Like many kids, I fell in love with paleontology in first grade, when my class did a unit on dinosaurs, that culminated us performing a song whose refrain went, “Dinosaurs are big and scary, big animals that aren’t very hairy.” Unlike, many kids, I never grew out of my love for paleontology. As a child in Chicago, I dreamed of Africa, the American West, camping in tent in the desert, and discovering fossils. As a college student, I fell in love with fieldwork thanks to a semester in Tanzania and a summer internship at the Smithsonian. The graduate school years were spent plotting ways to get back to Africa, and also completing a dissertation on 60-50 million year old fossil plants from the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. Today, I hold the job I have dreamed of since I was 10 years old: assistant professor of paleontology at the University of Wyoming. I spend a couple months in the field each year (predominantly Ethiopia & Wyoming) and the rest of my time analyzing the fossils in my lab, writing grant proposals and scientific articles, and, of course, teaching.
I originally started this blog to keep my family and friends updated during a semester abroad in Ethiopia. This spring, I have a new purpose: to remind myself that I’m not alone in attempting to break into the old boys club that is field paleontology and to celebrate some inspiring paleontologists and geologists who defy the stereotypes that run rampant in the popular media. This also gives me a chance to brag about the awesomeness of my friends and colleagues. All the studies show that women are less vocal promoting themselves than men are. So allow me to introduce you to some of the wonderful women in field paleontology.
I’ve heard many truly horrible stories about discrimination in the physical sciences. I am incredibly grateful that I have limited personal experience of this. I had wonderful male advisors in each step of my schooling (Munir Humayun at UChicago, Peter Wilf at Penn State, Scott Wing at the Smithsonian) that judged me solely on my talents, work ethic, and scientific performance. And, in my opinion, that’s exactly what our end goal should be.
Big thank you’s to Lexi Marsh (https://www.facebook.com/OnYourFeetEntertainment) for creative inspiration and to Jan Wilson for website design and technical support. The title of the blog comes from P.D. James’s first Cordelia Gray mystery novel.
For more information about my research, please visit www.users.miamioh.edu/currane/
You can even watch me give a public talk at the Bighorn Basin Paleo Symposium at http://www.mywyoming.org/video/lh97iqnsco