The year’s closing in fast, and here at least it’s already getting dark and pelting with rain. Settling down to write our 2015 review, the only thing to say is WOW, what a year!

We’ve had 18 new posts, talked TrowelBlazers in venues from academic conferences to international radio, and started a viral hashtag…and that’s not even counting probably the year’s major event, the launch of Fossil Hunter Lottie (yes, she’s only been out since May!).
So read on for a review of some of our most exciting activities from 2015, and at the end, a mini-reveal about our very exciting NEW COLLABORATION for 2016!

First and foremost, our grateful thanks as ever to all of YOU, our amazing community. We’ve had a huge amount of posts submitted, tons of support for our activities, and many wonderful words of praise which we deeply appreciate; it was extra exciting to see recognition of how far we’ve come by being a finalist for this year’s Shorty Awards in the Science Category (alongside luminaries such as Bill Nye, @realscientists and  Neil deGrasse Tyson). TrowelBlazers started out and (perhaps amazingly!) still works as a group effort, and part of our continuing energy for what we’re doing comes from everyone who takes the time to share posts, suggest new ideas, and interact with us. And talking of interactions, the TB community has grown again: we’ve now topped 5000 followers on Twitter, plus 4800 Facebook likes. Welcome to all, and we hope you’ve been introduced to some amazing women geoscientists you’d not heard of before.

We started 2015 with a VERY busy spring. In March we celebrated International Women’s Day by listing our 5 TrowelBlazers You Should Have Heard Of.  This was swiftly followed by the fabulous Woman In Time, an event Tori created with Allison Cullingford from the University of Bradford for British Science Week. By weaving together poetry, archival material and science, Tori told the story of three women whose lives intersected in the 1930s at Dorothy Garrod’s dig in Palestine: Yusra, a local excavator, Jacquetta Hawkes, and the Tabun 1 female Neanderthal they discovered.

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Three of Team TB at the SAA meeting, San Francisco!

In April the world held its breath as THREE of us managed to be in the same room at the same time…Brenna, Suzie and Becky were all present at the frankly overwhelmingly large Society for American Archaeology conference, held in San Francisco. While we were there partly with our academic hats on, we’d also been invited to talk about TrowelBlazers. It was a superb experience and once again we were really pleased to meet many faces we’d only known online, and hear how much people think what we do matters.

In the same month, we also spoke to a rather different audience (although with a probably high cross-over rate) at EasterCon, a massive science fiction and fantasy UK convention. We’re certain the world recognises the untapped potential for tales of steampunk trowelblazing…

2015 has been a year of inspiring feminist and science community action in the shape of some very amusing viral hashtags. TrowelBlazers is very proud of our own Brenna’s contribution, #InMyShoes, going back to our core theme of the importance of role models. This kicked off in response to hearing that a young girl, Sophie Trow, had been told the dinosaur kids shoes she liked had been designed only for boys. One tweeted photo of some sneakers & a plastic pterosaur later, and the science world stepped up to show that plenty of women into dinosaurs and all manner of other awesomeness did their thing in a dazzling variety of footwear shared across social media, and even covered in mainstream outlets.

A large proportion of people must have wanted to be in Tori’s fetching white wellingtons this summer when she took dinosaur-related trowelblazing to new levels, featuring as one of the experts who got to delve around in the postmortem of a life-size reconstruction T-Rex. With chainsaws, buckets of blood and serious science, the National Geographic program followed her role in last year’s amazing Mammoth Autopsy for Channel 4, and has cemented Tori’s credentials as Doyenne of Megafaunal CSI Fabulousness. Plus it allowed her to give this superb quote: “Getting shoulder-deep in a fake T. rex cloaca is one of the many things I did not expect to do when pregnant. Life is full of surprises.” [And in autumn we were very happy to greet our newest and ultra adorable Littlest TrowelBlazer – congratulations Tori!].

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Fossil Hunter Lottie in the field

Undoubtedly the biggest TrowelBlazing event of 2015 was the launch in May of our Fossil Hunter Lottie doll, created following a collaboration with Arklu, makers of the Lottie Dolls. We’d been working on this for AGES, and had shared some sneak previews (Lottie came with Becky on a California roadtrip) and celebrated the release by sending her off on a Grand Trowelblazing Tour, which started at the Natural History Museum, and took in visits to real palaeontologists at universities and museums in Edinburgh, Leeds, Oxford, Bristol, and Cardiff. She finished up at Mary Anning’s home turf, Lyme Regis, where we went out doing some real fossil-hunting with local children, Lyme Regis Museum and the Jurassic Coast Ambassadors.
Fossil Hunter Lottie has had incredible feedback, and received tons of brilliant coverage and many reviews, which has been wonderful to see after the hard work we put into developing her with Arklu. This Christmas it’s been lovely to see even more trowelblazers young and old enjoying her!

Fossil Hunter Lottie works her magic on the BBC: behold the power of her teeny tiny magnifying glass

Fossil Hunter Lottie works her magic on the BBC: behold the power of her teeny tiny magnifying glass

In 2015 we had an astonishing +86K views of our website, with a large number of new visitors (hi!). This year without doubt our most popular posts were those profiling the Rising Star team, responsible for excavating the Homo naledi fossils which hit the news in September when they were published as a new species. We actually did the original interviews for these posts during the dig in 2013, and it’s fantastic to see these women being recognised internationally for their work (bar a few wails and gnashing of teeth from those who can’t quite believe an all-women team could be selected on merit…).

We covered a great range of new trowelblazers in this year’s posts, starting with Zonia Baber (who might win for 2015’s coolest photo), and ranging from 19th and early 20th century palaeontologist Elizabeth Anderson Grey, pioneer archaeological aviatrix Lady Mary Bailey, and Veronica Seton-Williams, another key trowelblazer, who epitomises the incredible mentoring and training networks in the UK during the 1930s-60s. Another woman we were pleased to feature is Tina Negus, the original discoverer of the some of the oldest creatures on Earth, and who would be a celebrated name in the history of palaeontology with a fossil named after her, but for the fact that she wasn’t believed by her school teachers.

So, only a few hours until 2016 and a new year of awesomeness begins. We know there will be surprises and strange/wondrous turns of events, but one thing we are sure of is a very exciting NEW COLLABORATION we have been working on. We’ll be announcing full details in the next couple of months, but here are a few teasers to whet your appetite: together with a major UK organisation, we will be creating an exhibition highlighting the contribution of 12 past trowelblazers, and 12 modern counterparts. Featuring studio-shot portraits of today’s women arrayed in the attire of their forebears, complete with period field gear (possibly including the obligatory camels/horses), the exhibition will include information on the research and impact of trowelblazers in archaeology, palaeontology and geology, as well as covering problematic issues that continue to resonate within the current professional workforce. It will run from late 2016-2017, and will travel to a range of venues in locations across the UK, so get in touch if you’re an institution/organisation interested in hosting or supporting this uber-exciting national event.

And with that, nothing remains but to wish everyone who has supported us a fantastic new year, wherever you are, and keep on ‘blazing!

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