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Daring to Dig: Women in Paleontology

Daring to Dig: Women in Paleontology Live Panel

The field of paleontology has been greatly shaped by women despite encountering resistance at every level required for success in the profession. The work of achieving equity in paleontology is still ongoing, but in the 21st century, paleontology is becoming a more welcoming science for everyone, regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, or ability.

Our panel of eminent women paleontologists shared their experiences, challenges and inspiration for the next generation of girls to pursue careers in science and paleontology. This discussion was geared towards middle and high school girls, their families and educators. 

Watch the archived discussion below, this was recorded on October 26, 2021.


This panel is a complement to the exhibit Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology, on display at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY until December 2021 and available online at DaringtoDig.org.

Host: Nancy Coddington, Director of Science, WSKG Public Media


Dr. Elizabeth Hermsen, Research Scientist, Paleontological Research Institution

Dr. Linda Ivany, Professor and Associate Chair, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Syracuse University

Dr. Christy Visaggi, Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Program Director, Geosciences, Georgia State University

Dr. Phoebe Cohen, Chair and Associate Professor of Geosciences, Williams College

Panel Biographies:

Dr. Elizabeth Hermsen is a paleobotanist. She studies fossil plants, with a focus on their structure, classification, and evolutionary relationships. She has done paleontological field work in both North and South America and has studied fossils spanning time periods from the Middle Triassic (about 247 to 237 million years ago) to the Neogene (about 23 to 2.6 million years ago). She received her PhD from Cornell University, was an Assistant Professor at Ohio University, and is now a Research Scientist at the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY. Liz also contributes to projects in science communication, such as the Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology exhibit and the online, open-access Digital Encyclopedia of Ancient Life.

Dr. Linda Ivany studies the chemistry of fossil seashells to learn about the ancient animals that made them and the environments in which those animals lived. She is particularly interested in times in the past when Earth's climate was much warmer, and her work has taken her to places near and far, including the US Gulf Coast, Antarctica, and Australia. She has been interested in geology and paleontology her whole life. Linda went to Harvard University for her Ph.D. and was later a Fellow at the University of Michigan. She is now a Professor and Associate Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse University, where she serves as a mentor for the next generation of paleontologists.

Dr. Christy Visaggi studies the ecology of ancient marine environments, especially through fossil snails, and she's passionate about sharing her love of science as an educator, paleontologist, and mentor to students. Her fieldwork has taken her to locations such as the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, and Argentina, and many places across the U.S. Christy received her PhD at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and is currently Undergraduate Program Director in Geosciences at Georgia State University. Christy has been a leader with numerous science education organizations, is an advocate for diversity in the geosciences, and has received numerous awards for her teaching. 

Dr. Phoebe Cohen studies ancient, single-celled, microscopic organisms that lived before animals evolved. She uses microscopes, chemistry, and geology to figure out what very ancient organisms and their environments were like and how they changed through time. Her fieldwork has taken her to many remote sites around the world. Her first job after college was at the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY, where she decided to become a paleontologist. Phoebe received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010 and is currently an Associate Professor of Geosciences at Williams College in Massachusetts. She is also very involved in diversity and inclusion work in the geosciences. 

Daring to Dig Exhibit
Digital Atlas of Ancient Life
Paleontological Society
The Fossil Project
Fossil Use Cards
Paleo Navigator
Earth at Home