Who’s your #FemFieldHero?

It’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science today and we are all dying to hear who your heroes are. Please let us know under #FemFieldHero and if you want, add a picture of them, you, or both of you doing some field work!  We can’t wait to hear who inspired you!

I have a few heroes, some that I know personally, and others who have simply inspired me to pursue a career in field science. Here I’m giving just a few known heroes:

  • My mom. My mom is a badass of the highest caliber.  She is a retired flight nurse – the kind of nurse that flies in a helicopter to pick up critically ill patients.  Throughout her career, she has saved countless lives and witnessed countless tragedies. Growing up, I didn’t quite grasp how intense her job was and thought it was perfectly normal to talk about blood and guts over dinner.  Now I can appreciate so much more both how incredibly taxing mom’s job was and how it helped shape me into who I am today. I saw mom working tirelessly for 12 and 24-hour shifts, while ensuring that our home was safe, happy, and healthy.  I was always sad when mom missed our dinner because she got a late flight and when she missed holidays because it was her turn to work them. But it was always clear in our household just how important her work was. Today I rationalize not working nights and weekends to cross off a few more to-dos by saying “No one is dying if I don’t get to that until Monday/tomorrow.” She could never say that.  Watching her dedication to her profession, her professionalism, and how she provided for our family and was fully present when she wasn’t working, helped me to follow in her footsteps, or at least attempt to. Her shoes are too big to entirely fill.

“My mom is a badass of the highest caliber.”

  • Virginia McDermott. Virginia worked as the business director for the non-profit Island Conservation with which I got my start in science.  I learned all types of business-type stuff from her, but mostly what I learned from her was how a woman could command a room, and respect, through fierce intelligence, hard work, and professionalism. Of course, that’s not always the case, but it was with Virginia and when I worked with her in my early 20’s, she gave me a glimpse into what being a powerful, confident, respected woman looks like and I’ve tried ever since to live up to that image.  Again, try is the operative word because there’s no living up to some people and Virginia is one of them. My life is richer because I got to spend some of my most formative years with her.


  • My post-doc advisor, Erika Zavaleta.  When there were no tenured female professors at my PhD institution, I didn’t really think much of it.  Until I was 6 months pregnant with our first girl defending my thesis and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake in choosing a career path.  Was it even possible to balance a family and be a successful female academic? All answers pointed toward no and so when I was looking for a post-doc advisor, I was fortunate enough to find Erika.  She was not only balancing family and professordom, she was, and still is ROCKING IT. No seriously, go Google her, I’ll wait.  I know, right? Total rockstar. Erika had her 3rd child around the same time my first one was born and she helped me grow so much as an academic and as a mom, it would fill four blog posts to share. Seeing her successfully navigate academia and parenthood made me believe it was possible for me.


  • My mentees. Can I let you in on a secret? I learn so much more from my mentees than I teach them.  I’m incredibly honored to mentor so many men and women who give me so much hope that future generations of field professionals will have equal opportunities no matter their identities.  The next generation of scientists just doesn’t put up with the old, crusty, -ist ideologies that have gripped STEM and field science forever. They know what’s up and they are forces of nature. They comport themselves in ways that tear down barriers and say out loud things I was too terrified to say and they are working on solutions to problems I thought intractable.  I’m so excited for when they’re in charge.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Don’t forget to tell us who your #FemFieldHero(es) are!  

Are you interested in telling your #femfieldsecrets tale? We would love to hear from you!

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