STEM Tuesday–Dinosaurs/Paleontology– Interview with Author Karen Bush Gibson

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Karen Bush Gibson. She’s the author of Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Paleontologists. The book features the lives of five women paleontologists—Mary Anning, Mignon Talbot, Tilly Edinger, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, and Mary Leakey—who overcame obstacles to make breakthrough discoveries about ancient life.

Mary Kay Carson: What’s the book about—and why did you chose to write it?

Karen Bush Gibson: Imagine how cool it must be to discover something no one has seen for over 145 million years? Even more exciting is if your discovery is a puzzle piece in the history of living things. Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Paleontologists highlights some of the women who have accomplished this. I’ve always been fascinated by women who achieve great things, particularly in male-dominated fields. One of those fields is paleontology, in which many women have been discriminated against. Although females make up nearly half of the student members in professional paleontology organizations, less than 25% become professional members.

MKC: Could you share an especially interesting tidbit from your research? 

Karen: I’m ashamed to say that except for Mary Leakey, I knew little of the other women featured before I started research. Now, as is often the case, I see references to these women everywhere. Particularly Mary Anning, who began making great discoveries when she was just 12 years old. Due to her circumstances, she had to educate herself, but became the best fossil finder of the early nineteenth century when the science of paleontology was just starting. She made the first discoveries of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Anning instinctively knew where to find fossils and to what prehistoric family and groups they belonged to. Great male paleontologist of the day came to see Anning, and it’s said that many of them struggled to keep up with her on the cliffs of Lyme Regis.

MKC: Did your investigations into the lives of these five accomplished women reveal any commonalities? 

Karen: All five women were driven by curiosity and the need to know more. Two succeeded despite being caught up in the events of World War II. Another lived in poverty. All experienced societal restrictions in education or their profession at some point. Yet none of them allowed these hardships to dissuade them from their chosen path. They never gave up.

MKC: Why do you choose to specifically write STEM books?

Karen Bush Gibson loves exploring history and the world through writing. She is particularly fascinated by interesting women, so she’s bouncing off the wall about the 100th anniversary of the women’s vote this year. When not writing about awesome women or travel, Gibson works as an instructional-curriculum designer. •  •  • @Gibson4writing

Karen: I do not have a STEM background, but since writing a book on female aviators in 2013, I have heard repeatedly about females being discouraged or at least not encouraged in science and math in the classroom. When I was a child, I was good at math. I found sciences like genetics and archaeology fascinating. But I don’t recall anyone encouraging me. My father was an engineer, but it never occurred to me to explore engineering. However, as a writer of STEM books, I get to explore my own curiosity and immerse myself in subjects like aeronautics, marine biology, meteorology, cell science, programming, and paleontology. And one of my children is studying to be an astrophysicist, so I get to pick his brain a lot.

MKC: Who did you write this book for?

Karen: I believe nonfiction books—including STEM books about female paleontologists—should be every bit as interesting as fiction. I always tried to start a chapter with a paleontologist doing or discovering something exciting. And I wanted the reader to feel as if he or she were there. Yes, Gutsy Girls Go for Science includes STEM, but it’s also about girls with dreams. And that’s who I’m writing for, young people with dreams and interests in STEM. I hope books like this help young people believe they can be anything they want to be, especially a paleontologist.

Win a FREE copy of Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Paleontologists

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday
STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!
  1. This looks like such an interesting book. I’ve never really thought about the origins of paleontology before, or what paleontologists really do. After reading this interview, I’d like to learn more.

  2. I am an engineer and enjoy reading books like this that promote/encourage other girls to pursue science and math careers. Thanks for the interview and chance to win a copy.

  3. Thank you for posting this wonderful interview!!

  4. I love that you have this book. I feel the exact same way, that women in this field are not given enough credit for all their hard work. I think it is most interesting everything they uncover from hundreds and millions of years ago. Thank you for doing the research and writing the book!

  5. I have always been fascinated with paleontology. As a 6th grade teacher I developed a unit on fossils. Each child had their own fossil to study and research in order to develop a museum exhibit. I had as much fun as the children. I would love to read this book and share it with children. Thank you for posting this wonderful interview.

  6. I actually started off wanting to be a geologist when I was younger and now I’m studying to be an anthropologist. My daughters both love “digging for dinosaur bones” in our backyard. I’m so pleased there are getting to be more books like this! My girls, especially my youngest whose favorite animals are dinosaurs and crocodiles (because they look like dinosaurs), would love this too!

  7. I was so interested in the sciences as a kid, but I never heard one note of encouragement about pursuing a career. I am hopeful my granddaughter is living in a different world and will be encouraged to explore what she is interested in. She is curious about chemistry right now. Thanks for sharing. I would love to read this book and share it with the grandchildren.

  8. I want my students to know anyone can be a paleontologist. Thanks for writing this book!