Celebrating Conservationists on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Celebrating Conservationists on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Published Feb. 11, 2021

Female scientists are making incredible contributions in the field of animal conservation. Their dedication and passion help save species across the globe, yet according to the United Nations less than 30 percent of researchers worldwide are women.

The sixth annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science highlights the need for full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. This year’s theme recognizes women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a light on the importance of ecological health and the vital role of protecting and restoring nature in preventing future pandemics. Inside the Zoo’s new Global Center for Species Survival, five female taxon coordinators are dedicated to conservation work that will underpin the health of wildlife, people and the planet.

Mimi Kessler, Ph.D., Bird Coordinator

“I am an avian ecologist and conservationist.

Many birds are sensitive to unsustainable agricultural practices – the same practices that result in erosion of topsoil, pollution of waterways, and loss of pollinator species. By making thoughtful choices about the way we eat and using our agricultural lands sustainably, we can preserve healthy environments for ourselves and the birds who brighten our skies.”

Monni Böhm, Ph.D., Freshwater Coordinator

“I am a conservation scientist focusing on monitoring the status and trend of species from a diverse set of groups and habitats.

If biodiversity is in trouble, humans are too. Freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems are among the hardest hit, from threats such as invasive species, damming and climate change. Did you know that around one third of freshwater mussels are threatened with extinction? From turtles to crayfish to mussels, these organisms play a key part in keeping our freshwater systems healthy — systems we are vitally dependent on.  We can save freshwaters, but the time to act is now.”

Nikki Roach, Ph.D., Reptile and Amphibian Coordinator

“I am a conservation scientist who has spent the last decade studying the impacts of land use and climate change on threatened species.

Biodiversity is the thread of our existence. Wildlife and human health are inextricably linked; the same streams we play in and source water from also provide habitat for critically endangered species such as frogs. When we contaminate or destroy our resources, we suffer ecological and societal consequences. I believe in a world where we put environmental and social justice at the forefront of problem-solving. The solutions are out there, we just have to be brave enough to implement them.”

Cátia Canteiro, M.Sc., Plant and Fungi Coordinator

“I am a conservation scientist working to protect all life on earth and live sustainably with nature.

There are currently two in five plant species estimated to be at risk of becoming extinct, mainly due to agriculture, urban development, logging and harvesting from the wild. These all link back to human impact and we are currently experiencing one of the consequences of habitat and biodiversity loss, COVID. We have no more time to lose and must change the way we interact and exploit biodiversity now, as we are part of nature and really can’t live without it. We can all start by making more sustainable choices regarding the products we buy and how much we consume.”

Angela Yang, M.Sc., Mammals Coordinator

“I am a conservation scientist who has worked around the world to promote the approach that the health of wild species, people and the planet are one.

When ecological integrity is fractured, conditions are created that enable the spread and often emergence of disease, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  It is then that we are reminded how interconnected—and how fragile—life on Earth is.  The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped our in our tracks and given us an opportunity to reflect on how we caused this pandemic, as well as plan a “greener” path forward.  The time is now: let’s rebuild a healthier, sustainable and more equitable tomorrow for all of us.”

Meet leading female conservationists through inspiring programs like the Indianapolis Prize Girls in Science presented by Raytheon. Learn more here.

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