Women in Paleo – Spotlights

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    Michelle Barboza

    This is a thread to create visibility for both historical paleontologists, like Mary Anning, and contemporary paleontologists, including women in academia, industry, government positions, and more. The public image of a scientist is usually not a woman, especially when it comes to a field intensive job like paleontology! Documentaries, news reports, and other popularizations tend to feature men, intentionally or not. So, let’s share images, stories, and media about women in paleo!

    Please feel free to share:

    books, like Shelley Emling’s “The Fossil Hunter,” written about Mary Anning,

    blog posts, like this post on Marie Stopes and her legacy as a Paleobotanist by the Letters from Gondwana blog,

    documentaries, like The Bearded Lady Project, which celebrates the work of individual female paleontologists,

    websites, like Trowelblazers, a site that spotlights trailblazing women in archaeology, geology, and paleontology,

    blogs, like Mary Anning’s Revenege – a paleo blog run by vertebrate paleontologists Amy Atwater and Meaghan Emery,

    and of course, personal stories!

    We look forward to hearing from you and learning about Women in Paleo.

    Eleanor Gardner

    Excellent topic, @michelle-barboza!

    For the Summer 2016 edition of the FOSSIL Project e-newsletter, I co-wrote a short article that covered a bit of Mary Anning’s history: http://www.myfossil.org/uk-museum-adding-wing-to-honor-first-female-paleontologist-mary-anning/

    I also gave a talk at the 2016 Women in Paleontology Day event at the Orlando Science Center entitled, “Famous Female Paleontologists.”  I’m attaching the PDF of my presentation here.

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    My two major advisers (undergrad and Master’s) were super cool women in paleontology: Margery Coombs and Karen Chin!

    I just wanted to give them both a shout-out. There are many stories but mostly I always valued their constructive criticism, their openness to my varied career interests, and their unwavering support.

    Eleanor Gardner

    A timely and interesting article entitled “Greater equality in science will take more than Ada Lovelace Day” was published yesterday on NewScientist.com.  https://www.newscientist.com/article/2108733-greater-equality-in-science-will-take-more-than-ada-lovelace-day/

    (Unfortunately, the site requires you to sign up for their online article delivery service in order to read it… 🙁 )

    The general gist of the article is that, to get and retain women in STEM, there has to be more than figurehead examples — more than just seeing a female scientist at events and such.  According to the article, a study conducted by faculty at Florida International University found that “having a woman physics teacher, reading about women in physics, and having a female guest speaker had no effect on [high school girls’] intention to enter the field.”  (I found that quite surprising, frankly!)  The study suggested “one intervention that did help encourage high-school girls to pursue science [is] getting them to discuss the real reasons why there aren’t as many of them in the first place.”  The article ends by stating: “role models alone cannot fix the problem.”

    What do you think about these sentiments and findings, @michelle-barboza, @jbauer, @tmorgan, @taorminalepore, @llundgren, @jessie-matheny, @joyce-drakeford, @catalina-pimiento ?

    Michelle Barboza

    @egardner, I also find that quite interesting/surprising! I was reading a paper recently published by the Center for Research on Girls, titled Engaging Girls in STEM: Role Models. The paper emphasized the importance of, but also the difference between role models and mentors. Role models, the paper posits, are “lighthouses” which provide a steady point of reference, but are somewhat removed. Mentors, on the other hand, are actively engaged and connected to students, offering one on one guidance. So, perhaps one of the issues here is that while visibility is certainly important, its not enough to just hoist up images of women scientists, it is more crucial to create engagement and guidance between women scientists and young women.

    This is a great discussion, and I think it would be appropriate to move to the Increasing Visibility: K-12 Mentorship topic within our forum. Please follow this link to continue: http://www.myfossil.org/forums/topic/increasing-visibility-k-12-mentorship/#post-13907

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    Michelle Barboza

    Happy Sunday, everyone! I thought I would start off the week by sharing a great post about a woman in paleontology. @taorminalepore’s blog, Outbound Adventurer, recently published a piece on @sboessenecker, the paleontology collections manager at the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston. Both women are part of the myFossil community, so I wanted to give them a shout out!

    The article can be read here: http://outboundadventurer.com/paleontology-profiles-sarah-boessenecker/

    @llundgren @jeanette-pirlo @mhendrickson @sholte @rnarducci  @jbauer, @tmorgan  @jessie-matheny, @joyce-drakeford, @catalina-pimiento @sue-hirschfeld @gretchen-gurtler @gwen-daley @carlie-pietsch @chelsea-korpanty @laura-soul @susan-butts @tmorgan



    It sounds like an intersection between having a strong mentor, and discussing the disparity of women in STEM fields, is a pretty solid approach!

    I’m surprised, too, that figurehead examples of women in STEM / mentors in STEM don’t pack more (statistical) punch. I guess calling attention to the challenges women face in STEM is all the more important, but then I’d like to toss this out there: how do we do this in a coed class, without alienating non-female-identifying / male students?

    Of course it can be done, but I can imagine the snark from some of my male students in particular. Maybe a good way to frame a discussion is to emphasize the historical context for the challenges women in STEM have faced, and continue to face today? And naturally, keep the dialogue going between students so all feel involved and invited to share their opinions without fear of repercussion.

    Now you guys make me want to try this with my environmental science juniors and seniors! We did have a discussion on “role models in science”, but I feel like it can be opened up so much more. Fellow teachers who would like to try this, we could give them a pre-assessment on their knowledge of women in STEM and their likelihood to pursue a STEM career (whether male or female), and a post-assessment after the discussion on the issues.

    I mocked up a pre-assessment / post-assessment questionnaire, and I would totally love feedback from the group!

    @llundgren @gsantos @jeanette-pirlo @bmacfadden @mhendrickson @rnarducci @egardner @llundgren


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    Lisa Lundgren

    @taorminalepore I like the pre- post assessment of role models in the classroom. I think there’s been a lot of talk about this in informal science education, too, in terms of the effect that participation in informal programs (e.g. after school programs at museum) have on students. I don’t teach right now, but I think @cindy-kern does (and knows a lot of folks who do!) so she might be interested in this assessment as well and also have some insight on role models in the classroom.


    Michelle, thanks SO much for the shout-out! 😀 It was a total pleasure writing about @sboessenecker’s work!

    And, thanks Lisa for looking the assessment over!



    Sarah Boessenecker

    Aw, thanks ladies!

    Eleanor Gardner

    Speaking of spotlights, @taorminalepore, did Michelle invite you to be one of our webinar hosts for the upcoming Women in Paleontology series yet?  We’d be thrilled to have you speak to our audience on your career journey, research interests and current projects, etc! 🙂

    Michelle Barboza

    @egardner, I spoke with Tara immediately after our planning meeting – I was super excited to invite her! I am happy to say that @taorminalepore was just as excited to be invited – she’s on board!

    Eleanor Gardner

    Awesome!  On which date is she going to host a webinar?

    Michelle Barboza

    @egardner, we’ve been planning via email, but for other readers who may be interested, @taorminalepore is going to be the first speaker in our Spring 2016 “Women in Paleo” webinar series! The first webinar, hosted by Tara, will take place on January 25, 2017.

    On another Women in Paleo note, National Geographic came out with a great little article this past week, highlighting the excavation efforts of paleontologist Elizabeth Nichols, curator of marine reptiles at Canada’s Royal Tyrrell Museum. Her (successful!) work to exhume a 75-foot-long ichthyosaur fossil (which was deemed by all but here to be too big, too fragile, and too isolated to excavate by everyone else) is regarded as one of the most ambitious fossil excavations ever undertaken.
    <div>The article may be read online on the National Geographic News website: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/11/elizabeth-nicholls-explorer-moments-finding-a-220-millon-year-old-giant-reptile-in-Canada/#</div&gt;


    Yes @egardner (Eleanor)! I’m super excited to be a part of the webinar series.

    Michelle, love the article about Elizabeth’s work, talk about inspiration 🙂 @michelle-barboza

    Eleanor Gardner

    @michelle-barboza, @taorminalepore, @sboessenecker, @kate-griener – I saw this article from The Guardian today and thought it would be of interest to our Women in Paleo forum folks: http://bit.ly/2ew5K5F.

    And Michelle, it goes along nicely with your new podcast (please please please tell us about it here!).

    Michelle Barboza

    @egardner I’ve been eagerly following the Trowelblazers/Raising Horizons project you posted about! Sad to think that despite being a traveling exhibit, being UK based means we probably won’t get a chance to see the Raising Horizons portraits in person. However, the project managers have been posting sneak peeks on their twitter account and they may be releasing a postcard set for purchase!

    As for the podcast, while it may not be exclusively dedicated to spotlighting women in paleontology/geoscience, I agree that it may be of interest to those on this forum! I launched the Femmes of STEM podcast in January 2017, and invite you all to take a listen. The Femmes of STEM is a bi-monthly show focusing on the history of women in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We will be having an episode on Mary Anning, featuring Meaghan Emery and Amy Atwater of the Mary Anning’s Revenge blog this March, so stay tuned!


    @michelle-barboza – your podcast episodes (and you!) are such an inspiration! I love how your work is so well referenced (super helpful!) and you’re just so engaging. I didn’t know a darn thing about Nettie Stevens.

    Michelle Barboza

    @taorminalepore – ah shucks, thank you! I’m really excited about the next episode, which marks the start of guests on the podcast! The subject of the episode is environmentalist Rachel Carson, and I’ll be joined by ecologist Priya Shukla of the UC Davis Marine Lab. She’s a rad woman of color who runs a project called the Prosaic Mosaic, which is all about highlighting diversity in STEM.

    Speaking of which, I think this is a good time to put a spotlight on a rad WOC in the paleontology sector: Thea Boodhoo. Thea is a writer and content designer who has collaborated with several paleontologists on digital outreach projects. These projects include a site about the fossil taxa of the Edelman Fossil Park in New Jersey (cretaceousmantua.com), an interactive version of the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument (CarnegieQuarry.com), and the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs (mongoliandinosaurs.org). However, I would like to point out her latest project – a photo series highlighting paleontologists of color! The photographs were taken during the 2016 Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists meeting. Read about the project and view the photographs in this article.

    Is anyone else working with female creatives for science? Let’s hear about them!

    Eleanor Gardner

    @michelle-barboza – Awesome!  Looking forward to listening to your next podcast!

    – I believe you were featured in Thea Boodhoo’s project, yes?  Please tell us about your experience! 🙂

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