Women in science gather important data in the Mojave Desert

Women standing next to the entrance to a canyon

By Chris Otahal, Wildlife Biologist and Kate Miyamoto, Public Affairs Specialist.
Photos courtesy of Mary Cook-Rhyne, Mojave Desert Land Trust

Tracking beetles, studying bighorn sheep, counting bumble bees, identifying bird species - these are just some of the activities interns participate in as part of the Women In Science Discovering Our Mojave, or WISDOM, an internship program providing science, technology, engineering and math opportunities for women biologists.

Two people sit on the desert floor collecting data .

Started by the Mojave Desert Land Trust, the Bureau of Land Management’s Needles and Barstow Field Offices have partnered with and supported the program since 2019. The WISDOM program creates opportunities for burgeoning women scientists to explore the Mojave Desert and gain valuable field experience to assist in a career path as future scientists and desert advocates. In many cases, the program is the participants’ first taste of field biology in the Mojave Desert.

 “The program is important because it gives women from underserved communities a chance to gain field work experience and get their foot in the door, in a profession that has typically been dominated by men,” states Mary Cook-Rhyne, the WISDOM coordinator at the Mojave Desert Land Trust.

To date, 24 women have participated in the WISDOM program and provided the BLM with information on desert bighorn sheep, tamarisk beetles, bees, birds, and dark night skies. The program provides useful data to help develop the management plan for the BLM’s Mojave Trails National Monument and feeds into several citizen science programs including e-bird, Globe at Night, Loss of Night, California Bumble Bee Atlas, and the nation-wide tamarisk beetle monitoring effort. 

A woman attempts to capture an insect in a net.

The 2023 field season has six participants gearing up to conduct bird and bumble bee surveys and map the extent of Crucifixion thorn – a sensitive Mojave Desert tree. 

The BLM looks forward to maintaining – and possibly expanding – this program into the future. Thanks to all the interns who have participated in the program!  

The 2022 group of interns developed a story map documenting the data collected and their personal stories on how the WISDOM program touched their lives. Read the story map about their experiences tracking the tamarisk beetle and bird species here: https://arcg.is/fjDTu.

Blog Topic: