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Interview with Margaret Davis, June 10, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:14 - Developing an interest in science / Education

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Partial Transcript: First off Margaret, could you tell us a little bit about your becoming a biologist, what the background is that lead to that and the reasons for it, I think that would be interesting for everyone to know.

Segment Synopsis: Davis talks about being interested in science because her father was a Pleistocene geologist and she enjoyed her high school biology class. She attended Radcliffe college (the sister college to Harvard University) as a biology major and developed an interest in paleoecology. She discusses working in Denmark after graduation, recalling how the people in Denmark were very encouraging of women in science.

Keywords: Copenhagen, Denmark; Fullbright fellowship; G.I Bill; Johannes Iverson; fossil pollen grains; vegetation history

00:04:04 - Redeposited pollen research

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Partial Transcript: After you did eventually become an ecologist, what kind of milestones do you remember, both the positive and the negative ones, that you encountered along the way?

Segment Synopsis: Davis talks about how she became interested in palynology and wanted to answer some of the problems in palynology such as the issue of redeposited pollen, saying that North America had this problem as well as Europe. She recalls her concern at finding deciduous tree pollen very close to ice sheets, saying that the problem was not as severe in North America as it was in Europe because North America has a lot more natural vegetation.

Keywords: birch trees; deciduous trees; lake glacial settlements; natural vegetation; oak trees; surface samples; tertiary sediments

00:08:44 - Women in science

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of milestones, what are you views on women in science and how the role of women in science might have changed from your early days as a professional academic ecologist throughout your career?

Segment Synopsis: Davis talks about being discouraged by her family, who did not think that women should have careers. She discusses how she gained three years of post-doc experience but was always paid less than the male post-docs. She also says that it was very hard for women to get a faculty position, but she eventually became a half-time faculty member and half time research associate at the University of Michigan. When she was promoted to a full time professor, she had to fight for her salary to be equal to her male colleagues.

Keywords: Harvard; Radcliff; Wellesley College; equal pay; palynology; unequal pay

00:17:03 - Changes in ecology

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Partial Transcript: Alright now let's move on to just another topic. In your view, how has ecology as a discipline evolved from the time when you first entered the field until the time that you retired.

Segment Synopsis: Davis discusses how the field of ecology has changed over the years, saying that it used to focus on natural history but human activity has lead ecologists to focus on environmental impacts and think on a global scale. She talks about how humans are now fixing more nitrogen (converting it into ammonia) than nature is.

Keywords: applied ecology; biochemistry; large scale agriculture; paleoecology; temporal scales

00:21:40 - Development of ESA / ESA presidency

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Partial Transcript: And that was part of the next question was the development of the ecological society as well.

Segment Synopsis: Davis talks about how the Ecological Society of America (ESA) grown much larger of the years and now includes many more students and women. She recalls her time as the president of ESA and talks about the formation of ESA's Education Section which was formed to incorporate more ecology into freshman biology courses.

Keywords: New York Times; general biology; genetically engineered organisms; industrialization; minorities; op-ed