Celebrating staff: Meet Lisa Budney

Meet Lisa Budney, collections and museums administrator in the University of Alberta’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Katie Willis - 05 March 2020

The University of Alberta is home to 29 museum collections, with 18 making their home in the Faculty of Science. Several of these museums and collections are accessible to the public, as well as a critical part of the research and teaching for scientists and students alike. The curation and care of the rock, mineral, and invertebrate fossil collections, the Mineralogy/Petrology Museum, and the Paleontology Museum, as well as the Geoscience Garden, falls to Lisa Budney, collections and museums administrator in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, who also happens to hold a master’s degree in paleontology from our own Department of Biological Sciences.

Budney is one of more than 600 staff members in the faculty. The countless and invaluable contributions of this group make the world go round in the Faculty of Science, and we are thrilled to introduce you.

Meet Lisa Budney.

Job title and area:

Collections and Museums Administrator, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

How long have you worked at the Faculty of Science?

I have been part of the Faculty of Science for 11 years. From 2008 to 2015, I was the lab coordinator for second-year paleontology and geology courses and assisted with museum collections. I have been in my current role since 2015.

What's a typical day like for you?

My work consists of curatorial activities like cataloguing and marking specimens, developing exhibits, maintaining the museums, booking self-guided school and group visits to the Paleontology Museum, Mineralogy & Petrology Collection, and Geoscience Garden, responding to public inquiries about rock and fossil finds, applying for grants, and managing loans of specimens. 

I work with the University of Alberta Museums Drill Core, Invertebrate Paleontology, Meteorite, Mineralogy/Petrology, and Trace Fossil collections. The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences stewards more than 1 million rocks, minerals, and fossils, and more than seven kilometres of rock drill core in several buildings at North and South Campus.

I open the museums at 8 a.m. and close them at 4 p.m. My work is project-based, and I typically work on one exhibit and one cataloguing project at a time. The work is creative and detail oriented, and I like to have routine activities, like museum maintenance or group bookings to mix in with the more focused project activities.

What's the most common question people ask you about your job?

Many people are unaware that the University of Alberta has museum collections—29 in fact. Most questions pertain to gaining a greater understanding of why the university has collections and museums, what we use them for, and how I fit in. I’m proud of the role I play in interpreting and caring for objects in the public trust.

Favourite memory from work?

The installation of permanent museum exhibits, like the Cambrian exhibit in the Paleontology Museum, or the Canadian Cordillera exhibit in the Mineralogy/Petrology Museum. It can take three or more years to go from an idea to securing funding to finding and preparing specimens to researching and developing content and design and, finally, to installation. 

Exhibits require teamwork, and I enjoy working with others to create learning experiences for all ages. The Trilobite Learning Centre that opened in the Paleontology Museum in the fall of 2019 is particularly gratifying because it showcases one of the finest trilobite collections at a public institution in the world. This project was supported by the University of Alberta’s Teaching Learning and Enhancement Fund. I’m looking forward to working on the next phase of the project—adding digital learning objects.

Favourite place on campus?

Quad. I like the trees and gardens, the variety of buildings, the inclusion of pieces by indigenous artists, the openness, and how lively it is with people throughout the day. It’s a dynamic space.

Favourite thing about working in the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta?

I value life-long learning. Working on campus and interacting with researchers affords me many opportunities to broaden my knowledge and challenge my preconceived notions to become a better global citizen and caretaker of the only planet we call home.

What would you do for work if you didn't do this?

I would cook if I didn’t work at the university. Cooking is a feast for the senses that satisfies my creative side and enjoyment of well-prepared food. It’s a mindful and meditative activity with a bit of an adrenaline rush as I chop, fry, bake, etcetera to have all dishes ready around the same time. My sister and I have joked about buying a vacant restaurant across from the World’s Largest Perogy in Glendon to turn it into the “Perogy Palace”—a Ukrainian food restaurant. My apron is embossed, “Baking is Science for Hungry People.”