P.E.O. Chapter EP goes touring

Varda Main
P.E.O. Chapter EP has been sponsoring Scholar Award students at the University of Arizona Geosciences Department for a number of years. Last month, thirteen students invited Chapter EP to visit their labs. They wanted to share with us the exciting science projects they are working on and learn from Chapter EP’s defining moments (good and bad) in our lives and careers and what advice we’d like to give them as they move into the professional workplace.
We visited two labs and were given brief project talks by seven students, three of whom were women Chapter EP had sponsored for Scholar Awards (Becki Beadling, Katherine Guns and Emily Rodriguez). The passion, eloquence and intelligence of all these young women were inspirational.
Their research projects have taken them to all corners of the world and to vastly varying field sites: from the high seas to central Alaska to the East Rift Valley in Africa. Projects included studying the effects of regional environments on evolution and species extinction, climate change on oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns, human activities on global warming and post-glacial climates as evidenced in the archeological record. Another project they had worked on collectively last year was the founding of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Association of Women Geoscientists (AWG).
The U of A has the world’s only tree ring laboratory. We learned that tree ring science is much more than dating a tree from its number of rings. Information gathered includes how precipitation has changed over time, how climate change effects tree growth, determining if a violin is truly a Stradivarius or not and input to water managers to determine how water resources will be split under the Colorado River Compact.
The Organic Geochemistry Laboratory is much more than a facility to analyze samples. Its research is at the forefront of advising policy makers on climate change and providing outreach to the general public on the choices people have in their lifestyle and their effect on climate change and water availability.
One professor said how important P.E.O. awards were to the students. At the U of A, grad students have no funding during summers. Students are faced with not attending during summers or securing funds from organizations like P.E.O.
For many of us who had been one of only a few women in our professions back in the day, it was so exciting to see how far women had come in the workplace. We went home feeling happy knowing our P.E.O. efforts are making such a difference to these young women and that these phenomenally talented women were going to make their mark on the world.
To learn more about P.E.O. and its grants and awards to help women further their education please visit P.E.O.international.org.
Full disclosure: I am a retired geochemist. I was definitely in my element on
this tour!