NSPN Welcomes New Full-Time Managing Director, Dr. Jenélle Dowling

As part of NSPN’s structural transition and election of new leadership, we are excited to announce Dr. Jenélle Dowling as the National Science Policy Network’s first Managing Director, effective July 19, 2021.

Jenelle Dowling, Ph.D. New Managing Director. Logo for the National Science Policy Network, lower left. Headshot of Jenelle Dowling, right.

This role will merge responsibilities previously filled by the four part-time Co-Directors, in particular managing the development of the organization’s strategic partnerships and financial sustainability which are critical for NSPN’s continued growth and success. “At some point last fall it became clear that we could not keep growing at this rate with all of the strategic leadership and operational burden being maintained by part-time Co-Directors and staff,” said Caitlin Warlick-Short, Director of Communications. “We are really excited to have a full-time Managing Director, and particularly Jenélle and her expertise, dedicated full-time to taking us to the next level as an organization.”  

Externally, the Managing Director will be responsible for leading NSPN’s fundraising efforts, and partnership strategy serving as a representative to new stakeholders including members, partners, funders, and the public. Internally, they will support all of NSPN’s programs and day-to-day operations, managing the growth and structure of the organization including NSPN’s governance transition along with the Leadership Council, Chief of Staff, and newly-elected National Chair and National Chair Elect

Dr. Jenélle Dowling brings 13 years of experience managing programs, budgets, and partnerships at other organizations. Since 2019, Jenélle has served as the Scientific Director of Adventure Scientists, an organization that assists scientists with data collection and project management. She previously served in similar roles at museums and in academic settings. She holds a Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology from Cornell University and bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology from the University of Maryland.


As Jenélle and NSPN begin this new journey together, we asked her to share her vision for this new role:

How has your career so far been aligned with NSPN’s mission? How do you see this experience informing your leadership in NSPN?

I’m a scientist and nonprofit leader who has focused on supporting people, building partnerships, and fundraising throughout my 13 year career in academia and with NGOs. During my grad student and postdoc years at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I was drawn to supporting fellow early career researchers. I formed committees, built supportive and inclusive communities, and I mentored a lot of students through career pivot points. I’m a behavioral ecologist, and I did my field research in Australia. Over the 6 years I was there, I supervised more than 30 field technicians, helped them set up independent projects, and I did the same for a number of undergrads that I mentored back home in Ithaca. This was so rewarding to me that I chose to build my career in nonprofits that served similar missions: connecting people with nature and science, and setting them on a pathway toward STEM careers. I worked as staff scientist for the Montana Natural History center, where ​​I co-founded and developed an education program that was driven by participants, and provided professional development for K-12 educators. The program sparked interest in STEM through lessons on Ospreys. There’s no better way to get students interested in STEM than to capture their attention with a real-life raptor! As scientific director at Adventure Scientists, I dug deeper into organizational strategy and in this role, I led the scaling and expansion of my department and helped formalize a new governance structure for the whole organization. In this role, I also got my first taste for science policy, through my work with advocacy groups, coalitions, and other decision-makers focused on conservation  policy. This work was really satisfying and it made me realize that since finishing my PhDI’ve had this itch to have more impact; I want my work as a scientist to directly benefit the issues in our environment and society that I see right in front of me. 

My experiences are diverse, and my expertise in nonprofit leadership and as a research scientist integrate well with NSPN’s needs as a growing organization, and as an organization built by and for scientists.


What excites you about NSPN’s achievements so far?

Like I mentioned, as a scientist, I’ve personally seen the need for NSPN’s work, and our standing as the fastest growing science policy organization in the nation speaks to that need. I think what excites me most about NSPN’s work is that our programs are a direct answer to the collective call from early career STEM professionals: ‘help me use my expertise to make a real difference in the world’. Since early in my career, I’ve had that itch to do more to use my skills to directly impact society, and I’m so impressed with the scale, and the depth at which NSPN does that work.


What are your goals for your first year in this position?

I’m excited to roll up my sleeves to refine and implement strategies for the organization’s vision, fundraising, equity and justice, and program impact evaluation. The organization is at such an exciting stage, and I can’t wait to help us build bigger and better.


When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun? 

I live with my partner and 2 year old daughter in Bozeman, Montana. We’ve lived in Montana since I started my first full time nonprofit job in 2016, and we love exploring all of the diverse biomes of the mountain west; we’ve got mountains, grasslands, deserts, and my favorite - riparian cottonwood forests right outside of our door. The same curiosity and passion that led me to study animal behavior has motivated me to develop skills as a naturalist. I spend a lot of my time watching and listening to animals, finding (carefully identifying) and eating plants and fungi, and slowing down to let our toddler show us what she sees in nature. When I’m not adventuring or naturalizing, I spend my time collecting and repairing vintage clothes, wielding power tools for various projects, and fussing over our flock of chickens and hundreds of indoor and outdoor plants (in addition to our daughter).

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