Gender bias? Here in Panama, at Tranquilo Bay, not so much, but in many other parts of the world, yes. When many people think of women in science they do not think of the same people who my daughter brings to her mind. Why, well, we are blessed to live on a spot on this earth that brings many scientists to us. And believe it or not, the majority of the scientists that we have met working here in Bocas del Toro, are women.
We welcome scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute out to our place to study whatever it is they are studying. We figure it helps science, we learn something and our kids have an opportunity to meet new scientists on a regular basis.
We have naturalist guides who are on site to work with our guests who have both studied different sciences and who teach us about biology, nature and many different types of science on a daily basis.
We have group leaders who are scientists or naturalists of some form that visit us on a regular basis.
We have a family member who studied ecology and is working with TIDE so that she might become a marine biologist one day.
Why this conversation? Well, one of the scientists we met in October 2015 is also a National Geographic Photographer. Clare Fiesler contacted us to see about working with us on a kayak circumnavigation of Isla Bastimentos while she was studying at STRI. She and her buddy, Becca Skinner, used two portable Orukayaks to complete this expedition. They stayed the first night with us. Both of them have shared some details about their adventure on Nat Geo’s blog and Instagram account.
Since then, Clare suggested that a group of students from UNC Chapel Hill spend some time documenting Bocas del Toro and she kindly gave them our name. The result is this award-winning multimedia website created by the students under the supervision of a great group of professors and coaches. Clare was one of the coaches.
Several years ago, Clare worked on a project: “Outnumbered: Portraits of Women Scientists.” She explains a bit about the project in this video. You can also get more information here: http://college.unc.edu/2014/11/12/outnumbered/.
Most recently Clare used words to explain in An Ecologist’s Guide to Writing Obituaries about the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef as well as obituaries as a genre. We take writing very seriously around here as part of our school curriculum so when we find people who are skilled with this craft, we learn whatever we can from them.
My children have met a number of female scientists and a number of people named Clare, but only one female scientist named Clare. So when I tell them that Clare is in Bocas del Toro working on another research project they immediately know to ask, “Mom, are you talking about the Clare that did the kayak project?” They do this because to them, Clare isn’t the only female scientist they know so they have learned to identify her in a different way. I wish that more people had the same perspective on life – we can work towards whatever interests us and it doesn’t need to fit a specific mold. We can make it into what works for us. Clare’s camera and her words are some of the tools she uses to expand people’s horizons and help tell people’s stories. Many of those stories touch science in one way or another.