It was a sunny September afternoon. A bearded paleontologist tended to several small groups of college students examining fossils along the Falls of the Ohio. But one of the biggest discoveries was that the paleontologist was Dr. Kate Bulinski.
Dr. Bulinski doesn’t normally sport a beard, but that day was an exception. She was being photographed and filmed for The Bearded Lady Project, a documentary and portrait series celebrating female paleontologists. The founders of the project, Dr. Ellen Currano, Lexi Jameson Marsh and Kelsi Vance, hope to showcase women in geoscience, bring attention to the inequalities between men and women in the sciences, and inspire young women to pursue careers as scientists.
They record these women’s stories from all across the world—after the women don theatrical, human-hair beards.
“What’s amazing is, you strap a beard on them and they look just as rough-and-tumble as any guy,” Dr. Bulinski said. “There’s just something about that appearance that makes people think differently about them for some reason.”
That’s not for a lack of the outdoorsy, “rough-and-tumble” ethos among women in the paleontology community. The Bearded Lady folks had this to say about Dr. Bulinski in a recent blog post:
“So you can have a little insight into the kind of person Dr. Bulinski is, she surprised us during her interview with a story about a black widow spider she encountered while in the field. Instead of running from the spider or removing her person to a different location where the deadly spider was not, she grabbed a stick to poke it and get a better view of it up close.”
Most of the scientists are filmed doing something related to their areas of research. Dr. Bulinski wanted to do something a little different. “I do a lot of teaching. That’s my big role here. I do some research, too, but I said, ‘Why don’t we do one where there’s students around,’ because that’s really what excites me; I want to be out teaching the students.” In the end, they filmed her during a class field trip to the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Ind.
While waiting for the clouds to move for better lighting, she continued to walk about and help her students, still bearded. “I think they thought it was really amusing, but they were probably just like, ‘Oh, Dr. Bulinski’s doing something weird again.’”
The portraits are scheduled to be unveiled in September. For more on The Bearded Lady Project, visit http://thebeardedladyproject.com/trailers.
Walter Parker ’15