ALD21 Archive: There’s no such thing as a female peacock – Dr Sally Le Page, 2019

There’s no such thing as a female peacock – Dr Sally Le Page, 2019

Dr Sally Le Page explains why you’ll ever see a female peacock, but if you see a honey bee, she’s almost certainly a female. 

Sally Le Page is a biologist, YouTuber and science communicator and her personal mission is to bring science further into pop culture so that people enjoy and appreciate it in the same way they enjoy music, sport or literature. She makes videos about science and biology on her YouTube channel, Shed Science, and has worked closely with companies such as General Electric and Discovery to share her passion for science to an audience of millions. Her PhD was on fruit flies and how family ties affect how they behave towards one another.

You can follow her work here:


Recorded at the IET, you can watch the rest of the Ada Lovelace Day Live 2019 playlist here.

ALD21 Archive: Could Jurassic Park happen? – Dr Suzi Maidment, 2018

Could Jurassic Park happen? – Dr Suzi Maidment, 2018

Dr Susannah Maidment looks at the science behind Jurassic Park, and explores where fiction diverges from reality. 

Dr Susannah Maidment is a dinosaur researcher and the curator of dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum in London. Her research focuses on the relationships of the bird-hipped dinosaurs, how dinosaurs walked and moved, and dinosaur diversity in the Upper Jurassic, 150 million years ago. Prior to working at the Natural History Museum, she was Senior Lecturer in Geology at the University of Brighton, a Research Fellow at Imperial College London, and also spent two years living overseas and working as an Exploration Geologist in the oil industry. She has a PhD in vertebrate palaeontology from the University of Cambridge, and a degree in Geology from Imperial College London.

You can follow her work here:


Recorded at the IET and sponsored by Digital Science, you can watch the rest of the Ada Lovelace Day Live 2018 playlist here.

ALD21 Books: The Brilliant Abyss, Dr Helen Scales

Dr Helen Scales

The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed, Dr Helen Scales

The deep sea is the last, vast wilderness on the planet. For centuries, myth-makers and storytellers have concocted imaginary monsters of the deep, and now scientists are looking there to find bizarre, unknown species, chemicals to make new medicines, and to gain a greater understanding of how this world of ours works. With an average depth of 12,000 feet and chasms that plunge much deeper, it forms a frontier for new discoveries.

The Brilliant Abyss tells the story of our relationship with the deep sea – how we imagine, explore and exploit it. It captures the golden age of discovery we are currently in and looks back at the history of how we got here, while also looking forward to the unfolding new environmental disasters that are taking place miles beneath the waves, far beyond the public gaze.

Throughout history, there have been two distinct groups of deep-sea explorers. Both have sought knowledge but with different and often conflicting ambitions in mind. Some people want to quench their curiosity; many more have been lured by the possibilities of commerce and profit. The tension between these two opposing sides is the theme that runs throughout the book, while readers are taken on a chronological journey through humanity’s developing relationship with the deep sea. The Brilliant Abyss ends by looking forwards to humanity’s advancing impacts on the deep, including mining and pollution and what we can do about them.

Order the book on here and your purchase will support a local independent bookshop of your choice!

You can follow her work here:

Twitter: @helenscales

ALD21: Marie Tharp, Geologist and Oceanographic Cartographer

Marie Tharp

Marie Tharp was an American geologist and oceanic cartographer who co-created the first detailed map of the Atlantic Ocean floor and, in the process, discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, providing vital proof of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.

After an unsatisfying stint as a junior geologist for Standard Oil, in 1948 Tharp found a job at the Lamont Geological Observatory (now the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). She initially worked on using photographic evidence to locate World War II aircraft that had ditched at sea, which involved plotting the sea floor.

That work evolved into an ocean floor mapping project. Her colleague, Bruce Heezen, collected sonar soundings data from trips on research ships, and Tharp analysed it back at base, as she was not allowed onboard. This collaboration was the first systematic attempt to map the ocean floor, which at the time was assumed to be flat and uninteresting.

Tharp plotted out the data by hand to create six east-west profiles and discovered not just a long ridge running down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but an enormous rift valley in the middle of the ridge itself.

The idea of continental drift was controversial at the time, but a rift valley would be evidence that the oceanic crust was pulling apart, with new crust being erupted along the undersea mountain range. Tharp’s conclusions were dismissed by Heezen as “girl talk”.

Further evidence that Tharp was correct came from a map of earthquake epicentres which, when laid over her map, matched perfectly with the central rift valley. In 1957, Heezen published Tharp’s work and took credit for it – her name appears nowhere on that paper, nor on any of the other papers published by him or others between 1959 and 1963.

Tharp continued to map ocean floors, and found similar mid-ocean ridges in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. She had discovered a global oceanic rift system.

In 1978, Tharp (and Heezen, posthumously) were awarded the Hubbard Medal, the National Geographic Society’s highest honour. She was also awarded the Mary Sears Woman Pioneer in Oceanography Award by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1998, and won the Lamont-Doherty Heritage Award by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Further reading

ALD21 Podcasts: This Podcast Will Kill You, Erin Welsh & Erin Allmann Updike

This Podcast Will Kill You, Erin Welsh & Erin Allmann Updike

This podcast might not actually kill you, but it covers so many things that can. Each episode tackles a different disease, from its history, to its biology, and finally, how scared you need to be. Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke, who are both disease ecologists and epidemiologists, make infectious diseases acceptable fodder for dinner party conversation and provide the perfect cocktail recipe to match. 

Recent episodes cover a variety of diseases: 

  • Diabetes mellitus: Short & sweet.
  • Anthrax: The hardcore spore.
  • Chagas disease: The reverse triple discovery.
  • Dysentery loves a disaster.
  • Hemophilia: A hemorrhagic disposition.

You can follow their work here:

Twitter: @theedubs, epidemicerin, and @tpwky