Science and Families

To all ecologists with families:You are invited to join a mailing list/discussion group on Yahoo entitled Science and Families which can be accessed using this link:

How did this arise and what am I talking about? At the recent ESA meeting in San Jose, I was asked to represent young, up and coming ecologists on a panel at the plenary luncheon on the last day. All panelists were asked to say a few words about the meeting just past and talk about new ideas that ESA might like to incorporate in future meetings or integrate into the Society as a whole. I wondered what I would speak about, and as the week progressed, it became increasingly obvious what I would say.I am the mother of a 5 month old boy named Jeremiah and so my husband and son came with me to the San Jose meeting. Throughout the entire week, we were continually running into other families with small children and babies and invariably we would talk about how different it was to attend a scientific meeting with our kids. Then the questions between us would begin: “how do you do field research with your kids?” or “how has your position as an academic been affected by having a child?” or “how did you manage to keep up your research and publication record after you had your baby?” or “how is it to work for a governmental agency with children?” The answers varied from “we got childcare from the start,” to “my husband and I are at the same institution and share an office, so the baby was with us at work every day,” to “I was compelled to drop out of academia so I could raise my child without childcare,” to “my baby’s first word was ‘computer’,” to everything in between. I was also asked repeatedly by women in doctoral programs about when do I think is the best time to have a child? While still in school? After tenure? During a post-doc? These questions all lead to lively discussions and it was really interesting and informative sharing information with parents in similar situations.All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so lonely being an academic finishing my dissertation and applying for jobs wondering how my life as a field ecologist would change since the addition of my baby boy. Then it occurred to me: maybe other ecologists with families or who are thinking about starting a family would like access to these resources as well. At the plenary luncheon, I spoke about my experiences at the meeting and proposed starting a web group for ecologists with families to share information on the challenges, rewards, problems, and solutions that arise when you are an ecologist who wants to also have a family.

Of course, we don’t have to limit ourselves to ecologists. Other disciplines in science have their own unique challenges to incorporating an enriching academic life with a rewarding family life. And while mothers were the overwhelming majority of people with whom I spoke at the meeting, these issues are also important for our husbands, partners, and co-parents.

I would therefore like to invite you to participate in our online experiment. I have started a mailing list/discussion group on Yahoo entitled Science and Families which can be accessed using this link:

Become a member and help create a space where we can share our experiences and help each other be better scientists and parents. I also welcome feedback, ideas, etc. to make this the best it can be.Please circulate this to others you know who would benefit from our forum.All the best,

Carolyn Kurle
Doctoral Candidate
University of California Santa Cruz

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