Unique Scientist: Melissa K. Macias

Time to meet Melissa K. Macias (She/her)! Melissa is a mitigation paleontologist working at Psomas in the USA and is (slightly) obsessed with sloths!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a mitigation paleontologist. I protect fossils found during urban development, and make sure they are placed into museum collections for future research. I also research biogeography of giant ground sloths.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I fell into paleontology. I grew up in Southern Utah, and spent my childhood hiking and collecting rocks. Years (and a few failed careers) later, I took historical geology as a general education requirement in college, which led to a field trip studying the geology of the Colorado Plateau. By day 14 of the trip, I had changed my major to geology.

“I took historical geology […] which led to a field trip studying the geology of the Colorado Plateau. By day 14 of the trip, I had changed my major to geology.”

Melissa K. Macias

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I wear my love for science on my sleeve, literally! My tattoos represent fossils I’ve found or projects I’ve been involved with. I have a sloth vertebra, dinosaur egg and tooth, whale vertebra and tooth, mammoth, saber tooth kitten fang, and a dental pick. I’m still saving some room for my master’s thesis and future work.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
My goal was to become a clothing designer when I grew up. I still dabble in fashion, and have designed outfits and jewelry that combines edgy fashion with my nerdy interests. I contribute to a science and fashion Instagram account in my spare time. Check it out here.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish students were taught about the variety of careers outside of academia. Most programs prepare students to follow the typical grad school, PhD, postdoc, professor path. There is a huge world out there. Science careers are diverse!

“My first geology professors were strong, powerful women. They made me feel like I had a place in geology and paleontology.”

Melissa K. Macias

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My first geology professors were strong, powerful women. They made me feel like I had a place in geology and paleontology. Their enthusiasm for geology was infectious, and they inspired a whole new generation of strong, powerful women in geology. They have become part of my family.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I finished creating all the graphics for my upcoming conference presentation without waiting until the last minute!


#WomenInSTEM, #QueerInSTEM

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