Opening Doors and Connecting People Worldwide: Remembering Mar Dixon

It’s a quiet, reflective time for us at SciStarter. This week, our founder, Darlene Cavalier, lost her younger sister, Mar Dixon. 

Mar Dixon was a self-described “troublemaker for sectors who need a kick up the bum.” The SciStarter team loved working with her because she selflessly volunteered her time to help us make our outreach more fun, lively, and irreverent. 

She also pushed us to think big, inspiring us through joyous conversations to bring citizen science storytelling to people around the world. Her legacy is especially evident in our Citizen Science Month work, which thanks in part to Mar became a truly global effort.

Sisters! Darlene is on the left and Mar is on the right.

In 2018, when SciStarter interviewed her for a blog post, she was preparing for “Ask a Curator” Day, one of the many events she orchestrated. With this particular event, Mar worked to get institutional actors, like curators, in dialogue with members of the general public. 

When we spoke with her, she told us that she hoped the take-home message from the event was that curators and scientists are people, too.

Bringing people together 

Mar lived and worked in Shropshire, England as a consultant in digital/social media and audience development, aiming to positively disrupt the culture sector.

Though she emphasized to SciStarter that she respected and understood the traditional modes of academic and science communication, she also stressed that new ways and methods need to be implemented alongside the journals and old-style communication process. “Academics need to go to free events like hackathons to understand the questions that people ask.”

This raises the question: how did Mar get into this whole business? “I planned one event, and then others followed.”

Opening closed doors

Dixon sought to get more people into museums and the culture sector, especially into the small- and medium-size institutions. One way she did this is by connecting people from under-served populations directly with the museums through targeted programming. 

One example was her “DrinksThing,” a monthly event Mar hosted for Londoners to socialize. At one memorable DrinksThing, a mom whose children had just been diagnosed with autism connected with a museum professional, and they soon enacted a brilliant idea: they created days for museums to reach out to families with autistic children. These days consist of small but meaningful interventions, like plotting safe, quiet routes for kids who can be overstimulated when they go to museums. Mar made conversations like these possible.

Mar’s mission to make museum and academic spaces accessible didn’t stop at public events. To fight communication barriers, she also took to social media, with viral hashtag campaigns. One example is #museumselfie, which aims to inspire fun in museums and thus hopefully stimulate accessibility and learning.


Mar said that her mom prompted her and Darlene to collaborate on citizen science work, because Mom wanted both daughters to work together even though they were an ocean apart. Their mom saw similarities between her daughters’ work; Darlene built up the science community while Mar built up the culture sector.

Mar saw her work with Darlene as a way to put citizen scientists, regular people who are science enthusiasts, in conversation with each other and with traditional scientists. 

Mar pioneered the “takeover” model with us, prompting SciStarter to give the keys to various social media accounts, especially the Citizen Science Month platforms, to diverse and different “hosts” each week. She taught us that anyone who cares deeply about and wants to foster citizen science outreach can make their voice heard.

Mar’s legacy

The SciStarter team is far from the only group grieving Mar’s loss. She leaves behind collaborators from around the world, and at this time, we have her large, loving family, especially her daughter, in our thoughts.

When thinking back to conversations with Mar – and the pitch-perfect memes she had ready for every occasion – we reflected about how she would want to be remembered. We know she’d want us to smile and laugh. 

If you’re looking for a way to honor Mar’s memory today, start a conversation with someone different from you, try something new, or work to open metaphorical doors for others. 

Categories: SciStarter News


About the Author

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson is an advisor at SciStarter, where she assists with the Citizen Science Month Program, SciStarter’s Corporate Volunteer Programs and other programmatic and outreach efforts. Caroline is a Master of Public Policy graduate from American University, where she was a Reilly Environmental Policy Scholar, and is a current PhD student at the University of Florida. She also works with the UF-VA Bioethics Unit, the Christensen Project, Florida Community Innovation and other organizations. She was the 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess representing the state of Florida and the grand prize scholarship winner at Miss Earth USA 2021 as Miss Louisiana Earth.