Speaker Series: "The Pleiades Experience: Intercultural Connections & the Science of Ancestral Timekeeping" with Isabel Hawkins

  • September 21, 2023 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Pacific Standard Time

Ticket Price Free This event is now over

Join RFO and Isabel Hawkins Ph.D., Exploratorium Senior Scientist, for an informative, virtual conversation about "The Pleiades Experience: Intercultural Connections & the Science of Ancestral Timekeeping."


The Sun, Moon, planets, and stars have accompanied sky watchers over millennia. The Pleiades star cluster, observable from every continent except Antarctica, is tied to Indigenous worldviews, astronomy, calendaring, traditional weaving, weather prediction, and agriculture. For the original peoples of Polynesia, Mesoamerica, and the Andes, the Pleiades cluster continues to be a source of knowledge, both culturally and scientifically. Due to native language loss and globalization, such knowledge is eroding at a fast pace. I will share results of a Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar project and emerging results from collaborative research conducted in ancestral lands with Indigenous elders, young adults, and academics in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Guatemala, and Peru. Results are being shared locally for the benefit of the host communities and future generations of Indigenous astronomers.


Isabel Hawkins grew up in Córdoba, Argentina, where the beauty of the night sky and a childhood visit to the Planetario charted the course of her career as an astronomer and science educator. Before joining the Exploratorium in 2009, she spent 20 years as an astrophysics researcher and science educator at the University of California, Berkeley, Space Sciences Laboratory.  As Senior Scientist at the Exploratorium, her work is focused on NASA, NSF, and museum-funded efforts related to Latinx audience engagement, such as Solar Eclipse: Navigating the Path of Totality, GENIAL: Generating Engagement and New Initiatives for All Latinos, and Cambio, a professional development approach for building Latinx-focused cultural competence in museums. Through cultural astronomy, she fosters science pluralism by making visible the cultural roots of STEM. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific bestowed on her the prestigious Klumpke-Roberts Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, an honor that she shares with fellow awardees Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Julieta Fierro, and Tim Ferris, among others. Isabel is also a consultant for the Smithsonian Institution, a volunteer coordinator for the YAKANAL Indigenous Youth Cultural Exchange program based in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, and a Fulbright US Global Scholar alumnus. Her interests include salsa and bachata dancing, yoga, drawing Maya classic period glyphs, and the study of native languages.


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Date & Time

Thu, Sep 21, 2023 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Robert Ferguson Observatory

The Valley of the Moon Observatory Association (VMOA) is volunteer amateur and professional astronomers plus a small supporting staff organized as a nonprofit association to provide educational programs about science and astronomy for students, the public, and in support of educators.

The VMOA is responsible for the construction, maintenance and utilization of the Robert Ferguson Observatory and functions as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the auspices of the California State Parks System, and in cooperation with our local state parks.