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Women's natural role is nurturing and protecting nature

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Created: 3/29/2018      Updated: 3/31/2018

Academy scientist working with wet collection specimen

Women around the world, including here in Chicago and at the Nature Museum, bring a special passion and instinctual drive to nurturing nature. Perhaps it is the desire to help things grow, or to protect those things most vulnerable.

Whether planting a pollinator garden or teaching children to care for living things, women often lead – quietly and with great care  efforts to nurture nature. Women’s History Month is a reminder for us to reflect on the profound contributions women make to protect the Earth and all living things.

Elizabeth Emerson AtwaterElizabeth Emerson Atwater


At our Academy of Sciences one of the first botanists to donate an important collection of Illin  ois specimens in the 1850s was Elizabeth Emerson Atwater. Her work continues to inform and inspire the study of regional plants and wildlife today.

Allison Sacerdote-VelatAllison Sacerdote-Velat


Our legacy of female scientists continues at the Nature Museum through our dedicated team members and partners. For example, the Nature Museum’s curator of herpetology, Allison Sacerdote-Velat, is working to save several regional species, such as the wood frog and smooth greensnake. As a scientist, her studies include reintroducing and monitoring these fragile populations.

Nancy TuchmanNancy Tuchman


Two of our Museum’s academic partners help lead work to sustain our planet’s environments. Loyola University’s Nancy Tuchman is the founding director of Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, which co-sponsors workshops and programs with the Nature Museum and teaches the next generation of people committed to sustainable living and work.

May Berenbaum and Barack Obama May Berenbaum receiving the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama


A mentor to many here, May Berenbaum is head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is known for applying ecological principles in developing sustainable management practices for natural and agricultural communities. 

These women supporting work at the Nature Museum are among many in the Chicago region making a difference to nature and conservation. They inspire future botanists, biologists, and other scientists including the youth in our Museum’s many science education programs.

Rachel Carson Wangari Maathai
Rachel Carson; Wangari Maathai with Barack Obama


Those of us working on behalf of nature today draw inspiration from leader like Rachel Carson, who risked her career as she fought for environment protection and the health of children through her research and book, “Silent Spring,” that proved the ill-effects of DDT; and Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, who created a tree-planting movement that saved the lives of wildlife and people. She founded the Green Belt Movement that engaged women in planting thousands of trees in African regions, thus empowering women to restore the environment and improve their families’ lives with access to wood.

Let’s carry on the legacy of women saving nature. Who inspires you to care for nature? I would love to hear from you about who is your nature heroine.

Deborah Lahey, President & CEO

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