Meet Our Team of Science Educators, Advocates, and Scholars

A woman in a floral dress leaning against a stone wall.

Executive Director, Melanie Evans

Dudley Observatory and its Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Melanie Evans has joined us as interim Executive Director. She will be replacing outgoing director, Dr. Valerie Rapson, who has taken a faculty position at SUNY Oneonta in their Physics and Astronomy Department.

Melanie comes to us from a long career in the more terrestrial and aquatic world of zoos and aquariums, and is very excited to expand her enthusiasm for science to beyond our atmosphere. Melanie has more than 15 years experience in non-profit management focusing on guest relations, adult and youth volunteer engagement and informal educational programming. She served as the Guest Services Director at Mystic Aquarium for over three years, and before that worked at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois and Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, Arizona. Ms. Evans has a Bachelor of Science from University of Manitoba, a professional certificate in Nonprofit Management from Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and a certificate in Positive Youth Development from the University of Arizona.

Melanie is very excited to help Dudley continue to bring the wonders of science, particularly astronomy, to people of all ages. She will be responsible for managing our Board of Trustees, marketing and communications, program scheduling, and fundraising activities. She will serve as the main public contact and spokesperson for Dudley Observatory, and will represent us in all professional business capacities.

In her personal life, Melanie has always had an interest in all things science related, especially the natural world, and enjoys exploring the beaches and woods of New England with her family. Her family kindly tolerates her endless photographing of obscure plants, fungus and terrestrial invertebrates during these walks. At home, Melanie spends a fair amount of time gardening and rearranging an entirely too large collection of small orchids and other houseplants around her windowsills.

Dr. Mindy Townsend, Siena College’s Dudley Astronomer

As a child, Mindy loved space and all the unanswered questions it contained but found that math did not come easy to her. She went on to get her degree in Political Science from Pittsburg State University and then her Law degree from Washburn University School of Law, but upon passing her bar realized that she wanted to pursue her original passion. Mindy returned to Washburn University where she worked hard to conquer the dreaded math courses and received her Bachelor of Science in Physics.

Mindy then joined the University of Kansas and got her Ph.D. in Physics where her dissertation focused on how very massive galaxies grow.

During this time, Mindy found that bringing science to the public was one of the most fun things she did as a graduate student and received the Barbara J. Anthony-Twarog Public Education Award from the University of Kansas for her efforts in astronomy and science outreach.

While in graduate school, Mindy participated in a variety of events promoting astronomy and physics but was a frequent speaker and panelist at women in science talks and presentations. She continued to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sciences as an organizer for the KU Diversity in Physics Middle and High School Art Competition as well as the KU Diversity in Physics, University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy group.

Mindy is very much looking forward to getting back into classrooms talking to kids about science and hosting star parties and public talks. She finds that there’s often a hunger for these types of activities and content as they’re not something everyone gets to study all the time. Mindy is very excited to bring these events back for Dudley and the Capitol Region.

A woman holding a martian in front of a bookshelf.