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WHOI Scientists Featured in ‘Women in Oceanography: A Decade Later’

February 5, 2015

Thirteen scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) are featured in the new publication “Women in Oceanography: A Decade Later,” which reviews the progress made over the last 10 years in addressing barriers to career advancement for female oceanographers.

The report, issued as a supplement to the December issue of Oceanography magazine published by The Oceanography Society (TOS), highlights the increasing role of women in the field and identifies areas where improvements are still needed. TOS published its first “Women in Oceanography” volume in March 2005.

Progress is particularly apparent when it comes to the demographics of oceanography graduate students in the United States—the number of women students has equaled that for men during the last decade.

“In 1972, when I headed to the U.S. from the United Kingdom to begin my Ph.D. in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in chemical oceanography, I was one of only two women graduate students in the department,” recalls Susan Humphris, a senior scientist in the WHOI Geology & Geophysics Department, who is featured in both the 2005 and 2015 editions. “The involvement of women in the field has changed dramatically since then.”

While encouraging, this volume also shows that men continue to outnumber women at other levels and in other aspects of the field. The story is told through statistical measures, longer narratives, and articles describing some innovative U.S. programs that were conceived to promote women and retain them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

In addition, the supplement includes more than 200 autobiographical sketches written by women oceanographers. WHOI scientists featured are: Heather Benway, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Department; Joan M. Bernhard, Geology & Geophysics Department; Claudia Cenedese, Physical Oceanography Department; Xujing Jia Davis, Physical Oceanography Department; Virginia P. Edgcomb, Geology & Geophysics Department; Susan Humphris, Geology & Geophysics Department; Elizabeth Kujawinski, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Department; Anna Michel, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering Department; Lauren Mullineaux, Biology Department; Deborah K. Smith, Geology & Geophysics Department; Heidi M. Sosik, Biology Department; Rachel Stanley, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Department; and Fiamma Straneo, Physical Oceanography Department.

“It is a source of pride and prestige for the Oceanographic to have these highly- accomplished scientists on staff.  They are among the current and future leaders of our field and our Institution,” said WHOI President and Director Susan Avery, who came to the Institution in 2008. Avery is the ninth director and the first woman in WHOI’s 85-year history to hold the position.

Through the autobiographical sketches, scientists share what they find most rewarding about their careers, what their greatest challenges have been and how they responded, and how they balance work and personal lives. Women whose sketches were published in the first “Women in Oceanography” volume describe their career paths over the last 10 years and also provide advice for young women oceanographers.

“The multitude of personal stories reveals the challenges, opportunities and rewards of a career in oceanography for women,” said Susan Lozier, president of TOS and a professor of ocean sciences at Duke University. “I find these stories particularly inspiring.”

The Oceanography Society was founded in 1988 to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and its application through research and education, to promote communication among oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus building across all the disciplines of the field. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization incorporated in the District of Columbia. For more information, please visit

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit