The 45 most influential female ecologists alive today according to twitter

melissaMelissa Giresi is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University interested in using genetic methods to assess population structure, connectivity and biodiversity of exploited marine fishes and invertebrates. For her dissertation, she is testing the null hypothesis that the dusky smoothhound shark, Mustelus canis, is a single genetically-panmictic population in U.S. waters and utilizing molecular and morphological markers to assess how many smoothhound species are present in the Gulf of Mexico.   She is also involved with projects to investigate population connectivity in fine tooth sharks, black nose sharks, cobia, and amberjack. 

Monica Turner, image courtesy University of Wisconsin

Monica Turner, image courtesy University of Wisconsin

On Thursday, I tweeted “Name the most influential female ecologist (alive today) that you can think of.”  After it was re-tweeted by several of my much more twitter-savvy colleagues and friends, I received an overwhelming number of responses. In retrospect, I should have created a hashtag to keep track of the responses.  Forty-five influential female ecologists were named in this search, some of whom responded to the question themselves, naming their colleagues (but never naming themselves).  The most influential female ecologists (alive today) according to the twitter-verse are listed in the table below in alphabetical order by last name.

Jane Lubchenco, image courtesy Oregon State University

Jane Lubchenco, image courtesy Oregon State University

The accomplishments of the women on this list are incredible and innumerable. This list includes a the former NOAA Administrator, former president of the Ecological Society of America, a Laureate for the Tyler Prize in Environmental Achievement, Time Magazine’s Hero for the planet, a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, several members of the National Academy of Sciences, and winners of the Emminent Ecologist Award and the Hubbard Award, just to mention a few.  The women on this list include paleoecologists, entomologists, icthyologists, soil biologists, microbial ecologists, fungal ecologists, wetland ecologists, community ecologists, climate change ecologists, landscape ecologists, phylogeneticists, population geneticists, and anthropologists.  Their work spans from studying hydrothermal vents in the abysmal ocean to characterizing communities in rainforest canopies; from examining methods of pre-copulatory sexual selection to determining mechanisms of speciation; from examining community structure on small scales to characterizing effects of climate change on biodiversity on global scales.

Eugenie Clark, image courtesy University of Maryland

Eugenie Clark, image courtesy University of Maryland

The ability to communicate scientific information to the public is a difficult task, one in which all of these women have successfully done.  Many of the women on this list have been featured in prominent media outlets, such as TED Talks, episodes of the Colbert Report and on the Scientific American Blog. The women on this list serve as role models for young ecologists.


Last Name First Name Current Affiliation
Alonzo Suzanne Yale
Bartuska Ann USDA- Dept of Agriculture
Berenbaum May University of Illinois
Cavanaugh Colleen Harvard
Clark Eugenie Mote and U of Maryland
Daily Gretchen Stanford
Davis Margaret University of Minnesota
Earle Sylvia CAS, DOER Marine
Firestone Mary Berkeley
Fulton Beth CSIRO
Galatowitsch Susan University of Minnesota
Gillespie Rosemary Berkeley
Gordon Deborah Stanford
Grimm Nancy Arizona State
Hadly Liz Stanford
Hellmann Jessica Notre Dame
Hobbie Sarah University of Minnesota
Johnson Nancy Northern Arizona U
Knowlton Nancy Smithsonian Institute (NMNH)
Laporte Nadine Woods Hole Research Center
Lowman Meg California Academy of Sciences
Lubchenco Jane Oregon State University
Mace Georgina CBER
Martiny Jen UC Irvine
Matson Pamela Stanford
Nadkarni Nalini University of Utah
Olson Dede USDA- Dept of Agriculture
Palmer Margaret University of Maryland
Pendelton Bonnie West Texas A&M University
Pielou EC
Power Mary Berkeley
Rabalais Nancy LSU
Roughgarden Joan Stanford
Servedio Maria UNC Chapel Hill
Steingraber Sandra Ithaca College
Stromberg Julie Arizona State U
Templer Pam Boston U
Thaler Jennifer Cornell
Treseder Kathleen UC Irvine
Turner Monica University of Wisconsin
van Dover Cindy Lee Duke
Wall Diana Colorado State
With Kim Kansas State U
Zedler Joy University of Wisconsin


If you think anyone was left off this list, please suggest a name in the comments.


  1. diverdiane · February 10, 2014

    I think Mary Silver belongs on this list. She has done amazing work studying harmful algal blooms and is a fantastic speaker.

  2. Lac · February 10, 2014

    Surely there are influential ecologists outside of the USA

  3. Simone Vincenzi · February 10, 2014

    Fiorenza Micheli, Stanford

  4. Mike · February 10, 2014

    Two that come to mind immediately for me.

    Bronwyn Gillanders – University of Adelaide
    Linda Deegan – Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole

  5. Sandra · February 10, 2014

    The work of these three women in the marine/freshwater fish world has inspired me:

    Lauren Chapman, McGill University, Canada
    Isabelle Côté, Simon Fraser University, Canada
    Alexandra Grutter, University of Queensland, Australia

  6. Michael McCarthy · February 10, 2014

    Some non-US people:

    EJ Milner-Gulland, Imperial College
    Emma Johnson, UNSW
    Angela Moles, UNSW
    Jane Elith, Univ Melbourne (one of the most highly-cited ecologists in the world)
    Sandra Lavorel, Université Joseph Fourier (another highly-cited ecologist)

  7. Michael McCarthy · February 10, 2014

    Whoops – that should have been Emma Johnston.

  8. Fernanda · February 10, 2014

    Could we please stop putting gender in front of occupation descriptions?
    We don’t talk about “male ecologists”…

  9. Dave · February 10, 2014

    Barbara Downes – University of Melbourne (

  10. Claudia · February 10, 2014

    Lisette Waits, University of Idaho and Marcella Kelly, Virginia Tech

  11. Kim Nicholas · February 11, 2014

    Could you please add Twitter usernames to make it easy to follow these great women? Thanks.

  12. ricky spencer · February 11, 2014

    Something creepy and demeaning about this…. I am sure you all laugh at all the dumb Americans that don’t know where other countries are when quizzed on shows like Leno. This list ticks that box too.. Sheesh

    • ricky spencer · February 11, 2014

      Just to clarify, the creepy and demeaning thing is that these people are awesome Ecologists. No need to group them by sex

    • Aja Romano (@ajaromano) · February 12, 2014

      Given the societal and systemic marginalization and exclusion of women in all areas and at all levels of STEM careers, which I have written about numerous times (but probably most comprehensively here ), I don’t think there’s anything at all demeaning, or creepy, about a list that proves how successful women can be in the field despite all the odds stacked against them. I am happy to see this list and I hope that it will be inspirational to young women and girls who are thinking about pursuing careers in ecology themselves. They need all the encouragement they can get.

    • Melissa G · February 12, 2014

      The intent of asking the question of ‘Who is the most influential female ecologist you can think of who is alive today’ was to bring out the fact that there are many influential female ecologists. If you have been any scientific conference or symposium, you would notice that most of the speakers are male. This phenomenon is caused by bias. When you read textbooks about ecology, most are written by men, examples that are shown in classes are mostly experiments performed by men. It’s often difficult to break the cycle of repeating the same names that you’ve heard of in the past – I wanted to highlight the fact that there are many successful and influential female ecologists.

      This isn’t an issue of sexism – it’s a way to open a discussion about the fact that there are many amazing female ecologists and to open dialog into how we can better represent them. Note also, that this blog was posted because people were interested to see the responses that I received by asking the question. My original intent was to see what names popped up and why they those women were considered influential. Surprisingly (and to my delight) this blog has opened up numerous dialogs regarding successful female ecologists on a global scale. Many of the women on this list have made suggestions of other women who should be represented.

      Agreed, all successful ecologists should be ‘lumped’ into one group, but the goal here is to highlight the achievements of women who are making waves and setting the standards in different fields of ecology. I am certain that if I asked the question of ‘Who is the most influential ecologist you can think of who is alive today?’ last Wednesday, I would have gotten a list made up mostly of men because of educational and institutional bias, whereas because this dialog has begun, the list that I would glean by asking the question today would be much different.

  13. Alec Scott · February 11, 2014

    I’ll reiterate Isabelle Côté

  14. Michelle W · February 11, 2014
  15. Anna · February 11, 2014

    Beth Middleton, USGS National Wetlands Research Center,

  16. Katie Wedemeyer · February 11, 2014

    Karen Bjorndal, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida. She studies nutritional ecology and the biology of sea turtles. She was a student of Dr. Archie Carr, the father of sea turtle biology, and has mentored numerous students, given us impressive insights into the foraging ecology and the “lost years” of sea turtles.

  17. Sheina · February 11, 2014

    Ruth Shaw, University of Minnesota. She is a fantastic speaker and has done wonderful work on the ecology and evolution of fragmented prairie habitats.

  18. Alex Warneke · February 12, 2014

    I second Emma Johnston at UNSW

    and would also add Lisa Levin from SIO.

  19. WOW · February 12, 2014

    Claire Kremen, UC Berkeley. MacArthur Genius Fellow. Pollination expert. One of the top 50 ECOLOGISTS (of either gender–sheesh) out there.

  20. Avis James · February 14, 2014

    Frances James, Florida State University. First female president of the American Ornithological Union, influences many young scientists, and my mother!

  21. Susanne Moser · February 15, 2014

    Terry Root, Stanford
    Ann Kinzig, ASU
    Laura Petes, NOAA

  22. yep · February 15, 2014

    Diana Wheeler, University of Arizona- AAAS fellow, does amazing work on the physiological basis of caste determination in social insects

  23. Sean Ryan · February 17, 2014

    I would add:
    Jullia K. Parrish – University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and associate dean of the College of the Environment. She was also one of 12 “champions of change” invited to he White House to share her ideas on public engagement in science (citizen science) and science literacy.

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