My readers may remember my review of Daring to Dig, which celebrates women in American paleontology. Coincidentally published the same year, She Found Fossils covers the same subject, but expands its scope to celebrate women in paleontology worldwide. The former book has proved very popular, so I imagine anyone who read it will find this one equally interesting.
Written & edited by Maria Eugenia Leone Gold and Abagael Rosemary West, She Found Fossils divides itself into three main sections: Past, Present, and Future. The Past, of course, focuses on women throughout history, starting of course with Mary Anning (who herself has had many books of her own written about her, including Stone Girl, Bone Girl, Mary Anning’s Curiosity, The Dog That Dug For Dinosaurs, and Dinosaur Lady). Those who have read Daring to Dig will recognize Annie Alexander and Tilly Edinger (as well as Mary Dawson, who appears in Section II: the Present).
In this section, artist Amy Gardiner illustrates not only the scientists themselves but entire scenes depicting their work, such as Edinger measuring horse brains, or Anning chipping away at rocks on the beach. She adopts a cartoony style vageuly similar to that of Alana McGillis’s in Daring to Dig & Into The Ordovician. (As with the previous book, it took me a bit to warm up to the style, but it fits the child friendly nature of the book.)
Other paleontologists featured in the first section include the world-famous Mary Leakey (for an early-reader book about Mary Leakey, check out my review of Fossil Huntress!), Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who discovered the modern coelacanth Latimeria (featured in I Am NOT a Dinosaur!), and Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, leader of the Polish-Mongolian Expeditions. I’d personally love to see a whole book dedicated to Zofia, as she discovered many of the most iconic Mongolian dinosaur fossils, including the mysterious arms of Deinocheirus, and the fantastic “Fighting Dinosaurs” specimen, consisting of a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops that got buried mid-combat.
Section II: the Present features active workers in the field of paleontology today. I recognized individuals I’ve personally been following online, such as ReBecca Hunt-Foster, Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, Ashley Hall, and Bolor Minjin, as well as familiar faces from previous books I’ve reviewed, such as the aforementioned Mary Dawson, and Zulma Gasparini, who plays a key part in the plot of The Dinosaur Expert.
In this section of the book, the books creators opt to rely on photographs to represent each scientist, while Gardiner instead illustrates each individual’s favorite fossil taxa. Given the number of people featured in Section II, I imagine the workload would’ve ballooned pretty quickly if the modern individuals had gotten the same sorts of illustrations as the historical figures in Section I.
Section III: the Future feels a bit perfunctory. It starts with a map of many extra individuals who the authors wanted to include but didn’t have the space or time to fit into the book. They also highlight a pair of up-and-coming paleontologists, and end with a page illustrated to look like a dig site, with the encouragement for kids to draw whatever sort of fossil they would like to discover someday.
Given that pretty much all the people on the map already have vibrant careers, it seems a little odd to include it in a section ostensibly about the future. While it was cool to see Sanaa El-Sayed featured (the first female paleontology student from Egypt, who kicked off her career by discovering, describing, and naming a fossil catfish), this of course will eventually fall prey to “the Tomorrowland problem” (i.e., today’s future is tomorrow’s present). I feel that perhaps this section could have been better padded out with a more general focus on the future of women in paleontology, perhaps with a discussion of initiatives such as The Bearded Lady Project, an ongoing program meant to inspire more girls and women to take up paleontology.
Minor structural criticisms aside, however, the aforementioned map proved to be a treasure trove of cool new people to follow on social media. While I already knew of a few, the vast majority were new to me, so I of course followed them right away! I apologize if the upcoming wall of links makes this page a little wonky in anyway, but I’m not about to let all the research this book inspired me to do go to waste, so I’ll include as many of them here as I can (those without social media accounts notwithstanding). If you have a Twitter account, give them a follow yourself, as well!
Those I found include (in the number they are ordered on the map): Tara Lepore, Allison Bronson, Alexis Mychajliw, Myria Perez, Aly Baumgartner, Mariana Di Giacomo, Crystal Cortez, Victoria Arbour, Grace Musser, Ashley Leger, Anna Whitaker, Rachel Silverstein, Kelly Matsunaga, Jasmin Camacho, Siobahn Cooke, Sarah Boessenecker, Melissa Kemp, Jennifer Hertzberg, Jill Scott, Jessica Lawrence Wujek, Shaena Montanari, Karen Poole, Ornella Bertrand, Michelle Barboza-Ramirez, Irena Burek, Franziska Sattler, Megan Jacobs, Emily Mitchell, Terri Cleary, Aviwe Matiwane, Yuzhi Daisy Hu, Marta Pina, Caren Shin, and Jingmai O’Connor. (EDIT: I’ve since discovered even more accounts for other scientists mentioned in the book. Check out my Twitter thread on She Found Fossils for more!)
Phew! That’s a lot of names! It’s worth it for more paleo goodness on my timeline, though. She Found Fossils is well worth the purchase for the number of individuals featured alone. I don’t know of any other layman’s book, whether for adults or for kids, that features so many individuals so prominently, even if we don’t count the list of people on the map at the end. While written primarily with kids in mind, I consider this book a must-have for anybody who wants to acquaint themselves more with the boots-on-the-ground aspect of paleontological study. I feel like I’ve learned just as much as if I had read the same amount of material strictly about fossils or theory. I give She Found Fossils a satisfied Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!