Rock Solid

By Hannah Wallace August 31, 2008

Brynne Anne Besio has had a colorful career, starting with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Now she’s executive director of the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium, a job she says combines two loves: science and nonprofit work.

“I received a master’s in geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, but grew up near Pasadena, Calif. There were rocks everywhere. To me, it was fascinating to think about—we live on this earth, so we might as well understand how it was formed.

“I was referred to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) by a fellow student in geology field school. I worked for JPL in Pasadena for the summer and then part-time while I was in graduate school, studying the geology of Colorado’s oil shales. I was building geological support for the engineers who were studying how to extract the oil; there was a lot there, but it was hard to find. This was in 1977, so JPL was working on all kinds of other things, too; I was able to tour the labs and see all of the great engineering projects. It was eye-opening to see what everyone was doing—working on robotic arms [for space exploration], for example.

“After graduating in 1979, I worked for the Amoco Production Company for seven years doing field work and geologic projects. After that, I went to work for the Girl Scouts and designed environmental studies for older girls. Following the Girl Scouts, I went to Seattle and worked for the Puget Sound Blood Center as a manager of their volunteer programs and donor recruitment. I moved to Philadelphia and worked for the Girl Scouts again, this time in development. Then in 2003, I came to Sarasota. I started with the Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida as chief operating officer, but when this job opened up I took it, especially since it integrated science and nonprofit. All of my jobs have been related to science and health in some way, and I’ve enjoyed every industry I’ve been in. My message to young people is keep your options open. You need to build layers of credentials so that you can cross industries—I think it’s critical.” —Megan McDonald

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