“It was wonderful to meet all those who attended the Wild Women of Reclamation (WWR) 9th annual gathering on June 6, 2023, at the 40th Annual American Society for Reclamation Sciences (ASRS) meeting in Boise, ID. As always, we got an early start on the day with our morning meeting and women in all stages of their careers gathered to have breakfast, enjoy a presentation by Dr. Janise Bauman and create networking and mentoring opportunities. We also had a great experience sharing and a few offered some highlights and laughs from the prior year. We thank everyone who participated, brought a friend, or encouraged attendance. From the photo above, you will see the wide participation and we are thankful for our new photographer, Kelsea Green, but we also missed having our past ASRS Executive Director, Dr. Robert Darmody, doing the photography honors with his wife, Susan. Thank you to Robert and Susan for your assistance with WWR in the past!
The goal of the gathering is comradery, networking, and to discuss common experiences, unique as women, in the pursuit of improving reclamation. With the expansion of ASRS’s reclamation reach beyond mining and the size of the ASRS annual meeting, WWR is another tool we can use to empower women to have confidence in our abilities to advance our careers in reclamation science, mentor the future generation of professionals, and to improve the lives of everyone through our interactions. While a number of books and podcasts are available on this topic, see for example, the podcast, How to get more women in science, with Athene Donald (nature.com), WWR is a forum that offers women another opportunity to make new connections.
It is often easier in a smaller setting, such as WWR, to meet new people, which we hope leads to feeling less isolated at the ASRS meeting, especially if you are a new member or do not have a large network. These new connections may allow you to enjoy the conference even more as it expands the number of people you know and talk to more easily about presentations, products, methods, all while learning more about each other. It is these new connections that can become friendships which often add to our reasons to attend the annual ASRS meetings year after year. Therefore, we encourage you to continue to maintain a connection with a mentor or peer you may have met this year.
Getting past why we meet, it is important to also recognize what we learned during our time together. Dr. Janise Bauman highlighted her experiences, challenges, early role models and how those role models helped enrich her work. She discussed her early days when she loved working with plants in any capacity from retail nursery to landscaping, to her BS degree which led her towards being a horticulturalist, then a landscaper designer. During her graduate degrees (MS from WVU and PhD from Miami Univ), she began to understand the complex role of fungi in forests and various ecosystems, and it was the Cedar-apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) fungi which provided her with her “ah-hah” moment that led her down her complex research path. As an engaging speaker, she discussed the limited number of women in this professional field in the 1970s, but how those women used team efforts to expand knowledge of specific fungi and especially those related to the chestnut blight. As in so many systems involving ecological disasters, nature is in equilibrium with many species until new pathogens (or species) are introduced which have no natural predators or controls. Janise’s research couples field methods with molecular techniques to better understand vegetation establishment, plant interactions, and system recovery in disturbed soils. She discussed belowground interactions of beneficial fungi during restoration, impact of invasive species on plant-fungal mutualisms, and plant pathology within forest restoration. As with many in the field of reclamation, her credentials and research foci only touch the surface of her career.
And she taught us life lessons she has learned from fungi (which could apply to any of us):
1) Make your presence known, 2) Create dynamic equilibriums, 3) Form mutualistic symbioses, and 4) Clean up after yourself!
Thank you, Janise, for sharing your pathways and life lessons with us.
Also, when discussing women who have become incredible in their field and who have assisted others moving forward with their careers, we thank Dr. Jennifer Franklin, as she prepares to chair and host the 41st Annual ASRS meeting in Knoxville, TN in 2024. If you are interested in working with the conference, please let her know. Jennifer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that those who made new connections at the meeting will continue those connections throughout the year. I’d like to thank my co-organizers/co-chairs of WWR, Michele Coleman, Rachel Hohn, Brenda Schladweiler and if any of us can assist you, please let us know.”