Women, parents and early-career faculty in ecology most impacted by COVID-19

[I…Just…Can’t…I Really…Can’t…-cr]


Research News

In April 2020, Lise Aubry learned that the daycare her children attended in Fort Collins would be closed for several weeks. Aubry, an assistant professor in the Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department at Colorado State University, and her husband, Professor Dave Koons, began to juggle childcare at home for their two kids – ages 4 months and 4 years old – and work responsibilities.

Aubry said she was happy after a successful day early on of balancing these duties, having completed at least six hours of work.

“Reflecting on the day, I felt pretty good,” said Aubry, also an instructor for the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at CSU. “But I realized there might be other people – single parents, young faculty starting out – in the university setting who were really struggling.”

Aubry decided to conduct a survey of similar faculty across the United States to gauge how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19. She teamed up with Professor Zhao Ma from Purdue University and Theresa Laverty, postdoctoral fellow at CSU, as both have experience with designing surveys.

The results, “Impacts of COVID?19 on ecology and evolutionary biology faculty in the United States,” were recently published in Ecological Applications, a journal from the Ecological Society of America.

Among the findings, the team said that the majority of more than 600 faculty who responded to the survey were negatively impacted on personal and professional levels, and struggling to find a healthy work-life balance.

Aubry said female faculty, early-career researchers and those in caretaking roles were most impacted by the pandemic. In addition, people who did not have access to a private room to use as a home office were significantly more dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

Researchers hope that administrators will use these data when discussing faculty promotions or tenure applications, and that the study will also increase recognition for the problems being faced by faculty during the pandemic.

Aubry said she also views the survey as a “manifesto, a record of what we’re experiencing” that will be important as we recover from the “massive blow that COVID-19 has been to many people’s careers and personal lives.”

Research provides more evidence on pandemic’s impact

To conduct the survey, the research team used a list from the National Research Council to target 94 ecology and evolutionary biology doctoral programs in the United States.

More than 600 faculty responded, providing a response rate of more than 23%.

Ma, a University Faculty Scholar in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, said what the team discovered adds to existing evidence and increases the recognition of the impacts of COVID-19 in an academic setting.

“Female and junior faculty members, people who have more responsibilities for either children or elderly relatives, are impacted more and are more stressed,” she said.

“We talk about the ‘leaky pipeline,’ and why women gradually disappear in STEM fields,” said Ma. “By the time you get to being a full professor, you wonder, ‘Where did the women go’? The pandemic will most likely exacerbate what we’ve seen.”

“This will affect faculty for years to come, and the long-term effect is concerning,” she said. “This needs to be addressed by university leadership, so that faculty can continue to be successful.”

Researchers said they are also seeing serious impacts on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Ma said that she is spending more time mentoring students and postdocs than she did prior to the pandemic, which takes away from research activities.

“They are so worried and stressed,” she said. “In that particular time of their career, it’s already stressful. They don’t know what may happen after the pandemic, if their funding will continue, if they will have a job or what the job market will look like. Our survey really documents the need to look at the long-term impact.”

Anxiety for younger researchers

Laverty, as a member of the research team, is one of those early-career researchers. Her postdoc position in the Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology department ends in May 2021, and that’s already creating anxiety for her.

“It’s definitely stressful being on the job market,” she said. “I don’t have the same home life that Lise and Zhao both have, with children at home. But the effects from the pandemic will impact early-career researchers over the next several years.”

Laverty said the team found that while options like putting a pause on the tenure clock might be helpful for some faculty, promotions should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“Rather than issue blanket statements or policies, we suggest that universities acknowledge the difficulties faced by faculty, especially women,” she said. “Administrators need to recognize that what is happening will affect tenure and promotion applications.”

‘Suck it up, cupcake’

As part of the survey, Aubry and the team included an open comment box, which was completed by one-third of the people who responded. Some faculty responded with a line, while others typed out pages.

Aubry said the comments were insightful – ranging from thoughts on home schooling older children, balancing work and life as a single parent, and the need for increased mentoring of students – and are grouped by themes in the research paper.

“A big proportion of the respondents were full professors, and what I appreciated from them was a recognition that they were doing okay, working from home, but they showed concern for their students and younger colleagues,” she said. “It showed that our larger community of ecologists and evolutionary biologists is not just resilient, but also empathetic, and we need empathy now more than ever.”

On the flip side, the scientists also received a few negative remarks, including one faculty member whose advice was: Suck it up, cupcake, we’re all in this together, so what’s the big deal?

Aubry said this person “couldn’t be more wrong. Not everybody is impacted the same way by the pandemic.”


From EurekAlert!

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December 16, 2020 6:07 am

Don’t forget the kids:

“COVID-19 isolation having detrimental impact on children’s education and welfare, particularly the most vulnerable”


Really, the cure is worse than the disease.

David Guy-Johnson
December 16, 2020 6:12 am

Oh my heart bleeds for her. I know people who have lost their jobs. This “cupcake whines about having to juggle childcare responsibilities. The epitome of someone who needs to get out more

paul courtney
Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
December 16, 2020 12:49 pm

David: You must have missed the follow-up poll, the 600 faculty people were asked if it impacted lower wage folks, and none of them knew any lower wage folks, but the dominican au pair seemed more tired.

Reply to  David Guy-Johnson
December 17, 2020 11:47 am

Look on the ‘bright side’, public sector employees will, if this nonsense continues, find themselves out of work too. No Restaurant owners paying taxes means no money to pay public sector employees …

John Garrett
December 16, 2020 6:21 am


These people are completely tone-deaf.

Curious George
Reply to  John Garrett
December 16, 2020 7:30 am

How many of them have learning disabilities? How many are LGBTQI? What about minorities?

Shoki Kaneda
Reply to  Curious George
December 16, 2020 9:23 am

I don’t know how many, but this woman clearly has a learning disability. She also has a severe empathy deficit.

December 16, 2020 6:27 am

This reminds me of the old joke about the New York Times. They announced the end of the world. The headline read, “WORLD IS ENDING, MINORITIES AND WOMEN WORST HIT!”

Reply to  Kpar
December 16, 2020 8:33 am

Apparently that joke actually refers to the Washington Post. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-10-09-8603160248-story.html

December 16, 2020 6:29 am

It’s especially hard for those who are out of work and suffer from a loss of income. Most faculty and government workers similarly have not suffered from an income loss and in fact have benefited from reduced expenses.

Reply to  Scissor
December 16, 2020 9:15 am

Notice how the politicians and government workers made sure THEY weren’t impacted?

As long as they’re ok, whatever they do is fine, right?

Reply to  TonyG
December 16, 2020 9:41 am

That’s a feature, not a bug, of the Swamp.

Dale S
December 16, 2020 6:32 am

I can understand researchers worrying if they will have a job when their current grant runs out — that’s a stressful thing even without a pandemic. But given how many millions have lost jobs during the pandemic, I’m having difficulty seeing the importance of this goal: “increase recognition for the problems being faced by faculty during the pandemic.”
Note that absolutely nothing in the Research News clip here relates to actual impact of Covid-19 itself, only reactions to Covid-19.

Joseph Zorzin
December 16, 2020 6:34 am

What makes “early-career faculty in ecology” any different than any other faculty and other office workers who now have to work at home? Are they special?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 16, 2020 8:52 am

Yes. Special needs. That’s why they’re ecologists rather than Drs or physicists.

December 16, 2020 6:37 am

These snowflakes are beyond belief, or at least they should be. Is their industry vanishing from beneath them? Are they facing financial ruin? Is their pension adversely affected? For God’s sake it’s just a nasty virus and this lot have turned it into what we see unfolding, whilst still being fully paid and suffering no hardship whatsoever. How about a survey of the damage done to small businesses and the owners/families?

Doug Huffman
December 16, 2020 6:41 am

We are seniors, 72 & 82, and deniers, and live remote, rural and isolated. We consume no bathetic infotainment agitprop.

The disease is of the mind and intellect. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.

December 16, 2020 6:44 am

It’s the same lying and deceitful sob story every time.

All the while men commit suicide 3-4 times as often as women and live 5-9 years shorter lives on average. But when *that* is being even spoken about, it invariably ends in denigration of men and boys – “men are talkative, men are less resilient, men take more risks, men are too masculine, men are weak” etc.

Meanwhile females whine and whine and get whatever they want, even if the disease literally kills men more often than women… even that is not enough for the rabid feminists.

December 16, 2020 6:45 am

You may remeber, that some days ago, I linked to a late but more than deep peer-review of the so called Drosten PCR-Test paper that has been published within 24 hours after a so called peer-review by two experts.

The linked deep and profound reviewfrom Nov. 27th can be found here:
Review report Corman-Drosten et al. Eurosurveillance 2020

Meanwhile Eurosurveillance will also dig deeper now

Doug Huffman
December 16, 2020 6:53 am

I checked my correct use of “bathetic[sic” to find, “ British movie “The Lair of the White Worm” uses a funny bathos example when the villain lady dedicates a rather poetic rant to the supposed greatness of the god she worships only to have the climax of her speech interrupted by a door knock and end it with a mundane “oh, shit…”.

December 16, 2020 6:53 am

Maybe that is what happened to Greta she did get self diagnosed covid didn’t she.

Talking of the walking billboard for need for better treatment for autism, I see she attacked the leader of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. What happened to the girls stick together admiration club?

December 16, 2020 7:07 am

Sooner or later the public will arrive at the conclusion that masks and social distancing are not effective against the spread of cold viruses. They don’t work.

This should be fun to watch.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Klem
December 16, 2020 9:59 am

Klem, tiz already happening – the Contact Tracer’s Story

“”For example, when I asked one person to go through the questions with me, the answer was: “Oh I can’t just now – because I’m in Starbucks’

ha ha ha

Another gem to be found somewhere (the Beeb again I think) is that this Contact Tracing debacle has cost £22 Billion, while the tracers themselves were revealed to only be actually *working* for 1% of their time on duty

btw Aubry, Any comment on the antics of your (dear?) ‘sister’ – the one who answers to name-of Carrie Symonds
Lemme guess, your Dream Ticket

Maybe not:
About 15 years ago I got myself an account at ‘Plenty of Fish’ and researched things a little.
Seemingly among the 20 to 30 age group, 3 boys were chasing each girl
In the 30 to 40 group it was about one-on-one
In the 40+ age group, 3 girls were chasing every boy
What’s all that about then?

And finally, I’ve had acquaintance of *more than one* boy who has topped himself because of the shit treatment he got from A Girl
Plenty girls have fallen off horses or had car crashes but otherwise….

Aubry, chew that lot over.

December 16, 2020 7:21 am

How many of the respondants were actually killed by Covid? I should think they might have been more affected. After all, they voted, didn’t they?

December 16, 2020 7:24 am

The ranks of the left really are filled with self-absorbed, self-indulgent, perpetually adolescent narcissists. Maybe that’s a fundamental precursor for leaning that way.

Tom Abbott
December 16, 2020 7:37 am

What’s the latest word on the Wuhan virus:

I heard yesterday that the American Medical Association had reversed its negative stance on using hydroxychloriquine for the treatment of the Wuhan Virus. I haven’t found a news article about it yet, though.

Secretary Azar said this morning that anyone who tests positive should contact their doctor and ask for EARLY treatment. He suggested that the Regeneron cocktail that President Trump used is available to the public. That’s the treatment I would use, if I had the choice. Azar implied that it is now readily available to the public.

U.S. Senator Johnson (R-Wisconsin) is currently holding a public hearing on voting irregularities, but he took the time at the beginning of the hearing to tell the public if they get infected with the Wuhan virus, they should seek EARLY treatment. Senator Johnson had also held two hearing in the past few days covering medications that could be used for early treatment of the Wuhan virus, so that is why he brought that subject up.

And I just saw on my local tv channel that the hospital in my town is offering early treatment of the Wuhan virus now, before you are sick enough to go to the hospital, using the unpronounceable drug bamlanlvimab, which is reported to be very effective in early treatment of the Wuhan virus.

So it looks like Early Treatment of the Wuhan virus is starting to be promoted. I imagine the crowding of hospitals is causing this course of action, and it’s about time.

Early Treatment of the Wuhan virus would seem to eliminate all the problems with having this virus spreading in the population. If we can cure this disease before it can do serious damage, and it looks like we can, with some exceptions for really frail people, then we should be able to go about our business and not worry about becoming infected.

All the societal restrictions currently in place would then be unnecessary. All it takes is a change of the way we are looking at the problem. We have medications that can nip the Wuhan virus in the bud and can keep people out of the hospital. The latest hydroxychloriquine study says they had an 84 percent success rate at keeping people out of the hospital when treating people right after they test positive.

But we are no longer limted to HCQ, there are at least a dozen drugs currently available that can treat the Wuhan virus, the Regeneron cocktail probably being the most effective since it directly targets the Wuhan virus.

What we desperately need is to inform the public and doctors that the GOAL is EARLY treatment. This is not the standard today. We need to make it the standard ASAP.

Then we can all get back to going about our business with confidence.

Patrick B
Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 16, 2020 9:09 am

The American Medical Association is not representative of doctors. Those days are long past. Less than 20% of doctors are paying members of the AMA. https://www.physiciansweekly.com/is-the-ama-really-the-voice-of-physicians-in-the-us/

The AMA is now a liberal lobbying organization that has an overabundance of public employees as members. The idea that the AMA should be relied on for any medical advice is ridiculous.

Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 16, 2020 10:17 am

Thanks for the AMA link.

In the document, they clearly state that the found HCQ harm was a scam :

“Whereas, The original studies published in The Lancet and The New England Journal of
33 Medicine (NEJM) initially citing harm due to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine use were
34 retracted by said journals due to dubious research methodology and incorrect conclusions …”

Thomas Gasloli
December 16, 2020 7:53 am

Wow! What kind of bubble do these people live in. Have they, who still have cushy work from home jobs, not heard of all the small business owners who have been forced out of business by the draconian shutdowns? I’m so sick of hearing privileged people whine about how hard their lives are.

December 16, 2020 8:00 am

Idiotic, selfish, thoughtless navel-gazing :

Across the globe, millions are expected to be in extreme poverty or to die from starvation directly caused by the lockdown madness.

Steve Ellis
December 16, 2020 8:02 am

This raises the obvious question, are college professors getting dumber?
My survey question: How many of today’s WUWT readers feel they could have written this “research paper” off the cuff, with the only reference being life experiences e.g. spending 30 minutes with a cranky 2 year old kid ?

Reply to  Steve Ellis
December 16, 2020 8:33 am

Every day, we are bombarded in TV in early eveneing with these and comparable stories.
In so far, the dumbest TV journalist will be able to publish s. th. like that.

Reply to  Steve Ellis
December 16, 2020 8:58 am

There is a reason people go to offices away from the cranky two year olds, and hire childcare to care for said cranky kid. And those of us who have had such a child don’t need a study to confirm our own experiences.

Reply to  starzmom
December 16, 2020 9:39 am

It’s so bad, when “parents” from one day of the other are confronted with the fact, they have children, asking for attention, want to play, to eat, are loud, are crying, feel important (what they are !).
Now, they are overstrained now, because of COV-19 ?

Reply to  starzmom
December 17, 2020 3:57 am

and they banned gripe water…bad move
kept the lil darling quiet very well

Climate believer
December 16, 2020 8:39 am

” Suck it up, cupcake, we’re all in this together”

LOL! there’s still hope….

Jim Whelan
December 16, 2020 8:42 am

These people are NOT affected by the virus! They are affected by the use of the virus as an excuse to force insane political “soliutions”.

December 16, 2020 8:55 am

Is any of this a surprise to anybody not brain dead in the past 9 months? Did they need a study to show these things? Too bad the survey did not include the cafeteria workers at the schools, who likely were laid off, and are among the millions thrust into poverty and soon to be evicted from their homes.

And off topic, but just today, I read a paper that states that only 37.8% of people whose spouses contracted Covid also contracted it. (JAMA Open Network). If only 1/3 of people can get this dreaded disease from the infected person they live most intimately with, why am I wearing a mask at Walmart and being terrified of my fellow shoppers? May be we should all just get on with our lives at this point.

December 16, 2020 9:13 am

Aubry said this person “couldn’t be more wrong. Not everybody is impacted the same way by the pandemic.”

She’s absolutely right about that. Some people have lost everything and would be GRATEFUL to have a lousy “work/life balance”. They’d love to have work to balance.

Just more evidence of how disconnected “academia” is from reality.

Reply to  TonyG
December 16, 2020 10:37 am

… not everybody is impacted the same way … BY ANYTHING.

Academia poses that everybody is the same and should be the same, right up until that sameness hurts them individually. At that point they like to point out that some people are different are entitled to more stuff & better treatment.

When it is convenient for ‘cupcake’, she will revert to understanding that ‘we are all the same and equal’, and that she needs to be treated better based on that ‘standard’.

Patrick B
December 16, 2020 9:14 am

“To conduct the survey, the research team used a list from the National Research Council to target 94 ecology and evolutionary biology doctoral programs in the United States.”

Gee, I wonder if persons in such programs might skew hard liberal.

December 16, 2020 9:30 am

Every week it’s a new group
Ethnic minorities
The obese

Next week it will be left-handed people…

Bill Chunko
Reply to  fretslider
December 16, 2020 1:16 pm

Left handed people are sinister.

December 16, 2020 9:41 am

Also, grandma in Planned Parent facilities in Democrat districts. Collateral damage from super spreaders of social contagion. That said, the lead cause of excess deaths is still Planned Parenthood et al operating under the liberal quasi-religious philosophy (“ethics”) for social progress.

Reply to  n.n
December 16, 2020 10:04 am

Planned + Parent[optional suffix] = institutionalized solution to unwanted carbon units

December 16, 2020 10:31 am

“We talk about the ‘leaky pipeline,’ and why women gradually disappear in STEM fields,” said Ma. “By the time you get to being a full professor, you wonder, ‘Where did the women go’? The pandemic will most likely exacerbate what we’ve seen.”

The emphasis on STEM for all, with special emphasis on diversity, is a crock. Jobs in the academic setting even more so. Colleges and universities in the U.S. are graduating far more STEM students than are needed based on growth and replacement rates. Take engineering for example. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 1.7 million engineers in the US., and growth in the field over the next decade is projected to be a meager 14,000 per year. So higher education needs to turn out about 54,000/yr, 40,000 to cover attrition plus another 14,000 new jobs. At least 150,000 new students enroll in engineering each year, with a retention rate of around 80%, so the U.S. is turning out more than 2x the need. My alma mater alone is approaching an engineering enrollment of 25,000, enough to supply nearly 10% of U.S. demand for engineers. While that is an exceptionally large enrollment, there are >400 institutions in the U.S. with accredited engineering degree programs.

I have colleagues in the sciences who hastily retreated from the oversupplied, dog-eat-dog, publish or perish world of academic research and teaching. In the wider job market, I wonder what percentage of STEM graduates end up in non-STEM jobs. Is it any wonder that there is a growing credibility crisis in “post-normal”science (e.g., activism, non-reproducibility, academic misconduct, media “rock stars,” and feeding at the trough of politically motivated government funding)?

As for COVID, yes it is impacting academia, but comparatively little other than inconvenience. Enrollments this fall were up practically across the board. At least the whiny professor still HAS a job and a livelihood, which is more than many can say. I have worked in higher education administration for the last two decades, and we could actually benefit from some healthy contraction in the bloated world of academia.

HD Hoese
Reply to  Pflashgordon
December 16, 2020 12:02 pm

“I have colleagues in the sciences who hastily retreated from the oversupplied, dog-eat-dog, publish or perish world of academic research and teaching.” Saw it happen, went from publish, or equivalent expression of thought, every so often to statistical counting, been reading lots of repeats, overlap to varying degrees. Those devoted to teaching (my experience is that teaching is more difficult) were hurt the most. Lots of other causes, incautious attempts to fix, we always had women and others so-named discriminated against, more than a little unavoidable. Wildlife, fisheries, and now all this applied ecology shows a big lack of homework, rise of advocacy. Management and assessments, while intertwined, were taught in their proper context. Now it’s too often save the “earth.” Just check the evolution of ecology texts. If they spent more time in the ocean they would understand. Some still do, produce amazing stuff.

I know a very good researcher, never got a high school degree, worked his way up from “dirty” work and beyond that he was so good at, retired more successful than a high percentage of Ph.Ds. We had a janitor once that I got transferred to the motor pool because he was so mechanically gifted. No offense to janitors, some of these new homebodies will get this education. There may be at least a small silver lining in the current situation.

HD Hoese
Reply to  HD Hoese
December 16, 2020 12:23 pm

Speaking of silver linings!
“Sediment suggests Teton Glacier longer-lived than thought……In some form, Larsen found, the Teton Glacier — the range’s largest — had persisted through many, many millennium, including times when the climate was warmer than it is today. Potentially, that resilience could repeat.”

Reply to  Pflashgordon
December 16, 2020 3:25 pm

STEM = science, technology, engineering, math.

‘They’ tried to amend it to STEAM, because Art is veryvery important tooo; but that effort failed. Using the ‘A’ for Academia would dilute the meaning of STEM the same way Art would have.

Cupcake (and others like her) is Academia, and is not in a STEM field.

(The fresh-outa-school engineer grad we hired last year lasted 6 months before he decided on being a financial advisor)

December 16, 2020 11:24 am

Jordan Peterson has written a lot about women in the modern workforce. One his more interesting articles was about the “gender paradox”: as societies become more gender-equal in their social and political policies, men and women become more different in certain aspects, rather than more similar.

Given that differences in temperament and interest help determine occupational choice, and that difference in occupational choice drives variability in such things as income, it follows that political doctrines that promote equality of opportunity also drive inequality of outcome.

Men and women are similar. But they are importantly different. The differences matter, particularly at the extremes, particularly with regard to occupational choice and its concomitants. There are going to be more male criminals, and more male engineers, and more females with diagnoses of depression and anxiety, and more female nurses. And there are going to be differences in economic outcome associated with this variance.

Policies that maximize equality of opportunity make equality of outcome increasingly impossible.


Bill Chunko
December 16, 2020 1:46 pm

If they’re still getting their checks, they shouldn’t be complaining.

SC Joyce
December 16, 2020 2:56 pm

What I found interesting was that the impacts of Covid-19 she talked about were impacts from the shut-downs, not impacts from the disease itself. I understand that the disease is awful and deadly to some, but my biggest fear regarding it has been the constant threat of suddenly having to quarantine and have my (admittedly privileged – I still have my job and my kids are independent adults) life thoroughly disrupted.

December 16, 2020 3:08 pm

As a follow up study, compare and contrast the “impacts” on faculty with the impacts on nursing home residents.

Walter Sobchak
December 16, 2020 5:46 pm

The word you were looking for is omphaloskepsis which means “the contemplation of one’s navel”.

She’s got problems? No those are first world problems. real problem’s like dying or having your spouse die, or having your business and fortune wiped out, she is not speaking to.

Suck it up, buttercup.

December 17, 2020 3:49 am

suck it up cupcake gets MY vote
would appear their own evolutionary biology is slipping if they cant cope with FAR less than grandparents did with multiple kids work and tiny homes no handouts or childcare etc

Bruce Cobb
December 17, 2020 7:09 am

Sarah Palin appears to have originated the derogatory “suck it up, cupcake”, which of course is a variation of (and slightly more derogatory) “suck it up, buttercup”. The irony is that “suck it up, cupcake” couldn’t be more applicable than to those screaming and crying about a “stolen election” and “election fraud”. Trump lost, so suck it up, cupcakes.

Paul C
December 19, 2020 6:35 am

“successful day early on of balancing these duties, having completed at least six hours of work.” – so does she work part-time to maintain that balance, or just not expect to actually work some hours while employed?

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