Kathleen Carpenter returns to Aberystwyth University, International Women’s Day 2016


I was delighted to be invited by Dr. Sarah Davies of Aberystwyth University to give a presentation entitled “A Life in Fresh Water” – the life and science of Dr. Kathleen Carpenter on the evening before International Women’s Day (7 March 2016). The presentation was co-authored with Dr. Warren Kovach (@AngleseyHist) and we had the enthusiastic collaboration of the Carpenter family. This blog is a Twitter record of what transpired but please note I have now changed my Twitter account to @c_duigan

It was a beautiful drive to Aberystwyth on the day, although we were surprised to encounter snow down to the margins of the road between Maentwrog and Trawsfynydd. The study area for Kathleen Carpenter’s Ph.D. extended up to the Afon Dyfi so it seemed appropriate to stop after we crossed the Dyfi Bridge outside Machynlleth – Carpenter Country.


We spent part of the afternoon talking to Sarah Davies and making last minute preparations.


 At 1800 the audience started to arrive for the reception.


There was an air of anticipation….


On International Women’s Day, Dr. Kathleen Carpenter provided advice to the next generation of women freshwater biologists via The Freshwater Blog. You can read the blog Kathleen Carpenter: Mother of Freshwater Ecology here.



This blog generated tweets around the world and allowed her to truly claim the title “mother” of freshwater ecology.  From Ireland, Switzerland and Germany….



and Netherlands.


It was very appropriate that some of the tweeters were women professors of freshwater ecology, Ph.D students and researchers, and conservationists in North America because Kathleen Carpenter went on to hold research and teaching positions in the US.





You can listen to her book preface here.

We know Kathleen Carpenter was a member of the British Ecological Society, so thank you BES!


On International Women’s Day we walked in the footsteps of Kathleen Carpenter in Old College, Aberystwyth University, where she studied. Hopefully she will feature in future accounts of the history of the college.

Old College



The lecture reviews were kind.


You can read this review in full here and it made all the research and preparations worthwhile. Thank you so much @FriendlyBugBlog.




The weekend before the lecture we set up a Wikipedia page for Kathleen Carpenter, following a suggestion by Prof. Hilary Lappin-Scott. Within two weeks it had hundreds of views.


On International Women’s Day, Prof. Lappin-Scott launched a Welsh Government Report on women in science in Wales – We need to recruit, retain and promote women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


We also made links with two other important projects researching the lives of British women ecologists who worked around the world.

The project, Women Freshwater Biologists (1929 – 1990), is part of a wider initiative to archive the collections of samples, correspondence and research of scientists who have worked with the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) based on Windermere.


Love this picture! Although there are photographs of FBA women working in skirts, Winifred Frost (circa 1950) is being practical and comfortable in her boots and trousers.

Dr. Mary Gillham of Cardiff University has written books on the environmental history of the river valleys of South Wales and the nature of Welsh islands. Her diaries, papers, photographs are the subject of the Mary Gillham Archive Project (@GillhamArchive).


The research on Kathleeen Carpenter has not stopped, with a new clue that she was at McGill University in Montreal.


But there is also more to find out at Aberstwyth University.


The story continues and we will share our progress on this blog.