Influential Women in Earth Sciences From the Last 10 years

Influential Women in Earth Sciences From the Last 10 years

Our list of influential women in Earth science is as broad and impressive as the field itself. These female professionals have scoured the Earth, taking on volcanoes, glaciers, classrooms, and so much more all for a better understanding of our planet as well as all the life and matter contained within.

Top 10 Women in Earth Sciences From the Last 10 Years

  1. Judith Curry
  2. Anny Cazenave
  3. Karna Lidmar-Bergström
  4. Kayla Iacovino
  5. Judith Rees
  6. Joanna Haigh
  7. Erin Pettit
  8. Julia Slingo
  9. Doreen Massey
  10. Cindi Katz

Many categories fall under the umbrella of earth science, including environmental science, glaciology, gemology, geophysics, and geology, and most careers in this field require a four-year degree; some may even require graduate degrees and other certifications as well. Regardless of specialization, however, those pursuing degrees in earth science can expect to take many math and chemistry courses.

Women make up the majority of four-year degree holders in subfields like environmental science, but they are underrepresented in fields like geological engineering. With jobs on an upward trend for many of earth science’s subfields, like an 8% rate of growth by 2030 for environmental scientists and specialists and a 7% rate of growth for geoscientists, women will have more opportunities to put their passions and education to use. Earth science careers range from environmental consultants to hydrogeologists to geochemists. Many professionals, like the women on this list, also serve as professors or instructors.

Support for female professionals in earth science is essential, which is why organizations like the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) was founded. The ESWN notes, Even in disciplines with the majority of advanced degrees earned by women, senior and leadership positions are still dominated by men. The Network’s goal is to support women in this field by increasing diversity across the geosciences with an emphasis on creating and supporting a nurturing community, working for cultural change to eliminate barriers to a diverse scientific workforce, and empowering scientists through professional development.

The women on this list have made major contributions to our understanding of the Earth, its raw materials, and the natural disasters that occur here. Erin Pettit, for example, is glaciologist and professor who has used her knowledge of glaciers to predict changing climates and rising seas. Judith Curry, a climatologist known for her work on hurricanes, has also spent some of her professional career in academia and once served as the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences for Georgia Institute of Technology. Additionally, Kayla Iacovino, a PhD holder and well-known volcanologist, has taken her career and research all over the world, including to North Korea, where she was the first woman to conduct fieldwork. Bertha Becker dedicated her career as a geographer to studying the Amazon and went on to teach and publish many articles and books about her discoveries.

Influential Women in Earth Sciences From the Last 10 Years

  1. #1

    Judith Curry

    1953 - Present (71 years)
    Judith A. Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, climate models, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She was a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee, published over a hundred scientific papers, and co-edited several major works. Curry retired from academia in 2017 at age 63, coinciding with her public climate change ...
  2. #2

    Anny Cazenave

    1944 - Present (80 years)
    Anny Cazenave is a French space geodesist and one of the pioneers in satellite altimetry. She works for the French space agency CNES and has been deputy director of the at Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées in Toulouse since 1996. Since 2013, she is director of Earth sciences at the International Space Science Institute , in Bern .
  3. #3

    Karna Lidmar-Bergström

    1940 - Present (84 years)
    Karna Lidmar-Bergström is a Swedish geologist and geomorphologist known for her study of Pre-Quaternary landforms in Sweden and Norway. In 2004 she was elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  4. #4

    Kayla Iacovino

    1901 - Present (123 years)
    Kayla Iacovino is an American volcanologist, noted for her widespread fieldwork and experimental petrology. She was the first woman to do her field work in North Korea and has international experience and recognition. Originally from Arizona in the United States, she has worked in countries including Chile, North Korea, China, Costa Rica, Antarctica, Italy, Japan and Ethiopia.
  5. #5

    Judith Rees

    1944 - Present (80 years)
    Dame Judith Anne Rees, , is a distinguished academic geographer, was interim director of London School of Economics and Political Science from May 2011 until September 2012. Professor Rees also acts as director for its Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and is Vice-Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  6. #6

    Joanna Haigh

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Joanna Dorothy Haigh is a British physicist and academic. Before her retirement in 2019 she was Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, and co-director of the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment. She served as head of the department of physics at Imperial College London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society , and a served as president of the Royal Meteorological Society.
  7. #7

    Erin Pettit

    1971 - Present (53 years)
    Erin Christine Pettit is an American glaciologist focusing on climate change. She is an associate professor of geophysics and glaciology at Oregon State University. Her work focuses on ice-ocean interactions, ice-shelf disintegration, sea-level rise and ocean circulation changes.
  8. #8

    Julia Slingo

    1950 - Present (74 years)
  9. #9

    Doreen Massey

    1944 - 2016 (72 years)
    Doreen Barbara Massey was a British social scientist and geographer. She specialized in Marxist geography, feminist geography, and cultural geography, as well as other topics. She was Professor of Geography at the Open University.
  10. #10

    Cindi Katz

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Cindi Katz , a geographer, is Professor in Environmental Psychology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, American Studies, and Women’s Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her work concerns social reproduction and the production of space, place and nature; children and the environment; the consequences of global economic restructuring for everyday life; the privatization of the public environment, the intertwining of memory and history in the geographical imagination, and the intertwined spatialities of homeland and home-based security. She is known for her work on social reproduction and every...
  11. #11

    Gill Valentine

    1965 - Present (59 years)
    Gill Valentine is a British geographer, currently Professor of Geography and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield. She is a member of the university’s executive board and has chaired the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
  12. #12

    Anne Buttimer

    1938 - 2017 (79 years)
    Anne Buttimer was an Irish geographer. She was emeritus professor of geography at University College, Dublin. Background Buttimer grew up in Ireland with strong Catholic convictions. She studied at University College Cork and the National University of Ireland . After this, she joined the Dominican Order and moved to Seattle. She remained in the order for 17 years.
  13. #13

    Julie Arblaster

    1965 - Present (59 years)
  14. #14

    Gabriele Hegerl

    1963 - Present (61 years)
    Gabriele Clarissa Hegerl is a German climatologist. She is a professor of climate system science at the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences. Prior to 2007 she held research positions at Texas A&M University and at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, during which time she was a co-ordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth and Fifth Assessment Report.
  15. #15

    Bertha Becker

    1930 - 2013 (83 years)
    Bertha Koiffmann Becker was a Brazilian geographer, author and professor emeritus at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She published more than 180 books, articles, and other works during her career. Much of her research dealt with issues affecting the Amazon rainforest and surrounding regions, as well as the political geography of Brazil. She helped develop new public policies for the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology. She spoke as a panelist at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 in 2012.
  16. #16

    Ellen Stofan

    1961 - Present (63 years)
    Ellen Renee Stofan is Under Secretary for Science and Research at The Smithsonian and was previously the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum. As a planetary geologist, Stofan served as Chief Scientist of NASA and as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs, planning and investments. Previously, she was vice president of Proxemy Research in Laytonsville, Maryland, and as an honorary professor in the Earth sciences department at the University College London.
  17. #17

    Terry Plank

    1963 - Present (61 years)
  18. #18

    Kate Edwards

    1965 - Present (59 years)
    Kate Edwards is a geographer, writer, and content culturalization strategist, most active in information-based cartography and video game content. She was the executive director of the International Game Developers Association from December 2012 to June 2017. Edwards spent over a decade working in various roles at Microsoft, creating the Geopolitical Strategy team and working to evaluate and manage geopolitical and cultural content in software products. After leaving Microsoft she founded Englobe as a consulting firm engaged in content culturalization and strategy, primarily for the video ga...
  19. #19

    Mary Ellen Mazey

    1949 - Present (75 years)
    Mary Ellen Mazey is an American academic who is President Emeritus of Bowling Green State University. Career Mazey served as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Auburn University, as Dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, and as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University. In 1996-1997, Mazey was the appointed Director of the Office of University Partnerships for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development . In that capacity, she had oversight of HUD’s $25 million in grant programs to colleges and universities acr...
  20. #20

    Ruth Wilson Gilmore

    1950 - Present (74 years)
    Ruth Wilson Gilmore is a prison abolitionist and prison scholar. She is the Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics and professor of geography in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She has been credited with “more or less single-handedly” inventing carceral geography, the “study of the interrelationships across space, institutions and political economy that shape and define modern incarceration”. She received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Geographers.
  21. #21

    Linda McDowell

    1949 - Present (75 years)
    Linda Margaret McDowell is a British geographer and academic, specialising in the ethnography of work and employment. She was Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford from 2004 to 2016. Early life and education McDowell studied for her PhD as a part-time student at the Bartlett School of Planning, where she had previously earned a master’s degree. Supervised by Peter Cowan, she researched housing change in London.
  22. #22

    Pamela Matson

    1953 - Present (71 years)
  23. #23

    Khajidsuren Bolormaa

    1965 - Present (59 years)
    Khajidsuren Bolormaa, or Khajidsurengiin Bolormaa, is a Mongolian mineralogical engineer, as well as a healthcare and children’s rights advocate, who served as the First Lady of Mongolia from 2009 to 2017. Bolormaa is the wife of former President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. In 2006, Bolormaa founded the Bolor Foundation, which cares for orphans in Mongolia.
  24. #24

    Susan J. Smith

    1956 - Present (68 years)
    Susan Jane Smith is a British geographer and academic. Since 2009, she has been mistress of Girton College, Cambridge. Smith previously held the Ogilvie Chair of Geography at the University of Edinburgh from 1990 to 2004 and until 2009 was a professor of geography at Durham University, where she played a key role in establishing the Institute of Advanced Study. On 1 October 2011, she was conferred the title of Honorary Professor of Social and Economic Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge for five years, which was renewed until 2021.
  25. #25

    Diana Liverman

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Diana Liverman is a retired Regents Professor of Geography and Development and past Director of the University of Arizona School of Geography, Development and Environment in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in Tucson, Arizona.

Image Credits:

Top row, left to right: Patricia Hill Collins, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Malala Yousafzai, Shafi Goldwasser, Jennifer Doudna, Fabiola Gianotti, Michiko Kakutani, Lauren Underwood.

Bottom row, left to right: Fei-Fei Li, Esther Duflo, Kathy Reichs, Nancy Fraser, Brené Brown, Judith Curry, Jill Lepore, Zaha Hadid.

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