I chose to research Graduate Women in Science for my organization. GWIS was formed in 1921, one year after women gained the right the vote, by a group of women graduate students from Cornell University. The primary mission of this organization is “to advance the participation and recognition of women in science and to foster research through grants, awards, and fellowships.” There are 1500 members in 17 chapters across the United States. I think that Amy Vedder would definitely support this organization because shares her hopes of expanding scientific research and knowledge, but I’m not sure if she would become a member of it.
I chose to compare Amy Vedder to none other than her very own husband, Bill Weber. Since they worked together their whole lives, wrote a book together, and founded the Mountain Gorilla Project together, I thought it would be interesting to see how they individually received credit for these accomplishments.
Amy Vedder and Bill Weber grew up together. They went to the same college, and both volunteered with the U.S. Peace Corps right after graduation. They studied in the same African environment, the only difference being their focus. Amy focused on habitat and lifestyle of gorillas that led to their endangerment in Africa, while Bill focused more on the social and economic styles of the Rwandan people that influenced the extinction of the gorillas.
I do not think that gender influenced either of these scientists. They received the same education, had the same experiences in the Peace Corps, and were both recognized for the accomplishments in the same manner.
Amy Vedder is a great role model for me, and for all other women scientists. I am particularly interested in volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps, and Amy Vedder went to Africa with the Peace Corps straight out of college. That’s amazing to me, and it shows total dedication to the world and to making the world a better place. She was a mother of two, and has a world famous career. Most women struggle to balance their career and their family life, but she did a perfectly fine job at both (her two sons are All-American lacrosse players). For over thirty years Amy Vedder has worked on conservation and preserving wildlife, and she still hasn’t stopped. She gives lectures all around the world about conservation methods and reasons why their so important. If I am half as productive as Amy Vedder I’ll be so proud of myself, and I know my family and friends will be too.
Amy Vedder is most famous for starting the Mountain Gorilla Project with her husband, Bill Weber. Originally the forest homes of the gorillas in Rwanda were going to be destroyed and turned into cattle grazing pastures. When Amy heard news of this, she immediately went to the Rwandan government and proposed a different plan. The plan was called the Mountain Gorilla Project and it was composed of three main ideas: increase protection of forests and gorilla habitats, inform and educate Rwandans about conservation, and bring in revenue by centralizing tourism around the gorillas. Here is a video of Bill Weber explaining the Mountain Gorilla Project-
Get an inside look on how Amy researches her gorillas.
Even as a young girl, Amy has always been fascinated by animals. Maybe it’s because she and her three sisters cared for all types of different pets, or because her father had a veterinary practice where she would help out with the patients. Probably both. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York, and loved spending every moment outdoors.
When high school came around, she found out that she excelled in math and biology. She then went onto Swarthmore College to get her degree in biology. In comes Bill Weber, her best friend throughout college and soon to be her husband. Once they graduated, the idea of traveling to Africa to volunteer as teachers with the Peace Corps captivated them both, because they shared the hopes of making the world a better place. On this trip to Africa was where Amy met her first gorilla. When she returned to the United States, both Amy and Bill got their graduate degrees and returned back to Africa to make their dream of studying gorillas come true.
They soon realized that the loss of natural habitat was endangering the gorillas, and did everything they could to deter the extinction of the species. They helped inform the Rwandans about the problem and the importance of conservation, raised money for projects, and founded the Mountain Gorilla Project. When she returned to the United States next, she directed the Africa Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society for six years. Now, she is Director of the Living Landscapes Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Amy Vedder is acknowledged for her 25 plus years of dedication to protect wildlife and wildland conservation. She is known internationally for having launched highly successful conservation programs, and is still continuing her work to accomplish more.
Weber, Bill, and Vedder, Amy. In the Kingdom of Gorillas. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Written by Amy Vedder and her husband, Bill Weber, this book goes into major detail of their trip to Rwanda in the 1970’s. This book provided a great background on Amy and Bill. They met at Swathmore College, and both had the hopes to make the world a better place. After graduating, their interest in conservation led them to join the Peace Corps. Not qualified for any special positions, they both joined as general volunteers; which at the time was a field dominated by females. When they returned to the United States, Amy went to graduate school to study field biology, and later returned to Africa to study mountain gorillas. Realizing that the loss of natural habitat was endangering the gorillas, they both made tremendous strides to deter the extinction of the depleting species. They helped inform the Rwandans about the problem and the importance of conservation, raised money for projects, and founded the Mountain Gorilla Project. As a primary source, I found the book to be useful in learning more about the advancements that Amy and her husband promoted in the field of primate conservation.
Amy Vedder. The Wilderness Society, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2011.
This website was established by The Wilderness Society which is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the natural habitat of animals and plants. On the site, I found a section for Amy Vedder as she is the Senior Vice President of Conservation for the society. The page gave a basic overview of her career and cited many of Amy’s recent publications.
“Amy Vedder.” Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2011.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison held an event for 2010’s Earth Day at one of their conference centers and had about fifty speakers, Amy Vedder being one of them. This website provided details of the event, and the backgrounds of the speakers. They describe her as “one of the world’s foremost experts on wildlife and wilderness conservation.” It talks about the book she wrote with her husband, In the Kingdom of Gorillas, and many of her other accomplishments. I didn’t find this source to be extensively useful as it was very brief and summarized much of the information found in other sources.
Ebersole, Rene. Gorilla Mountain: The Story of Wildlife Biologist Amy Vedder. New York:
Joseph Henry Press, 2006. Print.
This book provides everything you need to know about Amy Vedder. It is an easy to read resource that contains many useful facts. In this source, I learned despite many astounding accomplishments throughout her career, she faced some challenges as well. Somewhat surprisingly, they weren’t gender challenges but many the struggles that Rwanda went through regarding conflict and war.
Novacek, Michael J., ed. The Biodiversity Crisis. New York: The New Press, 2001. Print.
In this book regarding biodiversity, there is an excerpt that covers Amy Vedder’s profile. I learned about her profession as Director of the Living Landscapes Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the many things she did in order to protect animals and the land in which they live. She was first exposed to this kind of science when she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa many years ago. Several years after that, she established the Mountain Gorilla Project with her husband, and spent her time supporting the communities and raising money to protect the endangered species. When she returned the United States, she directed the Africa Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS, for six years. Even though this book only had a page about Amy Vedder, it was still very useful in giving a background of her life and the many significant things she accomplished.
I’m Sarah and the scientist I have chosen to reseach is Amy Vedder. When I looked through the list of possible scientists, I noticed that next to her name it said “Gorilla’s Best Friend” and I was immediately intrigued. Once I started my research, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. I hope her life inspires you just as much as it inspired me, enjoy!