Celebrating Women (and moms) in Science

What happens when the lines between work and home life dissolve? One working mom’s story of adaptation to Covid life

By Michelle Halbur – Pepperwood’s Preserve Ecologist

As I write this post, I have one ear listening to my son’s kindergarten math lesson on zoom with the other tracking my two year old daughter’s mischief, and I’m ignoring the giant piles that try to distract my attention. Amidst the piles are collections of crunchy leaves and gnarled sticks, downy feathers and velvety flower petals, drawings of bats with wings outstretched, and a myriad of other “nature treasures” that bring the outside indoors. This is what cultivating an appreciation for nature looks like during a pandemic. It’s messy. It’s fun. And it’s oh-so essential.

March is a month for celebrating women in science. It is a month to acknowledge that only one-third of researchers across the globe are women, and a smaller subset are working mothers in science like myself. It is a time to reflect on the contributions women from all backgrounds have made throughout history, overcoming immense hurdles to progress humanity’s scientific knowledge, advance our technology, and protect the environmental resources we depend upon for our survival. It is also a time to appreciate organizations such as Pepperwood, which employ and support women, and moms, in science.

With each maternity leave, wobbly pregnant step up a fire-scarred slope, childcare mishap, and now pandemic pressure juggling family and professional life – Pepperwood has been nothing but supportive along the way. This ethic, of organizational trust and compassion for working parents, translates into a direct investment into the youth of our community and beyond.

One positive aspect of the pandemic – aside from wearing pants with an elastic waistband daily – is that there is a new level of forgiveness for life’s little interruptions. When my kids run into the room during a zoom meeting to tell me how excited they are for a newly found ladybug, it’s a reminder that lifelong connections to nature happen in these tiny moments. I am grateful for the women in science that helped innovate the technology that lets me work remotely and experience the joy of discovery right alongside my kids.

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