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Dr. Scott Sampson is a dinosaur paleontologist, science communicator, and passionate advocate for reimagining cities as places where people and nature thrive. Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., he serves as president and CEO of Science World British Columbia. He has conducted fieldwork in many countries, published numerous scientific and popular articles, and regularly speaks to audiences of all ages on a broad range of topics. Sampson is author of multiple books, including Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life (University of California Press, 2009), How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), and You Can Be a Paleontologist (National Geographic Kids, 2017). He is perhaps best known as “Dr. Scott,” host and science advisor of the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train, produced by the Jim Henson Company. Sampson is thrilled to be back in his hometown leading Science World in the next phase of its evolution.
How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career? Creativity, in my view, is simply using imagination to make something new. That something can take many forms—from an idea, to a work of art, to a technological innovation. I view my entire life and career as an interconnected creative enterprise. The first half of my career focused on imagining ancient worlds (that is, ancient versions of Earth). For the second half, I’ve turned 180 degrees to imagine possible futures (thriving futures, that is), and have dedicated my work to empowering others to do so as well. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that no movement can be successful unless it provides a compelling vision that people want to move toward. My aim is to help catalyze that vision through a (highly creative) transformation of education.
Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy? Without doubt, the natural world is my muse when it comes to creative inspiration and energy. Solo hiking in beautiful places not only recharges me, but allows me to feel connected in ways that open up the flow creative energies. Having said that, I am also deeply inspired and energized by a diverse range of thought leaders—from John Dewey to Rachel Carson to Loren Eiseley. Creativity is built upon the insights and imaginations of others.
What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?Creativity is often the result of deep immersion—in ideas, in nature, in art, whatever. So truly dive deep into things you are passionate about, seek out a diversity of resources and mentors, and always be on the lookout for the emergence of unexpected connections.
Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings? Thomas Berry, self-described “geologian,” whose brilliant insights and prose helped so many forge creative links between the scientific and the spiritual, all the while moving us toward a new, compelling worldview to help root humanity in the 21st Century.
If you could open a door and go anywhere, where would that be? For me the where also includes a when. My door would take me to southern Utah 76 million years ago, to a place situated along a beautiful, Mediterranean-like coast where massive crested and horned dinosaurs roamed on land, while other astounding reptiles swam the seas below and graced the air above. I have spent years of my life excavating the ancient remains of this world, and would love to see it in all its glory.
What keeps you awake at night? I am kept awake by what I consider the dominant challenge of our time—rapidly scaling up meaningful understanding of the interwoven challenges of our time, together with an ecocentric (versus anthropocentric) worldview.