You are not likely to meet anyone as fired up about the geosciences as University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Beth Johnson.
The geology faculty member located on the Fox Cities campus first fell in love with dinosaurs at the age of 5, followed by paleontology in high school and, finally, the development of landscapes while in college.
Last month, she was honored with a 2020 Exchange Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) for her work as editor on the Geological Society of America’s publication, Women and Geology: Who Are We, Where Have We Been, and Where Are We Going.
“This publication, released in 2018, is significant because it highlights the history, struggles and the progress women have made in a STEM discipline that is typically dominated by men,” Johnson said.
“This award is a celebration of my ongoing research on women’s roles in geology and geosciences. To receive a national award for this is not only a recognition of the validity of my research, but also a recognition that shining a light on issues of gender (or ethnic) inclusion and equity is important and valuable in today’s day and age.”
Lisa Tranel, AWG past president and geology professor at Illinois State University, noted that Women in Geology provided a collection of stories of amazing women.
“This memoir also included summaries about communities of women and the impact of these organizations to provide support for women in the geosciences,” Tranel said. “The timing of this work was valuable because in the past year, we have seen evidence that there is still much work to be done. There is still much need to distribute women’s stories and to help us understand the impacts of unconscious biases. This resource will be cited in new and continuing projects working to increase the visibility of women’s contributions in the geosciences.”
Historically, women in STEM have gravitated to biology and chemistry, Johnson noted. Earth science classes often are not readily available in high school, especially in more rural areas. In addition, college-bound students are often steered away from the earth sciences.
Johnson likes to point out that the geosciences combine a number of other sciences into one “fascinating” applied discipline.
“The geosciences are a way to understand the world around us and how what we see when we look out our windows came to be. We look at how landscapes have changed over time,” she said. “It’s like trying to solve the ultimate cold case files.”