Kristen Lear credits role models
Over 2 million people viewed bright orange, life-like statues spread across the courtyard and corridors at NorthPark Center before the exhibit moved on in late fall.
And some saw themselves.
“It’s very surreal to see the statues in real life and be able to look yourself in the face,” bat conservationist Kristen Lear said.
Lear, one of the 125 American Association for The Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN® Ambassadors chosen to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers, described posing for her statue.
“We literally stood in this big kind of tent, and there were cameras from every angle,” she said. “They take pictures from all those angles, put them together in a 3D file, then print it on a 3D printer.”
The Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit showcases innovative women outfitted in gear typical of their jobs, ranging from a gaming company CEO to a fashion designer. Missed it at NorthPark? Check it out virtually at ifthenexhibit.org.
Lear, now of Fort Collins, Colorado, is excited to serve as a role model to young girls.
“I realized how important having those role models visible to you is,” she said.
Her journey into wildlife conservation was influenced by powerful female figures who contributed to Lear’s passion for saving bats and studying science. Those included her mom, who served as her Girl Scouts troop leader.
In the sixth grade, Lear built bat houses for her Girl Scout Silver award project and learned about the dangers many species face.
She went on to study bats at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in zoology. Afterward, on a full scholarship, she moved to South Australia for a year to study the Southern Bent Wing Bat, a critically endangered species.
In San Saba, Texas, Lear worked as a field research assistant in pecan orchards, observing bats, figuring out what they eat, and identifying whether they reduced the population of moth pests that destroyed the crops.
She finished her doctorate at the University of Georgia in 2020.
Wherever she goes, she promotes bat conservation.
“I love to do education outreach,” said Lear, who also participates in virtual engagements through Zoom to connect to those in countries all over the world.
The National Geographic Explorer Classroom and Skype Scientists offered students sessions with her.
Lear also enjoys spreading awareness through her style of clothing. She feels it is an easy prompt to “get people talking” in an engaging and fun way.
Lear wears unique items such as a shirt printed with a detailed photo she took of a bat and large necklaces that display the animal. Check out her fashions at redbubble.com/people/batsforlife/shop.
“Having the beginning opportunity when I was just 12 and having that spark (for bat conservation projects) was what propelled me on into this career,” she said. “And so, I want to do that for younger girls and be that younger spark for them.”
Sophia Wilson is a senior at Highland Park High School who likes to write and dance.