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Interview with Jean Langenheim, August 12, 2014

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is Dennis Knight. I'm here for an oral interview with Jean Langenheim.

Segment Synopsis: Dennis Knight introduces Jean Langenheim. He talks about her biography, The Odyssey of a Woman Field Scientist: A Story of Passion, Persistence, and Patience.

Keywords: Ecological Society of America

00:01:47 - Early interest in ecology / Education

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Partial Transcript: Jean, would you start out please by describing just briefly a little bit of your early motivations to get into ecology and then we'll move on from there.

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim discusses her early interests in ecology, saying that she had always loved nature and was interested in plants. She became interested in geology in high school, but figured out that she could not major in geology at the University of Tulsa because of gender requirements so she began to pursue botany instead. Afterwards, she went to the University of Minnesota to pursue a master's degree.

Keywords: Great Depression; Indian Reservations; Oklahoma; WWII

00:11:06 - Challenges of being a woman scientist

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask a question. Did Harriet Barclay forewarn you that this would be a problem potentially as you entered grad school?

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim discusses her struggles of getting into graduate school because she was a woman. She also recalls how both she and her husband worked the University of Berkeley until her husband got into a dispute with the chair of the paleontology department, after which they moved to the University of Illinois.

Keywords: Herbert Mason; Larry Bliss; Lincoln Constance; Rocky Mountain Biological Lab; nepotism; paleobotany; plant population

00:18:48 - Amber project / Research at Harvard

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Partial Transcript: But, in any event, while I was at Illinois there had been a great interest in amber.

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim talks about being invited to go on an expedition to Mexico to study amber (fossilized resin), her main focus being on what kind of trees produce amber. She recalls how a professor at Harvard in the geochemistry department was very interested in her hypothesis and asked her to work at Harvard. This was during the time that the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study (now the Bunting Institute) was set up to help women with advanced degrees further their careers with stipends and access to Harvard's resources.

Keywords: Barkhorn; Indians; Kenneth Teman; divorce; geology; incense; plant ecology

00:25:09 - Involvement in the ESA

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Partial Transcript: Now you've written about that in your biography, and over the years I'm sure you've talked to other women about your career.

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim discusses getting involved with organizations like the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the Organization of Tropical Studies. She says that she began attending ESA meetings regularly when she began teaching ecology at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Keywords: Amazon; Brazil; Geological Society; University of Minnesota; tropics

00:35:22 - Changes in the ESA

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Partial Transcript: Well, how would you characterize the development of the ESA over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim discusses her time as the president of ESA (1986-1987) and notes the growth of the organization and redefinition of leadership roles since then. She also discusses the complexity of the field of ecology and comments on her experience of having to explain what ecology was to the public and the media.

Keywords: UCSC; public affairs; statistics; tropical and chemical societies

00:44:47 - Gaining chemistry experience

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Partial Transcript: Well, I've been thinking that the success of your career depending to a large extent on your expertise in chemistry.

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim talks about how she accrued chemistry experience by working in a lab instead of taking chemistry classes. She notes that her chemistry background came from working on her amber project at Harvard and working with other professors at the UCSC.

Keywords: Barkhorn; Castro; Costa Rica; Cuba; E.O Wilson; Eugene Salvarine

00:52:00 - Diversity in field of ecology

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Partial Transcript: Well thinking a little bit more thinking about the history of ESA, you mentioned how important the journals were to you.

Segment Synopsis: Langenheim discusses the importance of the ESA's SEED program to increase the diversity of people working in ecology. She also talks about how the ESA has started interacting more with other organizations such as the Soil Science Society of America.

Keywords: Berkeley; Climate Change; Latino population; fossils; insects; nature conservancy; sustainable agriculture