As the world grapples with the escalating threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, the critical work of women scientists and activists around the globe emerges as a key force in driving sustainability and environmental preservation.
This article highlights five exceptional women who are at the forefront of the fight against ecological degradation and championing conservation efforts. Their stories underscore the importance of women's leadership in science and the necessity of diverse perspectives in addressing the global crises that we face.
Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
A renowned wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka founded Conservation Through Public Health, an organization dedicated to protecting endangered primates like mountain gorillas in East Africa. After studying in the UK and the US, she returned to Uganda to focus on conservation efforts, particularly in impoverished communities near protected areas.
Her work not only involves improving healthcare and creating economic opportunities for local communities; she also works to transform these communities into conservation allies. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka has gained international recognition for her efforts and is passionate about inspiring young Africans to pursue careers in conservation, emphasizing the importance of local representation and leadership in this field.
Rumaitha Al Busaidi
An Omani marine scientist and activist, Rumaitha Al Busaidi, has played a key role in combating the impact of seawater intrusion on Omani agriculture through the development of integrated aquaculture systems. These innovative systems, which synergize fish farming with agriculture, aim to enhance food security and climate resilience. Her work led to their adoption in a national project targeting 50 farms by 2020.
Al Busaidi has also made significant contributions to gender and environmental advocacy, highlighted in her widely viewed TED talk, "Women and Girls: You Are Part of the Climate Solution," where she emphasizes the critical role of educating and empowering women and girls in combating climate change.
Dr. Gretta Pecl
An esteemed Australian marine ecologist, Dr. Gretta Pecl’s work focuses on understanding how climate change affects ocean life and ecosystems. Through her leadership at the University of Tasmania's Centre for Marine Socioecology, Dr. Pecl explores the ecological responses of aquatic species to warming oceans, emphasizing the importance of integrating social and environmental strategies to adapt to the climate crisis.
She has also been a pioneer in utilizing citizen science in climate research, founding the Redmap project, which involves the public in tracking shifts in marine species distributions. Her work aims to bridge the gap between scientific understanding and public awareness, contributing valuable insights into the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity and informing policy and conservation efforts.
Dr. Purnima Devi Barman
Wildlife biologist Dr. Purnima Devi Barman, who has a lifelong passion for greater adjutants (Leptoptilos dubius), has significantly impacted conservation efforts for these endangered storks in Assam, India.
Observing the stark decline in the greater adjutant stork population, now fewer than 1,200 mature individuals, she established the Hargila Army, an all-women grassroots movement that has grown to over 10,000 members, focusing on protecting nesting sites and rehabilitating injured storks. Despite the challenges of working in a male-dominated field, Barman and the Hargila Army have demonstrated the profound impact women can have on conservation efforts.
Dr. Jessica Hernandez
An Indigenous scholar, scientist, and advocate for climate and environmental justice from the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Jessica Hernandez has a background in marine sciences and environmental physics. As a member of the Binnizá and Maya Ch'orti communities, her work is deeply influenced by her Indigenous heritage, focusing on elevating Indigenous knowledge and practices to address climate change and environmental degradation.
Dr. Hernandez’s award-winning book Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science breaks down why Western conservationism isn’t working and offers Indigenous models informed by case studies, personal stories, and family histories that center the voices of Latin American women and land protectors.
She emphasizes the critical role of Indigenous peoples in global biodiversity management and advocates for their inclusion in environmental policymaking.
Together, we can solve the climate crisis
The trailblazing efforts of these five scientists demonstrate the significant impact that individuals can make on the health of our planet's ecosystems. Through their pioneering research, inventive conservation methods, and passionate advocacy, they are not only pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery but also empowering communities, advancing gender equity, and safeguarding our natural world for generations to come.
As we navigate the challenges posed by climate change, the endeavors of these five leaders serve as vital inspiration and a guide toward a more just and sustainable world.
You might also like
Why women are key to solving the climate crisis
Research shows that women are more likely to be impacted by climate change, and they are also our best advocates to fight it.
Five climate solution projects around the world powered by women
Women-led initiatives are creating food security, providing clean energy alternatives, and making better lives for local communities.