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WISC aims to inspire success for women in male-dominated fields

May 21, 2019

Five scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center (ASC) attended the second annual Women in Space Conference (WiSC), on February 7 & 8, in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The conference is a much anticipated time when women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) conjoin to share their achievements, experience challenging and powerful lessons, have fantastic discussions . . .


Astro Scientists at  Women in Space Seminar
Pictured three of the five scientists that attended the conference.  Left to right: Kristen Bennet,  Amber Gullikson,  and  Mary (Elise) Rumph.  Annette Sunda pictured in thumbnail. Not pictured: Tenielle Gaither.

and even network, and support their peers!

Many presentations showcased the roles of women in male-dominated fields (such as aerospace engineering, satellite communications, and planetary science), as well as the many routes, sharing of specific insights, and eye-opening concepts that aid in long-term success.

Panel discussions delved into space careers beyond academia, harassment in STEM fields, and work-life balance.

The five scientists that attended the conference were Kristen Bennett, Amber Gullikson, Tenielle Gaither, Elise Rumpf, and Annette Sunda who represented Astrogeology with a combination of oral, poster, and panel presentations on topics ranging from Mars sand dune research to planetary nomenclature to  ASC’s efforts to increase diversity in STEM.

Find out more about these scientists and follow the link to their enjoy their awesome abstracts:

Amber Gullikson has been working with the USGS ASC as a geologist for the past 5 years. She is involved with a variety of projects, spanning both our Earth and Mars. Currently, she is mapping several areas on Mars using high-resolution data to better understand the geologic history of the planet, as well as updating the Mars Global Digital Dune Database (MGD3) with current research results. At the WiSC, she presented on the latest addition to the MGD3, where she informed attendees on what the MGD3 is, its significance to the science community, and how to utilize and access the data. Attending this conference was a rewarding experience for Amber. She was able to meet amazing women involved in space-related work that spanned industry, academia, and research, forming new relationships and potential collaborations for future work.

Tenielle Gaither is a geologist at the USGS ASC. For the past nine years, she has worked on a wide variety of projects, including curation and sample analysis of impact-generated rocks from Meteor Crater and Flynn Creek Crater, planetary geologic mapping, and planetary nomenclature. Tenielle presented a poster on “Planetary Nomenclature: A Brief History and Overview of Modern Methods,” which highlighted partnership between Astrogeology, the International Astronomical Union, and NASA. The conference’s emphasis on inclusivity and diversity was inspiring to Tenielle.

Elise Rumpf is a research geologist at the USGS ASC where she investigates the physics of lava flows and uses terrestrial analogs to understand more about other planets and moons. At the conference, Elise gave a talk titled "Planetary Cards: A Fun and Interactive Card Game for Learning about Water in the Solar System". These are cards she developed with other ASC scientists to teach middle-schoolers about where water is found throughout the solar system. You can learn more about them at (if it’s under construction, please visit again soon!) She really enjoyed the conference, especially learning about the different paths women have taken with their careers in space.

Annette Sunda is a student trainee who specializes in sediment transport and data management. She gave a talk on a Martian analog dune field research and a poster on data integrity. As an attendee at WiSC 2019, she was impressed by the variety of ways that women are working in space. Most notable were the keynote speeches by Dr. Timebi Aganaba-Jeanty (a space lawyer) and Dr. Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil (discovered a rare type of galaxy). These speeches were inspiring and remind us that there is plenty of room for everyone’s passion in space.


Kristen Bennett is a space scientist whose research focuses on volcanic deposits on the Moon and sedimentary deposits on Mars, and she also is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. At the WiSC she presented a poster outlining the USGS Step UP! Employee Empowerment Strategies Bystander Intervention program. This workshop was developed by USGS employees to teach strategies to interrupt and stop instances of harassment. Kristen also moderated a panel titled “Taking Action in Diversity and Inclusion” to prompt discussion about what steps people can take to increase diversity in STEM. Kristen enjoyed meeting so many fantastic planetary scientists that also are invested in promoting diversity and inclusion.  

By attending the Women in Space Conference, these five scientists were able to share their research with the broader community, learn more about the diverse range of space-related research and careers, and participate in discussions about diversity and inclusion. If you’d like to learn more about the Women in Space Conference, please visit

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