As a child growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Megan Nims was fascinated by fish.
She planned trips to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, fished on Lake Erie, and read countless books on marine and aquatic biology. Nims even had a favorite fish: the walleye.
What was missing from her adolescence was a program to foster her love of science, particularly marine biology.
Nims, now a salmon biologist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, hopes to inspire girls in the community by educating them about careers in science. She was recently honored with the 2020 Outreach Volunteer of the Year Award for the Richland section of the American Chemical Society.
“I really enjoy volunteering because I like to share the wonder and joy of STEM disciplines with people of all ages,” Nims said. “I think that getting to hear about the research that we do or getting to see an experiment in action helps kids to see how they can apply what they are learning in school and turn it into a career.”
Nims was nominated for the award by PNNL’s Kristin Omberg, who is a past chair of the section.
“As the chair of the Richland Local Section Women Chemist Committee in 2019, Megan Nims organized a series of well attended community events, in recognition of Women's History Month, focused on the local Hanford Nuclear Site,” Omberg wrote in her nomination letter. “The first event centered on the history of Hanford and why its history is still relevant. It was led by Dr. Michele Gerber, the Hanford Site Historian. A second event was led by public radio correspondent Anna King, a journalist whose multi-media effort, Daughters of Hanford, focuses on how women have shaped the history of the Hanford site and the legacy of the Cold War.”
In addition to the two lectures, Nims helped to organize Expanding Your Horizons, a conference designed to expose seventh and eighth grade girls to STEM careers. The conference connected 200 students with women in a variety of disciplines, ranging from chemistry to nuclear engineering.
Nims’ volunteer work also involves community outreach and classroom education. She enjoys sharing information about fish living right in her backyard—the Columbia River. She often takes salmon into classrooms and dissects them, providing hands-on learning for area students. This allows her to share her research, which involves using naturally occurring markers in fish bones to track fish migration.
“People living in our community are often unfamiliar with the fish species swimming in the Columbia River,” Nims said. “Although most people in the community may be familiar with salmon, there are many fascinating aspects about their biology that they are unfamiliar with. I love to share the research that we are doing and things we are learning about salmon with them.”