Bradenton’s great claim to culture likely resides downtown in the South Florida Museum, where Brynne Anne Besio for more than a decade has helped keep stars, sea life and a rich parade of traveling exhibits on display. SRQ sat down with the trained geologist to learn about the foundation of her own life. “I feel enriched from the staff I work with here,” she says. “I’ve worked everywhere in the country, and wherever I’ve worked people have helped shape me.” 

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.


Carly  I have a dog I love to walk, a nine-year-old chocolate lab. She was a rescue dog, and you never know what you will get with a rescue. She came to me afraid of everything, just afraid to talk or even walk around the block. So to keep her from traffic, I walk her in Heron’s Nest, a park in Lakewood Ranch.


Margaret Wheat  I would say that my biggest mentor was my foster grandmother, Margaret Wheat, who was a self-taught anthropologist/geologist. She lived in Fallon and Carson City, Nevada. She loved geology. She loved the archeology. The current historical and cultural materials of present-day American Indians, and I got that interest in geology from her. I’ll never forget one time we were at an outcrop and she was so excited, she reaches down and grabs a handful of dirt and says, “This is my cathedral.” She worked with the Paiute Indians. They had this simple life, using the resources in Nevada. As part of the environment I got exposed to in high school and college, my grandmother studied their tribal arts. Look at the matate, collecting pine nuts ourselves, eating it as they would eat it, and foods they would eat, living off the land, as they would do. It was part of the West, especially in California and Nevada—there’s a diverse population and I grew up appreciating that. 


Gym Class  I’m a gym rat. I’m an advocate for exercise—strength training and cardio. I just go to L.A. Fitness. I like lifting free weights, and I also like the classes like step aerobics because I like the social aspect of a gym. I just like the environment of all of us struggling together to stay fit.


Gardening  I just love plants. I can’t hardly resist them, the flowers and greenery. I am not schooled in it, but I will try anything. We have a yard and in Florida everything grows, so I have lots of opportunity to learn how to be a better landscaper. I just replanted my pool cage with the help of my brother. I’m learning with the help of my brother, who works with local nurseries. I’m learning you don’t just space things but can plant with shapes. In Denver, I used to grow vegetables but there are a lot fewer bugs there. Here I just do decorative landscaping. One of my favorites is the carnations from the dianthus family, but I also have daisies in pots. And I have herbs I use for cooking—rosemary, basil and thyme, and sometimes parsley. 


Sylvia Razum  My mother had a love for people and a tolerance of people. You never met an enemy. She modeled living her life that way, appreciating everybody, and she always had a friend. She treated each and every person upon which she came in contact with love and respect, and interest in them as a human being. From the gardener to the retail clerk, to her neighbors and lifelong friends, she never knew a stranger. It was a model of how people should be treated that she lived for us, as her children (I have two brothers) and she was much loved by all for that quality.


Seattle  The food is great, I don’t mind the rain and the scenery is spectacular. I loved riding ferries and being in that lush green environment. There were very few bugs in the Northwest so it was a shock to move east. When we lived there we could just drive or go on a hike and just experience the whole area. I liked to take a ferry to Whidbey Island or climb up to Fort Casey.


Scratch Kitchen   I cook everything from scratch. Everything. I read food magazines for ideas but use the exact recipes. I will watch Food Network or any of those shows just for ideas. I like the food chemistry. I like Mexican. I like spice. I like a good chile rellenos. I grew up in Southern California—you can’t get good Mexican food here. I cook a lot of that. I will go to farmers’ markets, but most of the time I stick around the groceries—no one market has everything I want. I will hit Publix and Whole Foods and now the new EarthFare. Cooking is chemistry with flavor and texture a result. I read cooking magazines like literature and get inspired to try new things.  Especially recipes that are healthy. It is no easy task to create flavor without much fat. I keep trying with spices and different methods of cooking. My husband is a willing participant.


Generational Artifacts  My great grandmother Ellen Talbot was an artist and a China painter, so I have all kinds of beautifully hand-painted China, everything from dinner sets to elaborate coffee cups and hot chocolate pots. She made a living out of it. The most precious still is where she painted a cake plate with gold leaf. These are family heirlooms. That’s the stuff that’s priceless. I’m glad I have two daughters, Nicole and Amy, and they appreciate the China as part of the family legacy.


Nonprofit World  For me being here, it’s nice to be immersed in an environment where everyone is working toward the goal of trying to educate the community and be part of a solution. After working in the oil industry, I worked with the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and with the Puget Sound Blood Center. I worked in volunteer management and all aspects of nonprofits. When this job opened up, I liked the idea of combining science and learning at a nonprofit. 


Children’s Literature  I’m a real fan of children’s literature and loved reading it with my kids when they were young. All the basic children’s books from Goodnight Moon to the Harry Potter series. I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time again. Maybe it’s the specialness of remembering them as a child and then reading them with your own kids. It’s something special we did every night. It brings you closer. I remember reading Charlotte’s Web and seeing “Some Pig” in the web, and then you can relate to the same things. Literature can connect you.