no one will hear you scream? You will find us research at the University of Michigan’s biological station in Pellston. How about some good old flat farmland? Midwest Ohio is our experimental playground, too.
Shannon Pelini is an Assistant Professor at Bowling Green State University. Follow Shannon on Twitter @PeliniLab.
What was your best day of science? I think if there were only one day that stood out I wouldn’t want to continue doing science. The only way to keep moving forward is to have small victories every day!
What was your worst day in science? Unfortunately my first summer of being a faculty member, someone moved my experiment without consulting me and the bugs were put in a place that was not conducive to life. The bugs were killed and it was out of my control. This was the same week that I was accused of almost burning down the field station and one of my undergraduates was almost kicked out of the program.
What did/are you study at university? I looked at how populations of butterflies from different locations within the Pacific Northwest responded to climate change.
What does your average day look like? I come in and check my email. Look at the google calendar and assess the deadlines. Turn on the gansta rap all the way and get through scheduled meetings, drop in’s (tears optional), more emails, and writing. Peppered throughout this, guilt of not writing enough, screwing around on Twitter and Facebook, and assessing the meaning of life. Sometimes I teach and read evaluations of my teaching (cue more assessment of the meaning of life and swearing).
What are some of the highlights of your career? Getting publications in high profile journals (PNAS, Ecology, Global change Biology, Science Advances) particularly when I did the research with my students. I love watching my students run into the lab just exploding with enthusiasm because of something they found, a hurdle they’ve overcome, or a cool experience they just had! I also enjoy presenting, but only verbally. Brainstorming is my favorite part about science. Talking to other scientists is so intellectually rewarding and gives me so many new ideas. Maybe more than that, I love when students tell me they loved my class or that they changed their major because of my class. You know what, I just love everything about science.
What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? My subwoofer. Music is to me what coffee is to many people. I take my coffee with cream and shaken by the beat.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF LAB
Where did you grow up? Northeastern Ohio.
What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? Medical Doctor because I was a girl and I was good at science. That’s what people told me to do.
What do you do to relax outside of lab? Gangsta rap. Gym. Reality TV. All things glitter. Coloring…with glitter pens.
Do you have any pets? No, but does a six year old Tasmanian devil-like child count? In the lab we have giant millipedes (TOTES ADOBES!).
Do you have any fun hobbies? See two questions above. I think those are all fun!
If you want to talk about your family, what is your family life? How did your family develop alongside your career? I have one child, who born while I was a postdoc. My husband wanted to have a child while I was in grad school. I always pushed it off because there was always another degree or project I was pursuing. Finally, during my postdoc I realized that I was never going to say ‘yes’ because there was always more work for me to do. I had to allow the decision to be taken out of my hands (or head, really). So hubby and I went out to Friendly’s (which is now closed) and flipped a coin to decide if we would be parents or not. The coin landed heads and now I have an amazing son. Though it feels odd that I have a child because of a coin flip, I wouldn’t have wished the outcome to be any different. Our son, Oliver, is now 6 and has some special needs that impact his interactions with other people. Mothering him has dramatically altered my view of people. What others may see as a weird kid (or undergrad or faculty member!) throwing a tantrum, I see as a person who is potentially struggling with sensory overload or crippling social anxiety. Or maybe he or she is an asshole. It’s a fine line, but I’m very cautious in my assessments now.
Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I had an amazing opportunity to visit the Galapagos through a travel course in undergrad. It really opened my eyes to the study of ecology. From then on I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I always wanted to know the answers to what happens in the world. Like most humans, I want to be a badass and being a scientist makes me feel like a badass. I love answering questions.
What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Self doubt stemming from anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. Still a problem.
What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I wanted to be a badass.
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Don’t think about yourself as a girl in science. Anyone can do science.
Are there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now, and why? Jessica Hellmann (PhD advisor successful at delivering science into national policy), Aimee Classen (informal advisor since graduate school. She’s a direct, no-bullshit person. Helped me see around the roadblocks to the success), I also admire May Berenbaum and Mary Power who are both eminent ecologist. I’m drawn to them because they have done transformative research AND their joy for science is transparent and infectious!
What is your favorite book? I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s work (e.g., The Tipping Point) and recently I discovered The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. I believe he is my spirit animal. As a mom I’m partial to Go the F**k to Sleep, especially when narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
What is your favorite desk snack? Coffee, with bassJ
What is your favorite cartoon? It has to be Transformers given how much I have to watch it with my son.
What would you listen to while writing? Gangsta Rap! Modern hip hop, trashy pop too. But NEVER Pitbull (a.k.a., Mr. Worldwide- blech). Never!
What was your favorite subject in high school? Biology
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? A glittery lava lamp.
Organization nut, or curated chaos? I walk the fine line between the two.
Any other fun fact about you… There is a wonderful song about me entitled Shannon MF Pelini (you guess what the MF stands for).
What color socks are you wearing? Sparkly blue (but I wish they were glittery).