Tag Archives: Women in Science

How Dust can help control Climate Change

Research by a University of Oklahoma scientist could lead to novel way to fight climate change. It has to do with dust.

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan and a team of researchers from the University of California Riverside, Florida State University, University of Leeds, Hampton University, and Cornell University have been looking at some really old, iron-rich dust deposits. Like 300-million year old dust from the late Paleozoic period.

(I’ve talked with Dr. Soreghan before, click here and here to learn more about her.)

Dr. Soreghan says Earth’s atmosphere was as dusty as it has ever been 300 million years ago. She says it’s important to study those dust deposits because of the impact they had back then on Earth’s climate.

Here’s why: dust carries iron- iron is a fertilizer for plants- plants use photosynthesis-photosynthesis removes carbon from the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen.

Dr. Soreghan says deep-time dust contained a lot of iron which means it “…should have even larger consequences for burial of carbon.” As for the modern day, there’s talk of iron fertilization as a geoengineering scheme to control the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Dr. Soreghan says her study on deep-time events shines a light on how those types of geoengineering endeavors may work in the present day but, she says, more research is needed.

You can read more on the study in this brief write-up by Dr. Soreghan or here where the Geological Society of America has published an article. The National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society funded the research.

 

 

Someone has to love bugs

Dr. Katrina Menard is an entomologist, so she studies bugs (someone has to, right??). She was in Black Mesa this summer as part of the ExplorOlogy program. She was teaching the students how to develop a scientific study by taking a census of the local insect population.

So why entomology and why insects? Well at the 1:10 mark she explains what led her to a career studying the tiniest of creatures. At the 1:48 mark she talks about the importance of funding for scientific research and why the decision makers need to look at the long term results.

(For more on ExplorOlogy click here, here, here, and here.)

Women In Science

Have you seen the commercial that depicts a little girl growing up, along the way getting more and more discouragement about pursuing science? She’s told not to get her dress dirty or to be careful and let her brother handle a power drill. At the end, it looks like she’s taking notes about a science fair but, really, she’s just putting on lipstick. It packs a powerful message about girls, science, and societal expectations.

The National Science Foundation conducted a study that found girls and boys have the same attitude about science in elementary school. By fourth grade 66% of the girls and 68% of the boys showed an interest in science. But, to me, the telling aspect of the study found that both boys and girls in the second grade draw a scientist as a man, specifically as a white man.

Research done by the National Girls Collaborative Project showed that women are more likely to go into the biological sciences as opposed to computer sciences or engineering. As an example, 44% of the chemists and material scientists in the United States are women but only 4% of the mechanical engineers are women.

So why the discrepancy? Researchers say there are number of factors from cultural norms to ethnicity to economics. I’ve interviewed some very successful female scientists in the past few months. In the video above they explain what they think needs to happen to get more women in science and why we need to take a good long look in the mirror and make some serious societal changes.