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Alycia talks up brachiopods and running her paleontology lab on the Common Descent Podcast

I was recently a guest on the Common Descent podcast.  Will and David were really wonderful to talk with and had really great and insightful questions.  Our discussion was broad ranging and included brachiopods (of course), the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, running a paleontology lab, why my students are family to me, and running an international conference.

Spotlight – Alycia Stigall (3/5)

Welcome to our Spotlight Series! We’re talking paleo-science with some paleo-people! In this 5-part series, we’ve interviewed 5 different invertebrate paleontologists about their research and other work. In Episode 3, our guest is Dr. Alycia Stigall, shar…

Be sure to also check out the Common Descent interviews with lab alumni Adriane Lam and Ranjeev Epa!  Links here.

Stigall profiled in FOSSIL Project Newsletter

I was recently interviewed for the FOSSIL Project Spring Newsletter.  The conversation was largely focused on how I became a paleontologist, my favorite things about paleontology, my passion for outreach and education, and advice for young people considering a career in science.

You can read the online version (which looks nicer) at this link: https://www.myfossil.org/featured-professional-alycia-stigall/

A PDF version is available here

 

 

Alumni Symposium: Women in Geology

Every other spring, the Department of Geological Sciences alumni converge on Athens for a weekend of networking and reunions that is centered around a full day symposium where alumni, students, and faculty share their current work. This year, our Alumni Board chose to focus on Women in Geology and asked me to give a presentation on that topic.

I was delighted to develop a presentation on this topic as it’s both near and dear to my heart (and career), and I have published several pieces on gender issues in paleontology previously (GSA Today, Priscum). So I spent the better part of two weeks diving back into the literature on implicit bias, structural barriers to women, and locating data on women at the student through professional levels. I will say, for the record, this topic is not fun to dive into. It is important and I hoped that I could make a contribution by educating our alumni broadly about these issues, but it is emotionally taxing to read study after study showing empirical data for continuing bias in geoscience—and science in general.

I focused on my presentation on data. Data that demonstrate that: YES we have many women training to be geologists (nearly 45% of undergraduates), so we are developing a strong pool of qualified female geologists. But the data also demonstrate that NO these women are not fully participating in the geoscience workforce, which his only 23% female.

That disparity CANNOT be explained by historical biases alone. Women have been earning nearly half of geoscience degrees for at least the past 15 years, but the junior work force does not match the training pool.

So I explored the reasons for this starting with overt discrimination (which is present, but less common than in decades past), sexual harassment, gendered critiques, implicit bias, and structural barriers. These issues create feedback loops that instill lower self-confidence and greater workloads for women and ultimately push women out of the workforce.

Implicit bias, in which individuals allow ingrained stereotypes to unconsciously bias our opinions and decisions, is a significant problem. If you are not familiar with implicit bias, here are a series of empirical studies you can read. I’m particularly fond of this one about hurricane names (Jung et al., 2014) and this about lab tech hiring (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012).

More implicit bias studies:

Implicit bias is difficult because we all have it—it’s a societal issue, not a male vs. female issue. You can assess your level of implicit bias using a set of online quizzes at projectimplicit.net.

But if we each individually learn to recognize our bias, we can then take steps to mitigate that in hiring decisions, reference letters, etc. For example, here are tips to avoid bias in reference letters that frequently consult.

Overall, women are in a much stronger position within the geosciences than ever before. We are making strides toward parity, and if men and women work together to remove the barriers to full participation by women (and other gender identities) in geoscience, our field will be even stronger.

Although, I–like all women in science–could spend hours detailing specific events of bias during my career, they have not prevented me from becoming the scientist, I am today.  Rather, some things have molded me to be a more determined advocate for myself, my students, and our community as a whole. So I spent my presentation detailing the data to help others understand both the need for change and how we can all work together to improve our field for all people and to build a science combining a broader breadth of ideas and experiences.   I am very fortunate to belong to a very supportive department and to be able to contribute to mentoring the next generation of geoscientists.

*I have not discussed racial diversity in this post. Similar proportional increases in number of geoscience degrees earned are NOT occurring for minority groups in geoscience. All the structural and implicit barriers discussed impact racial diversity as well as a series of additional constraints. More on this later.

Significance of outreach and broader impacts

by Alycia Stigall
Significance of outreach and broader impacts

Engaging in outreach and public education are very important to me personally. I participate in formal and informal public education in a variety of contexts, and it is honestly somewhat difficult to describe this work concisely.  Working with a variety of groups ranging from kindergarteners and in-service teachers to amateur paleontologists, like the Dry Dredgers, and the public in general is really rewarding.

My experiences comprise only a small subset of the ways that scientists engage and benefit the public from our work.  Most of my colleagues are involved with projects like podcast (like Palaeocast), website (here are some great ones: PaleoMap project, PaleoPortal), or media development (so many YouTube videos like this one: ).  Others organize tremendously impressive efforts, such as the FOSSIL project and National Fossil Day. In general, scientists are approachable people who LOVE to talk about their research and teach others about science in general.  I invite you to get to know a scientist in your region!

Recently, Rachel Salter from the STEPPE office interviewed me about my experiences with outreach, broader impacts, and career issues in general.  Rachel did a wonderful job transcribing our broad ranging conversation into two concise blog pieces, which are available via the STEPPE website:

Part 1: Focuses on my career, research, and how to make education in geosciences more effective and fun! https://steppe.org/interview-with-alycia-stigall-life-education/

Part 2: Focuses on developing strong broader impacts for research projects https://steppe.org/interview-with-alycia-stigall-part-2-broader-impacts/

Teaching (and learning from!) teachers

by Alycia Stigall
Teaching (and learning from!) teachers

LogoThe first two weeks of August, I was privileged to help colleagues from the OHIO Patton College of Education lead a workshop to provide training for teachers of science in grades 4-8 in southeastern Ohio. As all good programs do, we had an unwieldy title: Scaffolding Inquiry and Problem Solving through Literacy and Assessment, which we shortened to SIPLAS.

I collaborated on a similar grant in 2013, and it is such a rewarding experience to work with these dedicated and talented educators. The teachers are really inspiring educators, and I learn so much from working with them that allows me to improve my own practice.  The SIPLAS program was designed to introduce participants to pedagogical methods in engineering design, literacy, and assessment while providing updated training in scientific content.IMG_5923

My role was to provide training in a series of geology topics. In my two days of leadership we covered: Fossils of Ohio (in the lab and in the field!), building dichotomous keys, earthquakes and plate tectonics, and development and extraction of ore deposits. The hallmark of the lessons is that they must employ authentic data. So we studied Ordovician fossils from near Cincinnati, Pennsylvanian fossils on nearby hills, the IRIS earthquake server, and USGS browsers of ore deposits.

My education faculty colleagues, particularly Danielle Dani and Sara Helfrich, worked hard to make sure my science ideas translated into standards aligned lessons with practical utility. For example, we practiced writing strategies (in which most participants wrote essays about why brachiopods preserve better than bivalves!  Awesome!) The integration of authentic and place-based data really makes these lessons work. Some of our participants planned to start of the year with the new lesson plans and others had excellent ideas for how to incorporate the new pedagogical strategies to improve their students learning. Clearly a successful week!

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What’s that fossil?

The Ohio University Communications and Marketing Office released a news story highlighting the Stigall Lab’s work on the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life app.  I am really very proud of the hard work that so many graduate and undergraduate students have put into making the Ordovician Atlas project come to life.isorophus

 

Read the full story here: 
https://www.ohio.edu/research/communications/news-story.cfm?newsItem=355824A4-5056-A874-1D3C7E5EF18BBE6A