1st Edition

Women in Field Biology A Journey into Nature

By Martha L. Crump, Michael J. Lannoo Copyright 2023
    316 Pages 116 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    316 Pages 116 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Women are contributing to disciplines once the sole domain of men. Field biology has been no different. The history of women field biologists, embedded in a history largely made and recorded by men, has never been written. Compilations of biographies have been assembled, but the narrative—their story—has never been told. In part, this is because many expressed their passion for nature as writers, artists, collectors, and educators during eras when women were excluded from the male-centric world of natural history and science. The history of women field biologists is intertwined with men’s changing views of female intellect and with increasing educational opportunities available to women. Given the preponderance of today’s professional female ecologists, animal behaviorists, systematists, conservation biologists, wildlife biologists, restoration ecologists, and natural historians, it is time to tell this story—the challenges and hardships they faced and still face, and the prominent role they have played and increasingly play in understanding our natural world.

    For a broader perspective, we profile selected European women field biologists, but our primary focus is the journey of women field biologists in North America. Each woman highlighted here followed a unique path. For some, personal wealth facilitated their work; some worked alongside their husbands. Many served as invisible assistants to men, receiving little or no recognition. Others were mavericks who carried out pioneering studies and whose published works are still read and valued today. All served as inspiration and proved to the women who would follow that women are as capable as men at studying nature in nature. Their legacy lives on today. The 75 female field biologists interviewed for this book are further testament that women have the intellect, stamina, and passion for fieldwork.


    Section 1: Historical Perspective

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Origins: Europe

    Origins: North America

    Chapter 2: Pre-1880 (Late Age of Discovery)


    North America

    Chapter 3: 1880 to 1916 (Gilded Age)

    Chapter 4: 1917 to 1945 (War and Interwar Years)

    The Chicago plant ecologists

    The Chicago animal ecologists

    The Nebraska/Minnesota plant ecologists

    The Wisconsin limnologists

    The Cornell legacy

    Elsewhere in the United States

    Chapter 5: 1945 to 1972 (Postwar Years)

    Chapter 6: 1972 to Present (Civil Rights Era)

    Section 2: Current Perspectives

    8. Chapter 7: Backgrounds, Paths, and Careers

    9. Chapter 8: Experiences and Perspectives

    Role models and mentors

    Tales from the field

    Joys and challenges of motherhood and field biology

    Advocacy for women: science outreach: service to

    the profession

    Are there advantages of being a woman in the field?

    Hardships and challenges

    Subtle or overt message that females are intellectually

    inferior to males

    Prevented from doing something because of being a


    Need to prove self

    Safety issues/Vulnerability as a woman

    Sexual harassment/Assault



    Other challenges

    Challenges associated with being a woman of color

    in field biology Microaggressions (and some not so micro)

    Positive change

    Increasing diversity and inclusivity

    "Words of wisdom" for the next generation

    Section 3: Looking Toward the Future

    Chapter 9: Ongoing Challenges and Moving Forward

    Gender bias in science


    The tightrope

    The maternal wall

    Tug of war


    Additional challenges faced by women field biologists

    Ethnic and racial minorities in field biology

    Moving forward


    Martha L. Crump is Adjunct Professor in the Biology Departments at Utah State University and Northern Arizona University. She has extensive field experience working with amphibians in Latin America, with fieldwork concentrated mainly in Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. Crump received the Distinguished Herpetologist Award from The Herpetologists’ League (1997), and the Henry S. Fitch Award for Excellence in Herpetology from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (2020). She is Past-President of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

    Crump is the author of over 60 scientific papers, one of six authors on Herpetology (college-level textbook), co-author of Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline, and author of five popular scientific books, most recently A Year with Nature: An Almanac (University of Chicago Press, 2018). In Search of the Golden Frog (University of Chicago Press, 2000) is Crump’s travel/adventure/memoir story of fieldwork in Central and South America. She is also author of four children’s books, including the award-winning The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog.

    Michael J. Lannoo is Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Indiana University and an affiliate of the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, and Purdue University. He has considerable tropical and polar field experience in addition to his primary research emphasis on temperate systems. In 2001 Lannoo received the Parker/Gentry Award for Excellence and Innovation in Conservation Biology through The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL. This award honors "an outstanding individual, team or organization whose efforts are distinctive and courageous and have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s natural heritage, and whose actions and approaches can serve as a model to others." (see http://www.parkergentry.fieldmuseum.org/2001).

    Lannoo is the author/editor of over 100 scientific papers and seven popular scientific books, including Leopold’s Shack and Ricketts’s Lab: The Emergence of Environmentalism, and most recently This Land is Your Land: The Story of Field Biology in America (University of Chicago Press, 2018).