Written by Taylor Mogavero, Program Coordinator
In honor of National Women’s History Month, we are celebrating women in ecology! These women have made ground-breaking discoveries and been devout activists to protect our Earth. As an ecologist myself, I have admired these women throughout my academic and professional years and I believe they are awe-inspiring for all, not just those in ecology.
To start with the basics: What is ecology?
Ecology (noun): a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments; the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Ecology spans all types of environments–from the ocean to the rainforest–and all types or organisms–from huge animals to single-cell organisms. An ecologist is someone who studies the interactions between them. Here is a short (and by no means conclusive) list of some impactful and inspiring woman ecologists!
Dr. Jane Goodall
Dr. Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and is famous for being the first in modern science to discover human-like behaviours amongst chimpanzees, ending the ideology that humans were the only animals that can use tools. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.
Dr. Sylvia Earle
Dr. Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998, and holds the record for deepest walk on the seafloor. She is the founder and president of Mission Blue and fondly known as “Her Deepness”.
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminist and anti-globalisation author. She is most known for authoring 20+ books and is often referred to as “Gandhi of grain” for her activism associated with the anti-GMO movement. Shiva is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization. She is a figure of the anti-globalisation movement and has argued in favor of many traditional practices.
Read Dr. Vandana Shiva’s work.
Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, writer, and conservationist whose influential book Silent Spring (1962) and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. Silent Spring brought environmental concerns to many American people for the first time and had a major impact. Despite the fights from chemical companies, a nationwide ban was put on DDT and other pesticides. Silent Spring is said to be the inspiration for forming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Read Silent Spring and other work by Rachel Carson.
Dr. Eugenie Clark
Dr. Eugenie Clark, my personal hero, was an American ichthyologist known for her research on shark behavior. Known as “The Shark Lady”, Clark was the first director of the Cape Haze Laboratory (now named Mote Marine Laboratory) in Sarasota, Florida. She was a pioneer in the field of scuba diving for research purposes and publicized the intelligence of sharks. In addition to being regarded as an authority in marine biology, Clark was popularly recognized and used her fame to promote marine conservation.
Read Lady with a Spear and The Lady and the Sharks by Dr. Eugenie Clark.