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International Planetarium Society Election 2006
A. Proposed Amendments to the IPS By-Laws
B. Candidate Statements
Lee Ann has been a member of IPS since 1972 and a planetarian and astronomy teacher since graduating from college. She teaches at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia. Lee Ann has a B.S. in Astronomy/Mathematics and an M.S. in Secondary Science Education/Astronomy from the University of Maryland and accrued numerous post grad credits in astronomy and astronomy ed. courses. She has served on many committees, held offices, and participated in conferences associated with IPS, MAPS, and other organizations.
I have had the privilege of serving as IPS Secretary since 1995 and have managed to increase my level of efficiency with each year of experience. The secretary’s position requires attention to detail, accurate record keeping, and organization and communication skills. Although these issues are not unique to the secretarial position, they are crucial to the effectiveness of the office. The last two terms of office saw an increase in the electronic/computer nature of how our organization is growing and also how it can impact secretarial duties and objectives.
I am grateful for the opportunities and experience I gained from my positions in MAPS and other organizations and situations which allowed me to learn and practice many of the skills that are required in this office. Working with the IPS Council has been rewarding and the members have been most supportive in my endeavors. It has been a pleasure serving as secretary and I hope to continue to carry out the goals and philosophy of IPS and will do my best to make it a stronger organization for the membership.
The IPS is a fine organisation that gives us access to a wealth of information and ideas, plus providing a gateway to a network of our peers to inspire and be inspired by. The happy result is that we continually find better ways of sharing with the public our great enthusiasm for the cosmos. So should I be fortunate enough to be elected as IPS President-Elect, there would be four broad areas, listed below, that I would like to focus on to ensure you continue to receive great value for money as IPS members.
I’ve given active service to the IPS for 12 of my 16 years of membership. I am a well known face at both IPS and regional conferences, and, I love what I do. I would like to make our work even better than it is by helping to shape the IPS activities from the top table, encouraging the IPS Council to continue to inspire you all. It would be an honour to serve you all on Council, and help this proud organisation guide the profession through the exciting waters that lie ahead for us, as we continue to show the public the Universe’s mystery and beauty. What better job is there than that?
My Space Education History
Service To IPS And Other Planetarium Associations
Ten years ago when I moved back to Ireland to take up my post at Armagh, I created my own mid-life crisis. It involved no hot cars or hot babes, but a blowsy Planetarium, which had seen better days. For the past ten years she has been my mistress as I have striven to renew her name and re-establish her reputation. Armagh Planetarium is now back on the world stage and is a modern 21st century facility that can match any similar-sized planetarium in the world. It is operated by a band of dedicated hand-picked professionals all of whom share my passion for science communication. Our aim is to spread the word about the amazing things that populate our planet and the cosmos: to do this we need to operate with pride, professionalism and passion.
It is even more important that we leaven our seriousness with a sense of humour, as we must show that doing science is great fun. It plays to all of our human strengths, curiosity, experimentation, what’s over the next crater rim, under this lava flow or beyond where our eyes can see. Astronomers have to be crafty, as the experiments need to be carried out with the utmost precision, but yet be clever enough to exploit the basic physical laws that we think rule throughout the cosmos. We also need to be humble, and an honest "don’t know but let’s find out more together” is preferable to the bluster I sometimes overhear adults giving their children in museums.
The IPS is an amazing organisation. We have been exceedingly well served by people dedicating much of their time to the smooth operation of the society. I am seriously impressed with all of the time and commitment that is freely given. I also am acutely aware that in our western culture we are blessed with resources that many of our colleagues in the developing world would find overwhelming, given that they often operate on a shoestring. During my time in Africa I was careful to make sure that things I showed people could be duplicated with items that could be classified as throw aways, or more bluntly, rubbish. I have always enjoyed drawing and sketching and making things with my hands. Working with primary children enables me to keep on doing this. It is a great challenge to fire people’s enthusiasm to emulate simple things to explain basic truths. Children love to experiment, and I suppose that at heart I am still a big child, as I still like to work with them. IPS needs to expand its activities into those areas of the world where people are plentiful but resources are few. We already have programmes that make a difference, I am sure that we could do more.
Another special interest I have is in working with children and adults with disabilities. This can be very challenging, but I believe that we must include everyone, and provide to the best of our professional ability opportunities to see through telescopes, make rocket models and do all of the other things that we do with our usual audiences. I know that there are lots of others out there doing this type of work, and would look forward to finding time to do more of this as Armagh’s programmes mature further.
I once wrote this as a contribution to a book chapter:
I think that this summarises how I feel about what our mission is, to fire up the imaginations of our new rocket scientists and to enthuse them with the same awe that I feel when confronted with the wonderful variety of our Universe. They are the future of our science and our species. I would be pleased to carry this through as my mission should you choose to elect me.
Thomas Robert Mason MBE BSc (Hons.) PhD
I was born on March 4th 1949 in Belfast, Northern Ireland and I always have been interested in the natural world. I trained as an Earth Scientist at the Queen’s University of Belfast where I graduated with a BSc Honours in 1971 and completed my doctorate in July 1974. I immediately emigrated to South Africa and took up a lecturing post at the University of Natal in Durban. I went out on a two year contract an eventually stayed and worked there for 22 years. When I resigned my post in 1996 I had been promoted to an ad hominem research professorship (personal chair) and had researched and published over 50 papers and popular articles on many different earth science topics including: coal deposits; marine heavy minerals; the evolution of dinosaurs and mammal-like reptiles; as well as discovering examples of 3 billion-year-old stromatolite fossils in northern Natal. If there are fossils of ancient life forms on Mars, they may look like terrestrial stromatolites. Part of my more recent research work was working with trace fossils (burrows, footprints etc) from ancient sedimentary flood deposits in the central part of the hyperarid Namib Desert. I was working on the interpretation of the Namibian climate when this desert was much wetter. A highlight of my desert field trips was lying back on a steep sand dune as the sun sank into the horizon and viewing the spectacular southern skies.
As a research Professor I was responsible for changing the Geology Department’s Museum into a dynamic display centre specialising in live presentations to school children, as well as performing public outreach programmes for the general public throughout Natal.
I returned to Ireland in 1996 to become Director of the world famous Armagh Planetarium. For the past 10 years I have been responsible for the fund-raising, mission conversion and planning that has culminated in the re-opening of the modernised Armagh Planetarium in July 2006. The refurbished Planetarium has a completely redesigned display space with exhibits funded and sponsored by Hewlett Packard, the European Space Agency and the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. Armagh’s all new Digital Theatre is a fully immersive all-dome projection system powered by our Digistar 3. Armagh Planetarium’s educational Outreach team is reckoned to be one of the best available, and the Planetarium has a formidable international reputation. I am the President of the British Association of Planetaria, and serve on the IPS council. I am familiar with the processes and procedures of the IPS Council and would be honoured to serve as president elect. I have been a member of the International Planetarium Society since 1996. I was honoured to be awarded the MBE in 2005 for services to astronomy education in Northern Ireland.
As our main theatre has been closed for 5 years prior to the re-opening in July, I worked in our portable planetarium as part of the Armagh education team, which has spoken to over 100000 visitors in the small dome. I therefore am familiar with the operation of both inflatable and fixed planetaria.
As a community, we face many daunting tasks: perceived competition between planetariums, unstable financial landscapes, and the need to track the ever-advancing forefront of scientific discovery. I strive to create new avenues of communication, collaboration, and mentoring among domes of all sizes — large, small, and in between. I plan to increase interaction and consultation between research astronomers and planetarians, to promote professional development in the Society, and to encourage cooperation in the face of rapidly changing technology.
Currently, I manage all aspects of public programming for New York City’s Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. I work at a big dome now, but I’ve also worked in a small dome (operated, as so many are, with spit and a prayer) at Trailside Nature & Science Center in New Jersey. I know the pros and cons of both environments. IPS has occasionally been perceived as a "big dome club," but I perceive it as a community that encompasses a full spectrum of professionals.
The advent of fulldome video is revolutionizing our industry. We face a common challenge of technology and its associated costs. Gone are the days when we could spend a large sum of money for equipment that lasted several decades. All of us, large and small alike, need to consider this dilemma, and with effort, we can help each other through the transition.
We need continuing efforts not just biennial meetings. For starters, let’s launch a database or wiki of great writing, words, descriptions, stories, videos — a place where mythology meets science.
In the past dozen years, there has been a shift in the way professional astronomers view education in general and planetariums in particular. Without associated outreach activities, many research grants lose their competitive edge over rival proposals. Now is the time to foster partnerships that can maintain our relevance to the frontier of discovery, and I can help solidify those connections.
The Hayden Planetarium operates within the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, where I’m afforded daily contact with researchers just down the hall, with whom I discuss science and outreach ideas, as well as a continuous stream of visiting scientists from around the world. My background includes astronomical research at observatories, so I know both how science is done and how planetarians portray it to an audience. My attendance at planetarium, astronomy, and education conferences allows me to cultivate relationships across a variety of professional cultures.
We cannot wait for IPS to provide for us. WE ARE IPS. We need to provide for ourselves and each other, by working together. Let’s roll up our sleeves and create the community we want and need. Let’s be a truly international organization, bringing together domes from across the globe.
I believe I am the right person at the right time to lead IPS.
For my full Curriculum Vitae, please visit http://research.amnh.org/~slap
I have served as IPS Treasurer/Membership Chair since 1997 and tremendously enjoy working for the IPS. It has been a pleasure to get to know planetarians from around the world.
While keeping the books is a not a glamorous job, corresponding with members and planetarium folks from around the world is a great reward.
My future goals for the treasury /membership chair position include having a web renewal option and expanding member services. With the aid of council I am also working on a Corporate membership category as well.I look forward to continuing my service to the membership.