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Rebecca Barnes Part of $1.7 Million Grant Aimed at Women in Geosciences

Assistant Professor Rebecca Barnes, who began teaching at Colorado College this week in the Environmental Program, is one of six principal investigators on a $1.7 million grant titled “Collaborative Research: Improving the recruitment and persistence of women in the geosciences: Exploring deliberate mentoring approaches aimed at undergraduate students.”

The initiative, led by Colorado State University, is a collaborative, multi-campus project that addresses two issues in STEM: underrepresentation of women in the earth sciences and shortcomings of existing studies addressing effective strategies for mentoring. In the United States, men outnumber women in many science and engineering fields by nearly three to one; in fields such as physics or the geosciences, the gender gap can be even wider.

The grant seeks to close the gap in the geosciences, which encompass mining and geology, atmospheric and environmental sciences, issues related to natural resource management, natural disaster forecasting, and oceanography. The goal is to increase the pipeline of female students entering the geosciences.

“Many of us had few female professors or even fellow female classmates as we went through school. We are hoping that this program creates a mentoring network that helps to offset some of these feelings of isolation,” said Barnes, who will help develop a pilot program on Colorado’s Front Range and in the Carolinas. “Our hope is that the network will increase the students’ success and advancement in their chosen field.”

The proposal builds on two successful mentoring programs for women in geosciences. One is the largely web-based ESWN (Earth Science Women’s Network) group, of which Barnes is a board member; the second is CMMAP (Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes), a recruiting organization. As a mentoring initiative, the combination of face-to-face regional workshops and on-line virtual mentoring targeted to students in introductory geoscience courses will provide ongoing support for women considering careers in the discipline.

Barnes is a biogeochemist and ecosystem ecologist interested in understanding how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems process and export nitrogen and carbon. She is particularly interested in understanding how disturbance and global change drivers (e.g. nitrogen deposition, land use change, and warming) affect ecosystem function. Prior to arriving at Colorado College, she worked with numerous researchers from the USGS, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Rice University, and the Institute of Marine & Coastal Studies at Rutgers.

Barnes earned a Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University. She holds a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences in water resources and a Master of Public Affairs in environmental policy and natural resource management, both from Indiana University, and a B.A. in geology and Environmental Studies from Oberlin College.

Other schools participating in the program are West Virginia University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Colorado State University.