UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment doctoral student Earyn McGee has been selected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN® Ambassador. IF/THEN® is a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies seeking to further women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.
“There is no doubt that science is the answer to solve many of our country’s most challenging issues and we need all of our nation’s critical thinkers addressing these issues,” said Nicole Small, president and CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “Women make up nearly half of our population yet only a fraction are entering STEM-related fields. This is why we’ve committed more than $25 million to ensure that women are empowered to change the world and serve as high-profile role models for the next generation of STEM pioneers."
We caught up with McGee, whose current research focus includes conservation biology and wildlife ecology and management, to discuss how she plans to leverage this ambassadorship to support women in STEM.
I’m from Inglewood, California. I was always interested in science and animals even as a child. My mother would often take my siblings and I to science centers, zoos, and aquariums all across the country. I knew that I wanted to work with animals but I wasn’t sure what would be the best path for me to do that. I’ve wanted to be a vet, a professor, and now a science communicator/researcher. I’m inspired by the pursuit to know the unknown. Even if it’s just what lizards eat. Natural history is so fascinating to me. I want to know how organisms continuously manage to survive in a world full of predators and harsh weather.
What projects are you working on currently?
Currently I am working on many different projects. I am interested in lizards and their diets so I’m using stable isotopes and fecal DNA analysis to see what they are eating. I’m working on a literature review exploring barriers that prevent Black women and other people of color from entering natural resources fields as well as the programs that are successful in dismantling those barriers. Finally I run a photo based game on twitter and instagram called #FindThatLizard which I plan to turn into a tool to help teachers get young students of color interested in Ecology.
What are you hoping to do with your degree?
After I’ve graduated, I hope to host a natural history television show. I also aspire to run a hands-on field research program for Black children, especially young Black girls.
What aspect of the ambassadorship are you most excited about?
I am very excited to share my science with middle school aged girls, as well as make connections with the other ambassadors.