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Dr. Wendy Bohon can be a Geologist, Science Communicator, Ambassador for Women Scientists and Mom

Photos courtesy of Dr. Wendy Bohon

Dr. Wendy Bohon was working as a professional actress, until an earthquake altered the course of her life. 

Wendy earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre and was living in Los Angeles after college. In 1999, she felt the famous Hector Mine earthquake, which occurred in the California desert but was widely felt across Southern California.

Experiencing this earthquake pushed her to begin volunteering for the U.S. Geological Survey, specifically with the earthquake hazards program, in Pasadena, California. She was later hired to do outreach work, educating people about earthquakes and participating in teacher workshops. 

This job allowed her to combine her love for performing and talking in front of an audience with her interest in earthquake education. She felt like she was making a real difference by helping to alleviate people’s fears and anxieties about earthquakes. 

Wendy decided to go back to school, where she earned her master’s and PhD in earthquake geology with the goal of pursuing geology through communication and education.

She had taken a few geology classes in college to meet her science requirement, but she never thought it would be her career.

“You don’t have to know what you want to do,” Wendy says. “Find the things that you think matter to you. For me, my thing that really brings purpose to my life is feeling like I have an impact on the people around me.” 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Wendy Bohon

Wendy’s career as a science communicator has involved being a liaison between the scientific community and the people who need information. She says that science work is not finished until it is communicated to the people that need it, whether it is educators, students, lawmakers or the media. 

Wendy has spoken in a variety of settings, from podcasts and television shows to classrooms and conferences. She also shares information on social media.

“In a week, I can talk to Congress and kindergarteners,” Wendy says. “As a communicator, one of the very first things you have to think about is: Who is your audience? What is it that they need from you? How can you help them to receive that information?”

For several years, Wendy worked as a science communication specialist for Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). 

She has recently accepted a new job at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where she is a communications strategist, developing effective communication strategies in the earth sciences division.

Wendy is proud of becoming a knowledgeable, reliable source to whom people can go when they want to learn about earthquakes. 

“I know they can now sleep better at night because of something I’ve done,” she says.

Being a woman in a male-dominated field and on social media comes with its challenges. Wendy has dealt with a fair share of harassment and sexism, but connecting with other women in STEM and creating strong communities has helped her to overcome these challenges.

About three years ago, Wendy partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and became a part of its If/Then initiative, a movement to support and inspire women in STEM. 

If you support a woman or a girl in STEM, then she can change the world,” Wendy says. 

AAAS gathered 100 scientists, including Wendy, who were women in different STEM careers all over the world to act as high-profile role models for young girls. The goal was to show young girls that there are many women already working in STEM who may share a similar background to them.

The women gave talks, appeared on panels and hosted STEM fairs where they spoke directly with young students. AAAS also made life-size statues of the women scientists, and Wendy’s statue appeared at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as well as the Perot Museum in Dallas, Texas.  

Photo courtesy of Dr. Wendy Bohon

Wendy has also worked with the organization 500 Women Scientists, which works to make science a more inclusive field by fighting against racism, patriarchy and oppressive societal norms. 

She is also featured in a book called “Quake Chasers: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science” by Lori Polydoros.

“We deserve to be in these spaces, we belong in these spaces and we are not going to back down from being here,” Wendy says. 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Wendy Bohon

In the midst of Wendy’s successful science career, she became a mom of three children. 

Wendy describes having a difficult route to motherhood, struggling with fertility. She was able to have her twin boys through IVF after years of trying to conceive. 

Wendy also has a daughter who she and her husband adopted from his previous marriage. 

“I built my family in a different way,” Wendy says. “Being a mother is about nurturing a family, however that family was created and whoever that may be. Sometimes I mother the kids down the street, sometimes I mother my friends — whoever needs that care and compassion.” 

If you support a woman or a girl in STEM, then she can change the world.

Dr. Wendy Bohon

Connecting with other moms is something that helps Wendy tremendously to juggle career life with family life. She started her own blog called “Twinning at Motherhood,” where she writes about being a mom of twins. 

Her biggest piece of advice to other women is to “find your people.” Building strong communities where everyone can support each other is important to Wendy.

For her, “she can be both” means “you don’t have to choose. You can do both of those things and you can do both of those things well, if other people allow you to do that and give you the space and the grace you need to be productive.” 

Wendy will continue educating the world as a science communicator. One day, she would love to have her own science television show.

Check out Wendy’s Twitter, Instagram and her website!

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