Baiyinah Abdullah, also known as Ms. Abdullah, is a 9th grade biology teacher based on Karankawa land in Houston, Texas. As an educator, she is interested in promoting culturally responsive pedagogy and scientific literacy. As a scientist, she is a birder and a student of environmental justice. Baiyinah enjoys bird banding, and is a volunteer in an ongoing research project documenting the resident and migratory bird populations in Lake Jackson, TX. As a black birder and educator, Baiyinah is excited to be apart of the conversations about being black in the outdoors, and increasing nature-related opportunities for BIPOC youth.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

No

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Yes

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Both

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Both

7 Do you speak any other languages?

A smidge of Arabic and a slightly more articulate smidge of Spanish. Would like to be fluent in both!

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I would be a field biologist! I love working with live animals, and learning more about the natural world, including native plants and animals. I would also want to always have a lab, because working with DNA is fun. I believe myself to be a lifelong educator, so wherever I end up in the future, I see myself learning and teaching.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Urban Ecology & Evolution!

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Ohio to visit my grandmothers, and then Alaska to see the northern lights.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Shapeshifting

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Three podcasts: The Wild Life Podcast (@TheWildLifepod on Twitter), Ologies, and Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Find a great new hiking and birding spot!! Preferably go to a national park (for the first time).

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Water, hair conditioner, rice.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Sweet tea

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

Most professions involving science: conservationist, marine biologist, astronaut, paleontologist. . . oh! and spy (for a brief period). Just imagine Eliza Thornberry, Jane Goodall, Steve Irwin, and Kim Possible had a black adult child. That’s what I imagined.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

My siblings and my students! I’m the eldest of 10 and everything I do is for them.

19 What got you excited in science?

Largely my experiences growing up in Galveston, TX and spending time on the beach and at Moody Gardens, one of my favorite places in the world. My mother and other adults were extremely encouraging and supportive of my interests.

20 What excites you about science now?

Everything! The potential of the younger generation to experience environmental liberation, where they can live and work safely, work as a community to find solutions to climate change and environmental degradation, and have equitable access to green spaces. I look forward to a future where scientific literacy is strong in our communities and includes study about equity in science.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

90 Day Fiancé!

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

Singing (kind of)

23 What is your favorite game?

Family Feud

24 What is the last book you read?

Technically a graphic novel, but Stitches: A Memoir, by David Small. Great book!!

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you react to it. My dad would say this on almost a daily basis growing up, and I’m finally starting to get it.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Eyebrow piercings

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Focus on good people who make it known that they want you around. Also, start dressing better.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Hot bath, hot tea, a book, and a good smelling candle.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Legends of Korra!

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Measuring tape

31 What is your favorite animal?

I don’t have one – love them all.

32 What is your favorite book?

This is too hard to answer, and I feel like any answer would disservice other books, so I will just say that I am currently reading salt. by Nayyirah Waheed and it is a beautiful book of poetry! Highly recommend.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Shrimp n grits.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

June 19th. My grandmothers’ teachings.

35 What is your favorite plant?

Tall sunflowers!

36 What is your favorite science fact?

A colony of bees in Brooklyn, NY was found to produce red honey. Locals theorize that it is because they were feeding at the maraschino cherry factory up the road.

37 What is your favorite season?

Winter

38 What is your favorite smell?

Lavender

39 What is your favorite sound?

Slow moving water.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I have a good work ethic.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

bloop

42 What is your proudest moment?

When I was 13 or 14, I cooked filet mignon wrapped in beef bacon for my family, and my aunt maintains to this day that it was the best steak she’s ever had.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Willow

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

I am privileged to live in an area where I can see natural areas pretty easily.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I took a picture in clown makeup, kissing a rubber duck in high school. . .it was a yearbook challenge. My 12 year old sister saw it and will not let me live it down.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Maya Reese! We met in college, she was my TA and the first person I ever saw who looked like me doing the work that I was interested in. She is @mayajreese on Twitter. 🙂