Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Natural History Museum’s President/Director Receives Prestigious Science Honor

Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles, has been named a 2022 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced on Tuesday, January 31, that Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the organization, “has been recognized as a 2022 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.”  The museum’s announcement goes on to say that as one of the 506 scientists, engineers and innovators selected, Bettison-Vargas “was elected to the society’s Geology & Geography section for distinguished contributions to undergraduate education and broad public involvement with science, particularly from a basis in geoscience across the scales of mineral structure to seafloor hydrothermal circulation and geography.”  She is also “one of just a handful of leaders in the museum industry represented in the 2022 class.”

Also from the announcement:


“Dr. Bettison-Varga joined NHMLAC in 2015 and oversees the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. A geologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, Bettison-Varga previously served six years as President and W.M. Keck Foundation Presidential Chair at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Early in her career she received a National Science Foundation Young Investigator award (subsequently replaced by the CAREER program).

Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a nonprofit organization that includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, and serves 10 million individuals while fulfilling its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more.

“I am honored and delighted to be elected as an AAAS Fellow and proud to join an extensive roster of the country’s top scientists, including my NHMLAC colleagues, Dr. Luis Chiappe, Senior Vice President of Research & Collections and Gretchen Augustyn Director at the Dinosaur Institute, and Dr. Jody Martin, Associate Vice President of Research & Collections and Curator of Crustacea,” Dr. Bettison-Varga said. “Since its founding in 1913, nearly a dozen scientists from NHMLAC have been elected AAAS Fellows. This recognition spotlights the transformational research and science happening at our museums and just how vital that work is to better understand life on our changing planet.””


In addition to her usual duties with the NHM, Bettison-Varga is also currently leading the design and construction of NHM Commons, “a transformative new wing of the museum focused on natural history, community and co-creation (scheduled to open 2024), and the reimagining of La Brea Tar Pits, a long term initiative to revitalize the 13-acre park and the George C. Page Museum as a more cohesive site for research, education, public programs, and civic engagement.”

Regarding the latter project, the NHM also announced recently that it has hired Amsterdam-based Kossmanndejong (KDJ) to design exhibits for the reimagined Tar Pits museum, in conjunction with previously hired architectural firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates.

“The project will provide facilities that better support La Brea Tar Pits’ critical ongoing scientific work, preserve a beloved Los Angeles icon, and create a community gathering place with an accessible outdoor green space,” said the museum. “It will also inspire and educate scientists of the future, by teaching people of all ages about the history of life on our planet and implications for the future. In 2022, La Brea Tar Pits was selected as one of the First Geological Heritage Sites by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).”

Bettison-Vargas’ selection as an AAAS Fellow is part of “a tradition dating back to 1874” and is a lifetime honor, carrying with it an expectation “to maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.”  Past honorees have included Thomas Edison, W.E.B. DuBois, Ellen Ochoa, Steven Chu, Grace Hopper, Alan Alda, Mae Jemison, and Ayanna Howard.  A celebration of the new fellows will be held in Washington, D.C., later this spring, and the honorees will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science magazine in February.


Rendering of the reimagined La Brea Tar Pits museum, currently in the planning stages.
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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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