As the recent winner of the Jan Bergström Young Geoscientist Award, Dr Allison Daley is an inspiration to many budding geologists. Today, to celebrate the birthday of Mary Anning, probably the most famous female paleontologist ever, Allie reflects on the scientists who have inspired her and describes an encounter with a tiny female fossil hunter.
This week I received a special visit from a pint-sized friend, who is small enough that she actually arrived in the post. Fossil Hunter Lottie is an aspiration ‘pro girl’ doll who was designed in collaboration with my friend Tori Herridge at Trowelblazers. If you haven’t heard of Trowelblazers, you should definitely check it out. Trowelblazers is a celebration of women and their many contributions to archaeology, paleontology and geology. Articles and blog posts explore the important work of both historical and modern women scientists in these fields.
Trowelblazers has organized a UK tour of Fossil Hunter Lottie, leading up to today, her “official” launch day. Lottie is visiting women academics across the country, and blogging photos and videos along the way. During her day with me, Lottie explored the Museum and had a look at the research currently going on here.
Fossil Hunter Lottie’s launch day, 21st May, coincides with the anniversary of Mary Anning’s birthday. Considered one of the greatest fossil hunters of all time, Mary Anning discovered some of the earliest specimens of Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus from the Jurassic Coast in Dorset in the early 1800’s. This was a critically important time when ideas about palaeontology and the history of life on Earth were in a state of flux. Although she was not able to participate fully in the male-dominated scientific community, her contributions greatly influenced the thinking of academics at the time. She was intelligent, skilled and had the tenacity to build a name for herself in the face of much opposition. Mary Anning has always been an inspiration for me, as I’m sure she is for many female palaeontologists. It is almost impossible to imagine the kind of challenges Mary Anning faced, solely because she is a woman. I am fortunate to have rarely ever felt any limitations imposed on my work or my career by the fact that I am female.
I’ve participated in many field expeditions, and worked globally with wonderful colleagues, both male and female. As a child I always loved science, and my enthusiasm to become a scientist was encouraged and nurtured by my parents, who both studied biology at university. They have both always been a source of inspiration for me (thank you, mom and dad!). During my education and these early stages of my academic career, I’ve had excellent male and female mentors. This kind of support didn’t exist in Mary Anning’s time, making her accomplishments all the more impressive. Hopefully Fossil Hunter Lottie will help inspire more girls to take up science and consider becoming a trowelblazer, just like Mary Anning!
Dr. Allison Daley, Museum Research Fellow