It’s quite an achievement to receive a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford; Beth Shapiro (b. 1976) was the first female Rhodes Scholar from the state of Georgia. Getting published at all during your PhD is laudable; getting four papers in Science, two as first author, is enough to mark you out as exceptional. Add to the list being recognised as a National Geographic Explorer and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius grant”) at just 33 and you can see that Professor Shapiro is a person of extraordinary drive and determination.
In the palaeontology of the 21st century, she has done groundbreaking work looking at the genetics of the dodo and Pleistocene megafauna, including bison, mammoths, musk-ox, cave lions, brown bears, moa, and numerous others. She has also done a fair amount of field work in the mosquito-infested Summers of Alaska and the Yukon Territory, retrieving megafaunal bones from placer mining deposits and permafrost muck. These nuggets of genetic gold have shed light on the rise and fall of populations through the end of the Pleistocene and helped to explain why bison and musk-ox are still here, and why the mammoths disappeared.
Written by Ross Barnett (@deepfriedDNA)
Edited by Suzie (@Suzie_Birch) and posted by Becky (@LeMoustier)
You can follow Beth on Twitter @bonesandbugs and check out her lab here.