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A scientist at the Natural History Museum in London has discovered that while the institution boasts an incomparable natural history collection, it has significantly more male specimens than female specimens. In her study, Dr. Natalie Cooper discovered the same male skew in four other leading natural history museums around the world (American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, the Smithsonian).
“At a time of unprecedented importance for scientists to understand ecosystems and work to protect endangered animals, any research that has used these kinds of collections is likely to be inaccurate. For instance, chemicals found in specimens are analysed to learn about their migration patterns, but some species have gender-specific diets.”
More on the Study: As Dr. Cooper explained, “We found – perhaps unsurprisingly – that there was a bias towards male specimens. It is worse in birds than in mammals, with only about 40% of bird specimens being females, but around 48% female in mammals.”
The Male Bias: Journalist Caroline Criado Perezexplained in Scientific American that the issue is that we’re so used to seeing the male body and lifestyle as just the standard human body and the standard human way of doing things. This also extends into scientific data collection which comes at the detriment of scientific knowledge. Criado Perez noted that the male data bias might also mean that,
And even algorithms for AI are incredibly male-biased. For example, Google’s voice recognition software, which is meant to be the best on the market, is 70 percent less likely to recognize a female voice than a male voice because it’s trained on a voice database that is heavily skewed towards male.
Why This Matters: Not only do women struggle for representation in science but biases held by male researchers can inhibit our understanding of species and ecosystems. If the goal of conservation is to preserve species and we’re only studying how the male of that species functions then we’re not getting a full understanding of how to best protect threatened animals. Breaking gender bias must begin early but we must also begin to example all the instances of default male preference in our lives and workplaces if we’re to make a difference overall.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore used data from more than 1,000 twin siblings to evaluate their opinions about environmental policy. They found identical twins were more likely to have similar views on green policy than non-identical twins, suggesting that support for climate action may have a genetic component. Felix Tropf, a professor in […]
Last month, 50,000 images from 90 countries entered National Geographic’s 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Among the many breathtaking photos of a living planet fighting against climate change, a winner has finally been chosen. French underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta has been awarded Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his photo of […]
The Fossil Fuel Resistance is in Washington, D.C. October 11-15, 2021#PeopleVsFossilFuels pic.twitter.com/BsnJsujRFe — Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) (@CJAOurPower) October 11, 2021 On Monday, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, hundreds of people marched to the White House to demand the President and Congress step up efforts to combat climate change. The rally was organized by the Build Back Fossil […]
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