As director, Menninger will coordinate all aspects of the College’s public science efforts, including citizen science, or scientific research conducted by the public; K-12 and informal science education; science communication; and innovation in public science. Her work will include collaborating with other colleges and units at NC State, such as The Science House K-12 outreach program, and building and enhancing partnerships with global public science leaders, such as the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.
Public science is a major part of the College’s science literacy initiative, which is based on the idea that a growing economy and important societal advances demand a leadership and populace that are scientifically literate.
Menninger has built a career working at the intersection of science and society in policy, natural resource management and public engagement with science. Since 2011, she has been director of public science for Your Wild Life in NC State’s Department of Biological Sciences. Your Wild Life is an outreach program dedicated to understanding and celebrating the biodiversity in people’s everyday lives – from their belly buttons to their backyards. As director, Menninger coordinates the program’s citizen science projects and manages online science communication. She will maintain some of those responsibilities while serving as director of public science for the College.
Before coming to NC State, Menninger was senior extension associate in Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources and coordinator of the NY Invasive Species Research Institute at the university. She brought together research scientists, land managers, policymakers and concerned citizens to protect New York State’s natural resources from threats posed by invasive species such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. Menninger also co-hosted and produced a weekly local radio show that mixed science, culture and art.
Prior to joining Cornell, Menninger was a senior public affairs associate with the American Institute of Biological Sciences, a nonprofit professional society. She focused on communicating the importance of scientific research and education to federal and state policymakers.
Menninger has written extensively for non-technical audiences about insects, climate change, invasive species, science policy, and science communication. She is the co-author of the book Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media. Her television appearances have included serving as a regular “Bug-Spert” on CNN’s American Morning.
Menninger earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Denison University in 2000 and her Ph.D. in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Maryland in 2007.