To celebrate International Women’s Day, Scientists in School joins thousands in the global push for gender equality. To honour this important day, we’re celebrating our science workshop presenters. Through their important work and accomplishments across various fields, many presenters at Scientists in School have defied gender stereotypes and misconceptions about women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Today, we’re shining the spotlight on one of our fantastic presenters, Amy Hobbs Berg.
Before beginning her inspiring career, Amy studied geology at Lafayette College earning her Bachelor of Science in Geology, and later went on to study at the University of Texas at Austin where she earned a Master of Science in Geological Sciences with an emphasis in hydrogeology. While completing her Masters, her research examined sediment concentrations recharging a major aquifer system feeding Barton Springs in Austin, Texas. Some of her most memorable research experiences included caving with local geologic experts and setting up a new stream gaging station with the Edwards Aquifer Authority. After moving to Ontario, Amy worked as a fluvial geomorphologist (a scientist who studies the morphology of rivers). In this role, she conducted field assessments to measure channel characteristics of local rivers in urban and natural environments. The resulting data was used to calculate erosion rates, sediment transport and stream flow properties using various mathematical models and equations. The results from these stream morphology studies were used to redesign urbanized stream channels, delineate flood plains, and create erosion mitigation efforts.
Amy has been a science workshop presenter with Scientists in School for the past 9 months and can be found presenting workshops like Soil: It’s Too Important to Be Treated like Dirt! and Gearing Up: Fun with Pulleys and Gears.
We spoke with Amy to learn more about her impact in the science community and how we can encourage girls to pursue STEM.
Why did you join Scientists in School as a presenter?
I joined Scientists in School because I love talking about science, particularly geology and physics. At the University of Guelph, I volunteered as an educational science presenter for the MS Infinity Conference, a workshop that encourages high school girls to learn about STEM careers, and H2Awesome, a water workshop for local grade 8 students. I had so much fun interacting with students and seeing their excitement that I wanted to get more involved with science enrichment.
What made you choose your field and what do you love about it?
As a young girl, I spent a lot of my time playing in the forest, climbing trees, collecting rocks, and building forts. I have always had a strong connection with nature, and developing an understanding for how things work. Thanks to my father introducing me to the sport of orienteering, I developed a fascination with topographic maps and navigation. In high school, I joined the school outing club and I completed an Outward Bound course where I learned about rock climbing, rappelling, backpacking and outdoor survival. When I later applied to university, I put a lot of thought into my interests and strengths. I wanted to major in a field of study that combined my passion for the outdoors, mathematical puzzles as well as my interests in history. Geology was a perfect fit since it combines field work, mapping and mathematics to unravel and understand the current processes and past history of our planet.
Is there someone who inspired you to go in to STEM? Who is your STEM role model?
In elementary school, I enjoyed watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” on PBS. His eloquent manner of speaking and his sense of wonder for astronomy showed me how science is the next frontier for exploration and for new exciting adventures.
How are others impacted by the work done in your field?
Our planet is constantly changing, influenced by both natural and human processes. The physical and chemical properties of water play a huge role in shaping our planet and our society. By studying hydrogeology and fluvial geomorphology, we can increase our understanding of aquifers and fluvial systems so that we can make better land-use decisions to preserve these important resources. To ensure that our water supply is clean and sustainable, it’s necessary to continuously monitor, analyze, and model aquifers and streams.
Should parents, teachers and STEM role models encourage girls to pursue STEM? Why?
Yes! STEM is the future for new careers and innovations. I have seen more and more women choosing STEM careers, but we can do better to inspire girls to learn more about these fields in school and at home. If we don’t encourage girls to play and learn STEM activities as children, as we often encourage boys, then fewer women might go in to STEM fields. We need to find new ways to foster girls’ curiosity for science, technology, engineering and mathematics at an early age, encouraging them to have fun with activities like building and computer coding. I strongly believe that all youth should be encouraged to be STEM leaders in our society so that, together, we can reach our fullest potential.
When kids meet STEM role models who are like them, how does it impact them, if at all?
It’s so important to see different types of people working in all fields. When we only see one type of person doing a specific job, then we might inadvertently assume only that type of person can do that particular job. For example, when girls meet women working as doctors, construction workers, research scientists, computer programmers, and investment bankers, they realize that they too can strive toward these careers.