It’s a good time to be a Drexel Dragon interested in nature.
Over the last five years, the University has increased its programs and opportunities in the natural sciences in ways that were never available to past students and faculty. A partnership with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in 2011 not only gave all Drexel personnel free admission to the institution, but also spawned the creation of the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) in the fall of 2012. That department increased the degree programs, faculty, co-op and research opportunities offered to students. Now, there are more resources for students, even if you aren’t in those specific programs.
The Drexel Naturalists’ Association is open to every undergraduate student from any major who is interested in learning more about the flora and fauna in and outside of Philly. It also hosts an annual mixer for the BEES Department as well as connecting faculty and research groups with undergraduates.
College of Arts and Sciences students Vaughn Shirey, a junior environmental science major and bioinformatics minor, and Karly Soldner, a junior environmental science major, dreamed up the idea of the club in 2014. They made the club a reality one year later with Shirey as president and Soldner as vice president.
“Seeing as Drexel’s BEES Department was still fairly new at the time, we wanted to create an outlet where students from BEES — and other majors — could meet to discuss ecology, the environment and the natural sciences together. We also wanted to create opportunities for engagement outside of classwork,” said Shirey.
With Shirey as president and environmental science sophomore Ashleigh Jugan as the current vice president, the group now has about 40 members including students from the Biology and BEES Departments, and other majors across the University.
Fittingly, club meetings are often held outdoors on campus and off, and even outside of the city. Shirey plans to kick off the spring term with a short lunch trip to Kaskey Park, a botanical garden with a turtle pond that is located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
“We schedule a lot of outings to various parks within the county, especially the Wissahickon Valley Park, to explore and teach one another about various aspects that we all have learned during our time at Drexel,” said Shirey.
Of course, the Drexel Naturalists’ Association also finds plenty of nature in its surrounding urban environment. Future outdoor excursions are also popular in the spring and summer terms.
“There is a surprising amount of green space in the city as well as the collections at the Academy to explore,” said Shirey.
For the first time ever, the Drexel Naturalists’ Association plans to host hour-long events this term to discuss current events in ecology and evolutionary biology. These discussions will also provide opportunities for undergraduates to present their research in relevant fields.
If you’re interested in joining the organization, contact Shirey at Vaughn@drexel.edu.