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The Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Lecture

Engage and Preserve: Amphibians, Reptiles and Animals of the Rainforest

Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Lecture: Engage and Preserve: Amphibians, Reptiles and Animals of the Rainforest.
Photo credit: Ron Smith/BEES

Thursday, May 2, 2024
6–8 p.m.

Join us for the annual lecture in honor of Cheryl Beth Silverman, a lover of animals and the daughter of Art and Carol Silverman. 

This year, the Academy brings together a stellar group of panelists to discuss aspects of engaging the public in the importance of environmental sciences, especially when it comes to animals. 

The speakers include Lauren Augustine, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo; Emily Sain, Exhibit Lead with Little Ray's Exhibitions; Ron Smith, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science Professor at Drexel University, naturalist and community science project leader; and the Academy’s Manager of Animal Programs, Anwar Abdul-Qawi.

After the lecture, enjoy the Academy’s newest exhibit, Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest, an immersive exhibition introducing you to the fascinating world of rainforests and the animals that inhabit them.  


  • 6 p.m - Panel Discussion
  • 6:30 p.m. - Q & A
  • 7 p.m. - Under the Canopy Open

The Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Lecture was established by Art and Carol Silverman, longtime friends of the Academy, in memory of their daughter, Cheryl Beth.

Cheryl was a charismatic lover of animals and was extraordinarily passionate about our environment. Although Cheryl Beth’s time was cut short, she left a notable mark on the world.

Through the Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Lecture, we continue Cheryl Beth’s efforts to be a voice for the animals and environment she loved.


Anwar Abdul-Qawi, The Academy’s Manager of Animal Programs

Anwar Abdul-Qawi is a zoologist, conservation educator, photographer, and animal keeper based in Philadelphia. Since 2010 he has worked with both people and animals finding new ways to inspire the public about the world and the millions of species that reside there. Whether it’s on the stage or behind the scenes, in the classroom or in the field, you can be sure you’ll find Anwar there. Searching for new ways to further himself he currently works at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University as the animal program manager, connecting the public to the importance of conservation.


Lauren Augustine, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo

Lauren received her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of North Carolina Asheville and her master's degree in Conservation Science and Policy from George Mason University. In her current role as curator, she manages the animal collection, staff and conservation programs for the Herpetology department.

Over her career, Lauren has managed both local and international conservation programs. She currently works in Guatemala, and she has initiated a collaboration in Cuba that takes a “one-health approach” to the conservation of the critically endangered Cuban crocodile. Lauren is also the founder of a non-profit organization focusing on salamander research and conservation.

Emily Sain, Exhibit Lead with Little Ray's Exhibitions

Emily Sain's journey into the world of animal education and conservation began on a working cattle ranch in northern Georgia, where she was influenced by parents who were animal advocates and wildlife rehabilitators. Growing up surrounded by nature's wonders, Emily developed a deep connection with animals from a young age. Her early experiences instilled in her a profound respect for wildlife and a desire to advocate for their protection.

With a background in early childhood education and behavioral psychology, Emily combined her love for teaching with her passion for animals. As an eExhibit lLead with Little Ray's Exhibitions, a division of Little Ray's Nature Centres, Emily plays a pivotal role in delivering educational programs featuring live exotic animals, including a variety of animals like reptiles, amphibians and the occasional sloth. Her work fosters a greater understanding of wildlife and emphasizes the importance of conservation and responsible pet ownership.

Little Ray's Nature Centre, known as the largest exotic pet rescue in North America, provides Emily with a platform to inspire audiences of all ages to become stewards of the environment. Outside of her professional endeavors, Emily is a devoted mother to her 8-year-old son, Alex, passing on her appreciation for nature and wildlife to the next generation.

Ron Smith, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science Professor at Drexel University, naturalist and community science project leader

Ron is a science educator, naturalist and community science project leader from Merchantville, NJ. With 30 years of project and place-based learning experience, Ron leads community science adventures for children and adults alike. Collaborating with various conservation organizations and scientists from universities and state agencies, Ron has initiated community science projects ranging from forest carbon inventories to frog community surveys.

For more than two decades Ron has led the environmental education program for the Haddonfield School District, and since 2012 he has been an adjunct instructor for Drexel University’s BEES department. With Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Ron directs the Life Science Field Training Institute, a week-long program that trains teachers on field study techniques and community science project development. From 2013 to 2023, he directed the Drexel University Environmental Science Leadership Academy for high school students, a program that brings together students from across the country to study field-based environmental science in preparation for university study and professional careers in science.

Last spring, Ron’s book, “Adventures in Community Science,” was published by Schiffer Publishing, and he is working with school districts and educational institutions to introduce and enhance Community Science initiatives.

When not in the field chasing frogs, counting shorebirds or saving horseshoe crabs, Ron enjoys hiking, gardening, playing the fiddle and sharing all adventures with his wife, Lisa, and their two children, Lily and Gabriel.