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
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.
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
1953 - Present (69 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.
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 Laboratoire d’Etudes en Geophysique et Oceanographie Spatiale at Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées in Toulouse since 1996. Since 2013, she is director of Earth sciences at the International Space Sciences institute , in Bern .
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.
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.
Dame Judith Anne Rees, , 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.
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.
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.
Dame Julia Mary Slingo is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Meteorology for the University of Reading, and the Chief Scientist at the Met Office, a position she has held since 2009. She earned a B.S. in physics from the University of Bristol and later, a Ph.D. Fresh out of school, she began working at the United Kingdom's Meteorological Office, commonly known as the Met Office. She became a senior scientist in the dynamical meteorology department. At the University of Reading, Slingo was instrumental in the development of a group that focused on researching the hydrological tropical climates, and of particular interest, monsoon activity in India and China.
She served as the Director of Climate Research for NERC's National Centre for Atmospheric Science and founded the Walker Institute for Climate System Research. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2008, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2014. She was the first female president of the Royal Meteorological Society and the first female professor of meteorology in all of the United Kingdom. In 2015, she was awarded the International Meteorological Organization Prize by the World Meteorological Organization.
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.
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...
Gill Valentine is a British geographer, currently Professor of Geography and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield. She is a member of the university’s executive board and has chaired the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
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.
Areas of Specialization: Climate Change Julie Arblaster is a scientist and professor at the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University. She earned a Bachelor of Technology in Atmospheric Science from Macquarie University and an M.Sc. in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Colorado. She then went on to the University of Melbourne in Australia, where she earned her Ph.D. studying the drivers of southern hemisphere climate change.
Arblaster has focused her research on the mechanics of past, present and future climate change. By studying the history of climate change through a meteorological lens, she hopes to understand how greenhouse gases and human climate action will impact future climate conditions.
She is a member of the World Climate Research Programme Stratospheric-Tropospheric Processes and their Role in Climate steering group, the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, American Meteorological Society, Earth Science Women's Network and American Geophysical Union.
Gabriele Clarissa Hegerl is 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.
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.
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.
Areas of Specialization: Geochemistry, Igneous Petrology Terry Plank is professor of earth science at Columbia University and for the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. A noted volcanologist and geochemist, Plank has studied the chemistry of volcanic minerals, and studied the development and emergence of magma flows. She earned a bachelor's degree in earth sciences from Dartmouth College and her Ph.D from Columbia University.
Her interest in volcanos dates back to her time at Dartmouth College. Her professor took her class to the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, and from there she was hooked. Her research has taken her to the Aleutian Islands, the American Southwest, Iceland, the Philippines, and throughout the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire". Plank has published noteworthy works about how sediments from the ocean floor end up as lava, and how this change occurs.
She was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2012 and received the Geological Society of London's Wollaston Medal in 2018. She is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, the Mineralogical Society of America and the Geochemical Society.
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 gam...
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...
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 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.
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.
Areas of Specialization: Ecology, Biology, Environmental Science Pamela Matson is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor in Environmental Studies and a Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, where she studied biology. She went on to earn an M.S. in public and environmental affairs from Indiana University Bloomington, a Ph.D in forest ecology from Oregon State University, and postdoc studies at the University of North Carolina.
After school she took a position as a researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, where she investigated atmospheric conditions in the Amazon Rainforest. She went on to a position with the Environmental Science Policy Management Program at the University of California at Berkeley, before becoming Dean of Stanford University's School of Earth Sciences.
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.
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 has since been renewed until 2021.
Diana Liverman is Regents Professor of Geography and Development and Director of the School of Geography and Development in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.