Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County President and Director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga Recognized as 2022 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Lori Bettison-Varga headshot for landscape

Los Angeles, California (January 31, 2023)—Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), has been recognized as a 2022 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. She was elected to the society’s Geology & Geography section for distinguished contributions to undergraduate education and broad public involvement with science, particularly from a basis in geoscience across the scales of mineral structure to seafloor hydrothermal circulation and geography.

She is among the 506 scientists, engineers, and innovators who have been elected 2022 Fellows for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements and is one of just a handful of leaders in the museum industry represented in the 2022 class.

Dr. Bettison-Varga joined NHMLAC in 2015 and oversees the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. A geologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, Bettison-Varga previously served six years as President and W.M. Keck Foundation Presidential Chair at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Early in her career she received a National Science Foundation Young Investigator award (subsequently replaced by the CAREER program).

Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a nonprofit organization that includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, and serves 10 million individuals while fulfilling its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more.

“I am honored and delighted to be elected as an AAAS Fellow and proud to join an extensive roster of the country’s top scientists, including my NHMLAC colleagues, Dr. Luis Chiappe, Senior Vice President of Research & Collections and Gretchen Augustyn Director at the Dinosaur Institute, and Dr. Jody Martin, Associate Vice President of Research & Collections and Curator of Crustacea,” Dr. Bettison-Varga said. “Since its founding in 1913, nearly a dozen scientists from NHMLAC have been elected AAAS Fellows. This recognition spotlights the transformational research and science happening at our museums and just how vital that work is to better understand life on our changing planet.”

Dr. Bettison-Varga is currently leading the design and construction of NHM Commons, a transformative new wing of the museum focused on natural history, community and co-creation (scheduled to open 2024), and the reimagining of La Brea Tar Pits, a long term initiative to revitalize the 13-acre park and the George C. Page Museum as a more cohesive site for research, education, public programs, and civic engagement. The project will provide facilities that better support La Brea Tar Pits’ critical ongoing scientific work, preserve a beloved Los Angeles icon, and create a community gathering place with an accessible outdoor green space. It will also inspire and educate scientists of the future, by teaching people of all ages about the history of life on our planet and implications for the future. In 2022, La Brea Tar Pits was selected as one of the First Geological Heritage Sites by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

A tradition dating back to 1874, election as an AAAS Fellow is a lifetime honor and all inductees are expected to maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity. Distinguished past honorees include Thomas Edison, W.E.B. DuBois, Ellen Ochoa, Steven Chu, Grace Hopper, Alan Alda, Mae Jemison, and Ayanna Howard. An in-person gathering celebrating this honor will take place in Washington, D.C., later this spring. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science magazine in February 2023.

“AAAS is excited to announce the newest class of Fellows from across the scientific enterprise in a tradition dating back nearly 150 years and to honor their broad range of achievements,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

Members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections (which are noted on the Fellows list), by three Fellows or the CEO of AAAS. Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and forwards a final list to the AAAS Council. The AAAS Council votes on the final aggregate list. The Council is the policy-making body of the association, chaired by the president, and consisting of the members of the Board of Directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science. For more information on the nomination process, visit

About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC)
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) include the Natural History Museum, La Brea Tar Pits, and the William S. Hart Museum.  They operate under the collective vision to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—more than 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historical research, the museums also incorporate them into on- and offsite nature and culture exploration in L.A. neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs—creating indoor-outdoor visitor experiences that explore the past, present, and future. Visit NHMLAC.ORG for adventure, education, and entertainment opportunities.