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Seagoing Science Revisited


Posted: Aug 3 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: History of Geosciences, Gender and Geosciences, Field-Based Learning

I'm writing from the Coast Guard research icebreaker Healy, offshore from the Aleutians, where I am at sea with my husband Dale and daughter Dana. Dale spends four to five months a year aboard this ship, making the complex suite of science instrumentation work for science cruises in the Arctic. But I've never been on this ship, and Dana has never been on any research vessel. The Coast Guard sometimes allows family members to ride the ship during transit legs, and so Dana and I are aboard for the three day run from Seward, Alaska, to Dutch Harbor.

I feel a bit like Rip van Winkle, having gone to sleep and awoken 17 years later to find that some things have changed in seagoing science and others have stayed the same. I last sailed in 1993, as Chief Scientist aboard the R/V Ewing at the Vema Fracture Zone. More

Assistant Professors are Like Fish


Posted: Nov 14 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Gender and Geosciences, Systems Thinking

Cathy wrote here recently of how profoundly a systems approach had "infiltrated her thinking," enabling her to "make sense out of seemingly mystifying behavior" across a range of real-world contexts by thinking in terms of "drivers and feedbacks operating on the various players." This perspective, in turn, enables her to prioritize where to focus her energies and identify ways by which she can effectively influence a system.

I'd like to enthusiastically endorse Cathy's idea that systems thinking is a skill transferable to problems outside of geosciences, and back it up with a real-world example. Ten years ago, I found myself on a writing team comprising myself, an English professor, an astrophysicist, and an institutional research professional trained in social sciences. On and off for two years, we collaborated on what became the Commission on the Status of Women report on Advancement of Women through the Academic Ranks of the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: Where are the Leaks in the Pipeline?

None of us had scholarly training or expertise in the content of the pipeline report. Instead, we all brought to the table our discipline-appropriate habits of mind and perspectives and expectations for what constitutes evidence or a persuasive argument. The English professor wrote eloquent prose. The social science researcher wanted tables of numbers and statistics. The physics-trained guy wanted graphs. More

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Congratulations, Marcia!


Posted: Oct 29 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Gender and Geosciences, History of Geosciences

Congratulations to Marcia McNutt, who has been confirmed by the Senate as the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. (more info)

I trailed a few years behind Marcia in the doctoral program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the 1970's, when women scientists were scarce at Scripps and non-existent in the higher reaches of the profession. Times have indeed changed: More

Triaging the Behindedness


Posted: Oct 23 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Gender and Geosciences
Bill Ryan
Bill Ryan at the time of the story. Photo by Anita Brosius.
Today my institution, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is honoring my former advisor and boss, Bill Ryan. As my small contribution to the day, I offer this essay, written for the L-DEO women scientists' group five years ago. It ends with a story about the Bill Ryan of 25 years ago.

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Winner Take All


Posted: Sep 29 2009 by David W. Mogk
Topics: Solving Societal Problems, Metacognition, Gender and Geosciences

In 1993, Dr. Lani Guinier was nominated by President William Clinton to be the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. However, prior to her confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, her nomination was withdrawn because of strong opposition by conservative factions that portrayed her as the "Quota Queen" based on her views about proportional representation. A biography (from Minerscarnary.org) of Dr. Guinier reports: Professor Guinier first came to public attention in 1993 when President Clinton nominated her to be the first black woman to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. She had been a civil rights attorney for more than ten years and had served in the Civil Rights Division during the Carter Administration as special assistant to then Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days. Immediately after her name was put forward in 1993, conservatives virulently attacked Guinier's views on democracy and voting, driving Clinton to withdraw her nomination without a confirmation hearing. She never got to testify on her own behalf. In response, she wrote The Tyranny of the Majority (1994, Free Press). At the risk of oversimplifying her arguments, the basis is that "winner take all" in political elections is neither fair nor an effective way to run a government, and that minorities should have the opportunity to be represented, their voices heard, and to have their needs addressed at least some of the time.

What does The Tyranny of the Majority have to do with the "state" of geoscience education? More

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