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Meet eight female conservation scientists who inform and inspire

2016 Fisheries Staff, image via National Park Service.

  • The International Day of Women and Girls in Science highlights the achievements of female scientists, and is celebrated on February 11 this year.
  • Here we highlight eight women contributing greatly to the conservation sciences.

The study and advancement of science is one key to achieving the world’s agreed-to development goals, the UN says. Despite this, half the world’s population, women and girls, are still often excluded from fully participating in science. According to UNESCO, less than 30 percent of researchers worldwide are women.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science highlights the contributions and achievements of female scientists, and is celebrated on February 11 this year (follow along on Twitter via the hashtag #WomenInScience).

Below, Mongabay presents in no particular order four inspiring female scientists who’ve been recent guests on our podcast, the Mongabay Newscast, and then four others interviewed about their research for the website:

Bedazzling bioacoustics

Anastasia Dalziell is an ornithologist who studies the superb lyrebird, a species whose vocal mimicry skills are amazingly precise. Female superb lyrebirds are also known to sing songs, which is unusual for birds, and they produce calls that capably mimic other species as well as sounds from their environment, such as the creaking of trees blowing in the wind. Dalziell has published her findings on lyrebirds in a series of research papers, and podcast host Mike Gaworecki spoke with her for the August 2018 show The amazing song skills of the superb lyrebird about what Dalziell’s learned, and he played some of the birds’ amazing calls she’s captured:

Listen to Dalziell’s interview here:

Drones and wildlife

For the episode How to use drones without stressing wildlife, Gaworecki’s guest was Alicia Amerson, a marine biologist, drone user, and science communicator. She explained why it’s critical to have best practices for drones in place not only to guide hobbyists making videos of whales or birds, but especially before companies like Amazon deploy fleets of drones in our skies.

Listen to Amerson’s interview here:

A primatologist who also studies bats

For the October 2018 show How an African bat might help us prevent future Ebola outbreaks, Gaworecki spoke with Sarah Olson, an Associate Director of Wildlife Health for the Wildlife Conservation Society. With Ebola very much in the news lately due to a recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Olson explained to him how research into hammer-headed fruit bats might help us figure out how Ebola is transmitted from animals to humans — and potentially control or prevent future outbreaks of the viral disease.

As a wildlife epidemiologist, Olson’s main focus is great ape health, animals which are just as susceptible to the Ebola virus as humans are. Her work to protect great apes has therefore drawn Olson to study the hammer-headed fruit bat, which is believed to be a potential “reservoir” for the Ebola virus.

Listen to Sarah Olson here:

Flying for penguins

Our guest in October 2018 was Dr. Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist in the Department of Geography at the University of Canterbury who is leading a research project using satellite imagery together with ground and flight surveys to compile population estimates for each of the 54 known emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. The project’s goal is to compile population estimates every year for an entire decade.

When reached for the episode Documenting emperor penguin populations, a dispatch from Antarctica, LaRue had just arrived at McMurdo Station, a research center at the southern tip of Ross Island, on Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound.

Hear about her research plans and crazy challenges here:

You can subscribe to the Mongabay Newscast on Android, the Google Podcasts app, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, RSS, Castbox, Pocket Casts, and via Spotify. Or listen to all our episodes via the Mongabay website here on the podcast homepage.

Want to hear from more women in the conservation sciences? Here are four interviews the Mongabay team recently conducted for the website:


‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent

Q&A: Esther Mwangi on why voices of local community members will be featured at GLF Africa conference

Studying human behavior to protect orangutans: Q&A with Liana Chua

Recovering conservationist: Q&A with orangutan ecologist June Mary Rubis

Banner image: National Park Service fisheries staff, 2016, image courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

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