Mary Anning was a palaeontologist and fossil collector from the Southwest coast of the United Kingdom. She was the first person to unearth a full Plesiosaurus fossil. Although Anning found the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton, and first two nearly complete plesiosaur skeletons, she was not credited by male scientists in their papers on these amazing finds. Even the Geological Society of London refused to admit Anning due to her being a woman.
Anning continued to unearth new and amazing fossils until she died in 1847. She is now recognised around the world for her contributions to palaeontology.
An American marine biologist, oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle holds the record for the deepest sea floor walk to date. Earle was the first woman to lead the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and has countless discoveries, accolades, and awards under her belt.
Earle is also the founder of Mission Blue, a non-profit which aims to protect our oceans from threats such as overexploitation and climate change. She continues to advocate for our oceans today.
Eugenie Clark, also known as the Shark Lady, was a Japanese American ichthyologist who pioneered the use of SCUBA for research purposes. In a time when marine biology was a male dominated world, Clark challenged stereotypes and contributed vast amounts to people’s knowledge of sharks and other fish.
In addition to the discovery that some shark species do not need to swim to breathe, Clark tried to improve the reputation of sharks in the public eye – advocating for the change of the opinion that sharks are dangerous and scary.
Marie Tharp was an American Oceanographer who changed what we knew about the ocean floor. In 1957 Tharp and her colleague Bruce Heezen published a map of the floor of the Atlantic, and rather than being flat as was thought at the time, it showed it was instead covered in mountains ridges and canyons. Due to few women being scientists at the time, Tharp wasn’t allowed on the ships that collected the sea floor data she was using, and she didn’t go on a research vessel until 1968.
Fast forward two decades, Tharp and Heezen finally published a map of the whole ocean floor and this work helped prove the theory that the tectonic plates on the earth move over time.
Cindy Lee Van Dover
A deep-sea biologist, Cindy Lee Van Dover discovered new species of bacteria shrimp, tube worm and mussels. In 1990 Van Dover was the first female pilot of the Alvin, a deep submergence vehicle built to dive to 2,440 meters.
Van Dover is now the Harvey Smith Professor of Oceanography and chair of the Division of Marine Science and Conservation at Duke University.
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