Anna Switzer

Outdoor and Experiential Educator
Anna Switzer

National Geographic Society

The consistent goal I have had throughout my career is doing things I believe will make a difference for people and for the environment.


  • B.A., Physics, Kenyon College
  • M.S., Marine Science, North Carolina State University
  • Ph.D., Science Education, University of Michigan


What is your current job and what does it entail? 

My current position entails being the project director for a five-year effort to develop an on-line, user-friendly, GIS mapping tool for citizen science. FieldScope is the specific name of the project, and I manage some of our partnerships as well as the evaluation efforts. FieldScope is designed as a free (for most) space to visualize and analyze data collected by volunteers across the U.S. This data includes observations about frogs, plants, trash collected in waterways and many other things. It is exciting because the people who have been collecting the data can now go to FieldScope to look at the big picture. They can compare their data with other data from across the street or across the country; they can draw graphs and look at what the data tells them regarding patterns and changes over time.

What was the key factor in your career decision? 

The consistent goal I have had throughout my career is doing things I believe will make a difference for people and for the environment. The opportunity to work at National Geographic Society three years ago was something that I didn't see coming, but when I did, I leapt at the chance. It is a great organization!

What do like most about your career? 

I enjoy helping people learn new ways of thinking and new skills. Regardless of the actual content area -- and I have taught Physics, Oceanography, Earth Science and Education as well as led wilderness trips of all sorts -- I think that what I like best is when the lightbulb goes on for someone. I love seeing the recognition on someone's face that they now understand something they didn't before, or that they can do something that they didn't know they could. That is the best part of being involved with education.

What do you like least about your career? 

In my current position, I am actually the farthest away from teachers and students that I have ever been. I spend most of my time with email, in meetings, or writing reports. I love National Geographic, and respect all the great products they put out into the world. And, project management is important, and important to do well. It is not necessarily my passion so I hope to return to teaching (likely adults) in the next few years.

What do you do to relax? 

Bike, hike, read, swim, canoe, cook, listen to live music and visit with friends. Also, travel.

Who are your heroes/heroines? 

People who follow their own dreams, not necessarily paying attention to the status-quo.

What advice would you give a student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field? 

Get to know a lot of people, including those who are different from you. Doing so will allow you to see things from many perspectives. With our country's schools as diverse as they are, this is an important quality/skill. Also, take classes that are as wide-ranging as possible. You won't know which interests you the most until you try them out. And, always stay open to surprises in what that might be.

Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why? 

There seems to always be an increasing need for teachers, especially good teachers who know/care about their subject matter as well as about their students.

What will you be doing 10 years from today? 

I plan to return to teaching and stay with it for a good long while. Also, I plan to write a book that is an extension of my dissertation research. At some point, my plan is to base my teaching on the subject of my book (my dissertation was on high school students' decision-making skills and I plan to expand the topic to everyone's decision-making skills -- and how a person's intellect and their values both play a role). Hopefully, I'll also be living near a body of water and enjoying time in/on/under it!