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Spotlight On Women Working in Science

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 It’s International Women’s Day, and we’re taking the opportunity to spotlight a few of the women working in science at the Museum—including two who are currently out on scientific expeditions and two who have just published exciting new research.

West Art
Artistic rendering of the Antarctic landscape by expedition member Abby West.
Image courtesy of @antarcticdinos

It’s field season in Antarctica, and several research teams from the Museum are on the ground—and in the water. Associate Curator Estefanía Rodríguez is doing fieldwork off the coast of Antarctica, studying the fascinating varieties of anemones and other sea life in the frigid seas at the bottom of the world. Her studies of sea anemones resulted in a discovery of an entirely new order of life in 2014, which she recently discussed at the January SciCafe.

Meanwhile, on the few Antarctic islands not covered by snow and ice, graduate student Abby West is looking for fossils on Antarctica’s James Cook Island group as part of an international research team for the Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project (AP3). West, who studies an extinct order of South American hoofed mammals in a collaborative program between Columbia University and the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, has so far found a big jaw that may have belonged to a mosasaur.

Abby West Antarctica
Abby West, a Ph.D. student at the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School and Columbia University, preparing a fossil in Antarctica.
Image courtesy @antarcticdinos 

Meanwhile, working with colleagues at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Curator Susan Perkins recently discovered that a malarial parasite of white-tailed deer, once thought to be rare, is present in a significant percentage of the animal’s population on the East Coast. The research, published last month, was the first to document this parasite since in nearly 50 years.  Perkins is also co-curator of the special exhibition The Secret World Inside You, which explores the cutting-edge science of the countless microorganisms that are key to human health, collectively known as the microbiome.

light-filled display of "The Secret World Inside You" exhibit
The Secret World Inside You explores the trillions of microbes that live on and in our bodies.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Also last month, Eugenia Gold, a doctoral graduate of  the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, published a study that suggests that the dodo, once thought to be dim-witted, may have been relatively intelligent after all. Dodos are just one of the birds you can learn about in the upcoming exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, which traces the evolution of ancient dinosaurs into their more familiar modern relatives: birds.

A model of a dodo that will be on display in the Museum’s upcoming exhibition about the relationships between birds and dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Among Us.
© AMNH/C. Chesek

Stay tuned for profiles of women scientists from the Museum’s history as we continue to mark Women’s History Month in the coming weeks.