Earth Optimism Teen Event

Free Earth Optimism Teen Event, Sunday, April 22, 1 to 4 p.m.

Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Free Event for Teens Ages 13-19



Come Celebrate Earth Optimism 2018: Climate Change and You!

Once again, Q?rius will be closed to the public and open only to a limited number of registered teens + conservation leaders, scientists, photographers, artists and more!

  • Be Empowered: Learn how you can get involved in climate change solutions
  • Be Informed: Talk with scientists, climate leaders, and engaged teens about climate science, impacts, and efforts
  • Get Involved: Get information on internships, opportunities, and places to go, locally and globally
  • Hang Out: Meet other local teens who are interested in science and enjoy free sustainable, local food

Teen Panel: Hear from teens about how they are being climate change leaders in their community.

Have the Talk: Climate Conversations

Climate change can be hard to talk about. Come learn how to have effective climate conversations so you can help others to see why we must prioritize taking action to protect our climate! Led by Brian McDermott from Alliance for Climate Education.

Smithsonian Recycling Challenge: This activity will be led by Dr. Eric Hollinger, an archaeologist who helps the Smithsonian study ways of reducing its environmental impacts by diverting its waste to recycling and composting.

Facilitators by Theme:



Caitlin Keating-Bitonti

Caitlin is a paleontologist who studies fossil single-celled marine organisms called foraminifera ("forams"). Foram shells are a great tool for understanding the links between climate change and organismal evolution in the oceans.

Paleontologist Caitlin Keating-Bitonti

Marion Le Voyer

Marion studies the chemical composition of volcanic rocks and gas to understand how water and carbon influence global systems. She is Interested in science education, science communication and diversity in STEM.

Geochemist Marion Le Voyer

Jessica Moerman

Jessica is a paleoclimatologist, which is just a fancy way of saying she studies how rainfall and temperature changed throughout Earth's history. Her research has taken her across the world – from Kenya to Borneo and Papua New Guinea – to collect geologic archives like cave stalagmites and lake sediments, which record past climate conditions.

Paeloclimatologist Jessica Moerman


Brian Coyle

Brian's fascination with biodiversity was inspired and fostered by a childhood filled with long days in the forest and camping trips up and down the U.S. east coast. After receiving his Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology from the University of Maryland, College Park, he started working on conservation of endangered species at the Smithsonian Institution.

Brian Coyle standing in front of trees with a yellow bird perched on his hand.

Kendra Chritz

Kendra is a postdoctoral fellow at the museum who studies the changing environments that influenced humans in the past and the present.

Earth's western hemisphere seen from space.

Sara Kaiser

Sara is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Smithsonian Center for Conservation Genomics. She uses genetic and genomic tools for understanding animal behavior and ecology. She wants her research to help people make decisions about wildlife conservation and management.

Sara Kaiser sitting with ocean surf behind her

Sarah Macey

Sarah manages flights and data processing for the Ecological Drone Program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Her research involves utilizing emerging technology to map forests and learn more about animal movement.

Intern Sarah Macey

Lilly Parker

Lilly uses DNA to study the diversity of life on Earth. She wants to understand what processes drove diversification in the past, and what processes are acting now. By understanding how species responded to climate change in the past, we can try to predict how they will be affected by contemporary environmental change and potentially help mitigate negative effects.

Lilly Parker working in the lab

Alicia Pérez-Porro

Alicia is a research associate at the museum in the Invertebrate Zoology department. She works with marine sponges by day and is a board member of the Spanish Scientists in USA non-profit by night. She started and chairs the Commission for Women in Science and is a proud member of the Homeward Bound 2018 team and a 2018 Women InPower fellow. 

Alicia Pérez-Porro holding a marine sponge in her right hand

Laetitia Plaisance

Laetitia is a coral reef ecologist at the Smithsonian Institution who studied in France and decided to travel the world to follow her calling: Studying the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs and raising awareness on how those beautiful and fragile ecosystems need our protection.

Woman with long, brown hair wearing a blue spaghetti-strap top. Behind her is water and a tree-covered shoreline.


Ajara Cobourne

Ajara is a junior at Cornell University studying Environmental Engineering. She is an active member of her community and is an advocate for education as a means of empowerment. She is excited about sustainability because it holds the potential to impact and improve lives at every level of society.

Earth's western hemisphere seen from space.

Allison Crimmins

Allison is an environmental scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency who specializes in climate change risks and impacts, especially on human health. She also co-leads EPA’s climate impacts and risk analysis project, which looks at economic benefits of global mitigation to the United States.

Environmental scientist Allison Crimmins

Anekha Goyal

Anekha is a freshman studying biology at Cornell University. She’s interested in sustainability and researches large-scale composting initiatives. Her academic interests range from communication to genetics, and in her free time she likes to dance and spend time with friends.

Anekha Goyal

Zeyu Hu 

Zeyu is a junior at Cornell University studying Environmental Science and Sustainability. He is currently the team lead for Project REDO, a venture that aims to develop an innovative way to manage and upcycle animal wastes from zoos.

Zeyu Hu standing in front of grapevines

Krista Jones

Krista is both an ecologist and a veterinarian who works on a variety of health issues in threatened and endangered wildlife. She is passionate about understanding how disturbances (like climate change) impact movement, behavior, and disease in wildlife. In her current position with the Smithsonian's Global Health Program, she focuses on projects in Kenya and elsewhere around the globe.

Krista Jones holding a baby kangaroo

Libby Milo

Libby is a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia. She manages the Nitrogen Footprint Network project, which involves working with institutions to calculate, track, and reduce their nitrogen footprints.

Libby Milo

William Orndorff

Will is an educator with the Alice Ferguson Foundation who teaches about the new Living Building on site. He talks with people about the environment and current solutions to address planetary challenges. 

William Orndorff holding a jar of green liquid

Krupa Patel

Krupa loves the outdoors, traveling, and photography. Her goal is connect kids to nature. She works for the Alice Ferguson Foundation as an educator, which has been an exciting and new experience that has pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Krupa Patel kneeling and holding a plant

Hannah Piester

Hannah is a junior at the University of Virginia who studies Environmental Science and Public Policy. Hannah's main interest is studying how we can make food systems more sustainable, and the role that individuals have in making this change. She is a principle investigator for UVa's Nitrogen Working Group, who are testing the effect of environmental cues on consumer behavior.

Hannah Piester


Alison Cawood

Alison grew up in rural South Carolina, where she began exploring science by filling her parents’ house with collections of rocks and leaves. She earned a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Now, she is the Citizen Science Coordinator at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, which allows her to work at the interface between science and outreach.

Earth's western hemisphere seen from space.

Victoria Herrmann

Victoria is the Director of The Arctic Institute, a nonprofit that researches environmental, social, and economic changes in the Arctic. She is a National Geographic Explorer and has traveled across the United States and its territories on a research and storytelling project to better understand how sea level rise and erosion is impacting coastal communities.

Victoria Herrmann, Director of The Arctic Institute

Theo Montgomery

Theo is a senior at Georgetown University, where he studies environmental and energy science associated with addressing climate change. He has experience in applying sustainability to communities, student government and entrepreneurship, energy consulting, and clean energy finance. He loves traveling and reading new things.

Theo Montgomery standing in front of a gray, stone building

Claudia Nierenberg

Claudia designs and directs research programs at NOAA to apply what we know about a changing climate to the practices and policies that will help society adapt. She works closely with other federal agencies, state, Tribes, non-governmental organizations and university scientists. Her Master's degree is in international affairs and her Bachelor's degree is in English literature.

Claudia Nierenberg wearing a scarf


Ben DeAngelo

Benjamin helps run an office at NOAA that supports climate research to better understand and prepare for a changing climate. He has worked for 20 years to advance research and actions to protect our global environment.

Benjamin DeAngelo, deputy director NOAA Climate Program Office

Emily Osborne

Emily is a scientist in the Arctic Research Program at NOAA. She uses fossils preserved on the ocean floor to reconstruct what the ocean and global climate was like in the geologic past.

Emily Osborne, NOAA scientist

Adria Schwarber

Adria is an interdisciplinary climate scientist, aspiring science policy advisor, and (self-described) hilarious person. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland investigating short-term climate responses. When she isn’t working, she’s serving in a variety of volunteer roles, including as a local science fair judge. She loves talking about her passions, especially her native state of Kentucky. In her free time you can find her hiking or trying new outdoorsy activities.

Earth's western hemisphere seen from space.

Karen Romano Young

Karen is an author, illustrator, and deep-sea diver. She has written more than two dozen books for children and teens and is the creator of the science comic #AntarcticLog. Much of her work is based on experiences in the field with scientists.

Karen Romano Young