Margaret Davis (scientist) | Wikipedia audio article


Dr. Margaret Bryan Davis (née Margaret Bryan;
born October 23, 1931) is an American palynologist and paleoecologist, who used pollen data to
study the vegetation history of the past 21,000 years (i.e. since the last ice age). She showed conclusively that temperate-forest
species migrated at different rates and in different directions while forming a changing
mosaic of communities. Early in her career, she challenged the standard
methods and prevailing interpretations of the data and fostered rigorous analysis in
palynology. As a leading figure in ecology and paleoecology,
she served as president of the Ecological Society of America and the American Quaternary
Association and as chair of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the
University of Minnesota. In 1982 she was elected to the National Academy
of Sciences.==Early life and education==
Davis was born on October 23, 1931. She spent her childhood and early adolescence
in the greater Boston area. She married Rowland Davis in 1956. The couple divorced in 1970.Davis received
a B.A from Radcliffe College (1953), a PhD in biology from Harvard University (1957)
and an honorary M.S. from Yale University (1974). During her undergraduate studies at Radcliffe,
she took a class on paleobotany which sparked her interest in the field. During her final year at Radcliffe, she received
a Fulbright fellowship, which allowed her to travel to Denmark to study at University
of Copenhagen under Johannes Iversen of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
in 1953-1954. There she became interested in the vegetational
history of the Quaternary period, focusing her research on pollen deposits from Greenland. Her findings were published in her first paper,
“Interglacial Pollen Spectra from Greenland”, in 1954. For her PhD research under Hugh Raup (forest
ecologist), she studied pollen data from cores taken from sites near Harvard Forest in Petersham,
Massachusetts. She then obtained a postdoctoral fellowship
from the National Science Foundation and worked initially at Harvard before continuing her
paleoecological research in the geology department at the California Institute of Technology
for two years. She then spent a year at Yale University as
a research fellow, studying vegetation composition and pollen sedimentation in lakes. There she introduced the method of studying
pollen influx or pollen accumulation rates (number of pollen grains per square centimeter
per year) in cores, which was an important advance for interpreting fossil pollen data
in terms of changes in past vegetation and past sedimentation conditions.==Career==
After her postdoctoral positions at Caltech and Yale, Davis joined the botany department
at the University of Michigan in 1961 as a research associate. In 1964 she became an associate research biologist
at the University’s Great Lakes Research Division, and in 1966 she was appointed an associate
professor of zoology. In 1970, she was promoted to full professor. In 1973 Davis returned to Yale to serve as
a professor of biology, where she worked until 1976. In 1976, she became a professor and head of
the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. In 1982, she was appointed Regents Professor
of Ecology and is now a Regents Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution,
and Behavior.Her 1963 paper, “On the Theory of Pollen Analysis”, greatly impacted the
study of pollen records and their interpretation and led to studies of how well the distribution
of a species’ pollen reflects the population numbers of the trees that produced it. Her later research mapping the migration of
tree species illustrated the differential timing and directions of movement for species
during the past 14,000 years in North America. This work has been influential in predicting
the migration of tree species that may results from global climate changes. She also hypothesized that disease caused
the decline in hemlock populations about 5,300 years ago in the northeastern US. Starting in the 1980s while at the University
of Minnesota, Davis studied long-term forest dynamics of forest communities at the Sylvania
Wilderness in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These old growth forests contain a mosaic
of sugar maple and hemlock stands. She and her graduate students studied the
fossil pollen throughout the forest. Their detailed analyses allowed them to trace
local variation in forest composition through time and to see how disturbances such as windstorms
and fire relate to changes in the forest.==Push for appropriate pay==
When her husband Rowland obtained a job in the Department of Botany at the University
of Michigan, she accepted a research position at the University in order to have a job near
him. In a 1972 Ann Arbor News article, she stated
that she believed this put her in a poor position to bargain for salary and that the University
took advantage of her weak bargaining position by paying her lower wages than she merited. “Salary is set by bargaining,” she said and
added “Men can move. Everybody believes women can’t. I was vulnerable to low wages because I couldn’t
leave the University. I was the lowest paid person in my ranking.” Even after she was promoted to full professor,
she was paid less than the average associate professor, the rank below full professor. She filed a complaint with the University
and was eventually given both a pay raise and back pay, but only after considerable
persistence on her part, including threatening a civil rights suit.==Honors==
From 1978 – 1980 she served as the president of American Quaternary Association. Davis also served as the president of the
Ecological Society of America from 1987 to 1988. In 1982, she became the first woman from the
University of Minnesota to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She became a fellow of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences in 1991. In 1993, she became the 6th recipient of the
Nevada Medal, awarded by the Desert Research Institute. That same year she became the 3rd woman to
receive the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America. In 2009, she became an honoree of National
Women’s History Month.In 2011, she received a William S. Cooper Award from the Ecological
Society of America. In 2012, she was elected Fellow of the Ecological
Society of America. She is a member of the International Association
for Vegetation Science and a Honorary Member of the British Ecological Society.She received
an honorary doctorate from the College of Biological Sciences of the University of Minnesota
in 2012

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