Lest anyone doubt women in science are anything less than badass, today’s Washington Post has a nifty profile of Katherine Kendall, a former cheerleader who studies grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. The story was inspired by John McCain’s repeated attacks on the bear DNA project as a waste of government money, the very project that Kendall happens to run. The government money Kendall gets goes toward counting the bear population in the park. They use DNA just to tell the bears apart (All look same!). Because bears can live in a wide variety of habitats, they make a useful indicator for the overall health of a system. If the bear population is doing well, there’s some chance the local ecosystem is too. Since we generally want our national parks to be healthy ecosystems, the money isn’t nearly so wasteful as when McCain says wistfully into his microphone, “Three million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Unbelievable.”
Anyway, back to tough scientists. Kendall’s research requires her to go out and, err, pluck the hair from bears to get their DNA. This is the scientist McCain is deriding for wasteful government spending.
Here are a couple of choice quotes that I hope will inspire you to read the whole story:
Kendall is one tough field biologist: She’s rafted wild rivers, forded swollen streams and hiked through remote backcountry for weeks at a time. She goes to places inhabited by all manner of large creatures with sharp teeth. She was once charged by an enraged grizzly. She stared the bear down.
Also this one,
As a woman in a male-dominated field, Kendall was used to being underestimated. But she also thought of all the things that could go wrong. She would be sending people to places 30 miles from the nearest road. And they’d be carrying bear bait.
To make it extra fun, replace “Kendall” with “Miriam” and “bear” with “shark” in that last one.