A University of Wyoming scientist has created a documentary to celebrate women in paleontology.
Ellen Currano said she and a friend, filmmaker Lexi Jameison Marsh, conceived of the project after a hard day in their separate fields. Both women had felt like outsiders who were not taken as seriously as their male colleagues.
“So we started joking around about it because that’s what you do," Currano said. "And I think one of us said, what if you could just walk into a room wearing a beard? Then everything would be so much easier. And then I was like, 'yeah, you know, I think that’s true.'”
The two women worked with photographer Kelsey Vance to create The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science, a feature-length documentary and photo exhibit opening at UW next week. It introduces women paleontologists conducting field work around the United States and United Kingdom – wearing beards. Currano said she hopes it will inspire people to challenge stereotypes.
Currano said that even though the project focuses on her profession, anyone can relate to its message.
"There’s something that you’ve been told that you’re not supposed to do because of what you look like, or where you were brought up, or what your background is," Currano said. "And the goal of your project is to say no, that’s not true."
As scientists attempt to address global problems like climate change and food production, Currano said it’s important to have diverse groups of people looking for solutions. At UW, she’d like to see 50/50 representation of women in scientific departments. And she hopes the film will inspire more high school age girls to pursue careers in science.
The exhibit will be in the UW Geological Museum and the film is premiering on March 3rd. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the project’s scholarship fund for aspiring women geoscientists.