About Us

Our goal was to design a Web site that can engage the public and school children in the day-to-day science of women marine scientists. Through this project, we hope to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and to remove the mystery that surrounds being a scientist. Over the course of a year we will highlight twelve women, underscoring the different career paths in science and the diversity of the women who choose science as a career.

The expertise of the women on our Web site covers many of the subdisciplines within marine science. The women have backgrounds in chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, mathematics, geology, or geophysics. They are at different stages in their careers and are following different career paths including research, teaching, research assistants, administration, or a combination of these at universities, research institutions, government laboratories, and companies across the country. While many of these women have earned doctorates, others have gone directly into marine science from a bachelors degree, working, for example, as programmers, graphic illustrators, and data analysts.

As the new millennium gets started we believe it is appropriate to step back and assess what women scientists across the country and across the world are accomplishing today, and how they are no longer considered ’unique’ but instead are an accepted and integral part of the scientific community.

This Web site is funded by the National Science Foundation through the Program Awards to Facilitate Geoscience Education. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution provided support through cost sharing on the funded grant.


Deborah K. Smith

Deborah K. Smith Deborah K. Smith is an Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She is the Principal investigator on the proposal. Her web site is humm.whoi.edu

Lori Dolby

Lori Dolby Lori A. Dolby is an Information Systems Associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Web and Publications Coordinator at the Sea Education Association.

Ed Schiele

Ed Schiele Ed Schiele is a Freelance Science Writer. He interviewed the women and wrote their stories.

This is not the first time that the three of us have worked together. In 1998 we shared the experience of a peer-reviewed, NSF-funded, sea-going expedition with students and the general public by making the expedition a World Wide Web educational event. We created a dynamic Web site that was a window into ‘real’ science, and students and the general public were able to participate in five weeks of fieldwork. Our research cruise took place in October of 1998 off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. We surveyed the Puna Ridge, a submarine ridge that is part of the currently erupting Kilauea Volcano. Our cruise proposal brought together a diverse group of scientists from different disciplines (geology, geophysics, geochemistry) to identify and constrain the fundamental processes that govern the intrusion of magma and the eruption of lavas along a centrally fed rift zone. State-of-the-art technology was used and included swath bathymetry and sonar instrumentation, remotely operated vehicles, bottom-towed magnetometers, digital photography, and rock dredging and glass coring apparatus. The Web site is now used as a teaching resource: punaridge.org

The site was redesigned and made Web compliant in 2004/2005 by Jeffrey Croft graphic designer and web developer. See his web site for more information about his work: jeffcroft.com

Carol McLeod Design Company produced the collages of the women.

Breago designed and implemented the content management system for you web site. They also implemented the RSS feeds and automatic site map functionality of our site.


Remarkable Careers in Oceanography has won the Exploratorium's Ten Cool Sites Award for educational excellence. Our site was featured during the month of June 2000. exploratorium.edu


The National Science Foundation is the primary funding agency for this web site. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution provided cost sharing for the development of this web site.

The Women Exploring the Ocean Web site was the result of contributions from many different people. Below we recognize those individuals and organizations that helped produce this web site.

We want to thank each of the women that we profiled for donating so much of their time to this project. All of them took time from work and home to be interviewed, photographed, and to provide all of the materials that we requested.

We thank Cheryl Simmers for her enthusiastic support for our project and the advice she provided during the summer of 1999 when she was a visiting grade school teacher in our lab at WHOI.

Women Exploring the Oceans

Our knowledge of Earth and its oceans has been pieced together through the work of many individuals. Increasingly women have made significant contributions to marine science.

In this site we feature the careers of remarkable women in oceanography. Each woman has followed a different path to her career and has gathered unique insights about her profession. Learn how these women are contributing to our understanding and appreciation of the ocean and how they go about their daily work.

More Remarkable Careers

Melanie Holland

Melanie Holland studies the microbes that thrive in scalding temperatures surrounding hydrothermal vents. These amazing organisms not only reveal important information about the vent communities, they may also provide insights into the origin of life on Earth and the possible existence of life on other planets.

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Dawn Wright
  • Dawn Wright
  • Associate Scientist, Geography/Marine Geology

Master Lego-constructor and former bicycle-racer Dawn Wright has immersed herself in two disciplines. As a geologist, she is studying the cracks that form in the seafloor along the mid-ocean ridge. As a geographer, she is developing software that oceanographers are using to interpret seafloor data.

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Lauren Mullineaux

Lauren Mullineaux’s research group studies a side of benthic organisms (animals that live on the seafloor) that until recently has received little attention.

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Jo Griffith
  • Jo Griffith
  • Principal Illustrator, Scientific and Oceanographic Data

Technical illustrator Jo Griffith hasn’t picked up a pen in over five years. Instead she uses a variety of computer programs to create graphs, maps, and illustrations for researchers.

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Emily Klein

Emily collects rocks from the deep seafloor. The chemicals that make up the rocks provide clues to how the oceanic crust is built.

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Wen-lu Zhu
  • Wen-lu Zhu
  • Associate Scientist, Geology and Geophysics

Wen-lu Zhu studies the properties of rocks found deep in the ocean crust by recreating those conditions in the laboratory.

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Ashanti Pyrtle

Ashanti Pyrtle studies the fate of radioactive material that enters rivers, lakes, and oceans. She also advises minority science students on how to navigate through graduate school and prepare for a career afterwards.

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Debby Ramsey

As Third Engineer onboard the Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson, Debby Ramsey helps keep all of the equipment that has moving parts running smoothly.

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Maya Tolstoy

Marine seismologist Maya Tolstoy helps find active volcanoes on the seafloor by listening for their eruptions.

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Rose Dufour
  • Rose Dufour
  • Ship Scheduler and Clearance Officer, Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support

Rose Dufour and her job-share partner Elizabeth Brenner create the schedules for four research ships. The challenge is to keep the scientists, funding agencies, and foreign governments happy.

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Claudia Benitez-Nelson

Claudia Benitez-Nelson uses radioactive isotopes to study the complex world of nutrient cycling in the oceans.

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Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn Kelly studies how changing ocean currents affect the climate. And she does all of her research from the comfort of her office.

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Amy Bower
  • Amy Bower
  • Associate Scientist, Physical Oceanography

Amy studies the interactions between ocean currents and climate. These interactions are very complex.

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Kathryn Gillis

Kathryn Gillis dives to rifts in the seafloor that are as deep as six kilometers to learn about the processes taking place within the ocean crust.

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Margaret Leinen

As a scientist, Margaret Leinen studied sediments that have accumulated on the ocean floor. Now as the Assistant Director of Geosciences at the National Science Foundation, she oversees programs in Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Environmental Sciences. She is also working on initiatives to bring more women and minorities into these fields.

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