Today is Ada Lovelace Day, which seeks to increase the profile of women in STEM fields. Who is Ada Lovelace, you ask? She was the world’s first computer programmer. I was recently thinking about Ada Lovelace and prominent women in science after seeing a tweet from NatC, which featured this photo
(source: NatC, used with permission, featuring art available from here)
The tweet with the photo said “These awesome women are just hanging out in my office, helping me work.” That got me wondering: which pioneering women ecologists would I find inspiring as I worked in my office? Which do I think should be featured like Lovelace, Curie, Franklin, and Hopper?
I started thinking about this again last week after reading that, as part of Ada Lovelace Day, Anne Fausto-Sterling and Maia Weinstock are organizing a mass Wikipedia edit day, focusing on female scientists. Here is the Wikipedia page of suggested topics. At present, there is one ecologist on the list, Monica Turner. This got me wondering about what other women ecologists (or evolutionary biologists, to broaden things a bit) should have a Wikipedia page. (Actually, this list of ecologists with Wikipedia pages makes me think we could use more ecologist entries on Wikipedia, overall.)
Why Wikipedia? As Alex Bond pointed out in this article (aimed at ornithologists, but relevant to ecologists in general), “The first search of a topic for many, scholars and public alike, is Wikipedia … As such, Wikipedia presents an excellent opportunity to communicate science to a general public”. The idea that we need more prominent role models is also made by Langenheim in her excellent review of pioneering women in ecology. In that, she says, “The lack of role models is still considered by some as an important impediment in the professional advancement of women scientists. However, Brattstrom (18, p, 143) recently suggested ‘There are role models out there, we just need to talk more about them! . . . And we need to start it now!’”
With all this in mind, I turned to twitter to ask for suggestions of prominent and/or important women in ecology and evolutionary biology. I was completely overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the response. So much so that I’m going to split this into a few posts. Fortunately, the women who were highlighted by Langenheim are already in a list of ecologist pages needed on Wikipedia, so I have chosen not to add them to this list for now. But I hope everyone reads the Langenheim paper, and that some people are inspired to tackle Wikipedia pages for some of these women! On a related note, one of the women feastured by Langenheim, Lucy Braun, was featured in this excellent post by Jacquelyn Gill in honor of an earlier Ada Lovelace Day. (UPDATE: I missed that Jacquelyn also has an Ada Lovelace Day post on EC Pielou, another pioneering ecologist. This one is also worth reading!)
For this post, I will focus on current US National Academy of Sciences members who are women ecologists and/or evolutionary biologists. Obviously there are many, many more women who also deserve to be featured, but this seemed like a reasonable (and manageable!) starting point. I have categorized the NAS members into four groups: women who have solid Wikipedia pages, ones with Wikipedia pages that could use some work, ones with Wikipedia pages that need substantial work, and ones who need Wikipedia pages created.
I am really excited that so many people have been suggested, and look forward to compiling those into a larger list for a future post. There is just no way I could get that post pulled together in time for Ada Lovelace Day! In the comments, feel free to suggest the names of women who you think should be on the list. (Update 2: I have put the current list in the comments. Feel free to suggest more!) Also, if any of you know of good resources on how to go about actually editing/creating Wikipedia pages, I would love to hear about those, too. (I haven’t had time to do research on this yet, but plan to in the future.)
Wikipedia pages that need substantial work:
Ruth Patrick (recently deceased, but I’m including her anyway; she would probably be my top vote for a woman scientist whose picture I’d want on my wall to inspire me, similar to NatC)
No existing Wikipedia page (yet!):
Johanna (Annie) Schmitt
Sandra Díaz (though this Spanish language Wiki page appears to be about her)
Thanks to Andrea Kirkwood, CackleofRad, Morgan Ernest, Aimée Classen, Emilio Bruna, Dr. Wrasse, Karen Lips, Nick Tomeo, Perry Fight’n, Frank Aylward, Terry McGlynn, Alan Townsend, Elizabeth Quinn, Jessica Blois, Natalie Cooper, Chris Harrod, Rich Lenski, James Waters, Kendi Davies, NOGLSTP, Sciencegurl, AlbatrossPhD, Arvid Ågren, Aerin Jacob, Leslie Brunetta, Simone Vincenzi, Ainsley S, David Mayhood, Linda Campbell, Michael Hawkes, Simon Leather, Stuart Auld, Anna-Liisa Laine, Jamie Estill, Erica Garcia, Jennifer Fox, Sara Thomas, and Joe Mendelson for suggestions via Twitter and Facebook! As I said above, I will continue to compile a full list and will post that in a future post.