Professor Dame Jane Francis (1956 – )
Professor Dame Jane Francis is the first female Director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and a pioneering scientist, whose study of fossil plants and their use as tools for climate interpretation is recognized internationally.
Academic Career and Polar Research
Professor Jane Francis trained as a geologist at the University of Southampton. She went on to do postdoctoral research at both Bedford College, London and the University of Adelaide and from 1984-86 she worked as a Paleobotanist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). In 1991 she accepted a position at the University of Leeds, where she became a Professor of Paleoclimatology, the Director of the Center for Polar Science, Dean of the Faculty of Environment, and in 2017 Chancellor of the University.
Professor Francis’ research focuses on examining the environment and climate of the past through the study of plant fossils. Her research is important not only for understanding past conditions on the Earth, but also how climate change may affect us in the next centuries.
British Antarctic Survey and Antarctic Treaty System
In 2013 Professor Francis was appointed Director of the British Antarctic Survey, the first woman to hold the position. In her role, she has embraced gender diversity and been an inspiration and influential figure in the British scientific establishment. She has also worked to promote the UK’s polar interests and sits on polar science advisory boards for other countries.
Professor Francis has been deeply involved with the Antarctic Treaty. She is the first woman to have chaired the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Working Group on Science & Operations and is the UK delegate to the international Scientific Committee to Antarctic Research.
Professor Francis has received many awards and honorary degrees. Most notably she was awarded the (UK) Polar Medal in 2002 for outstanding contributions to British Polar Research, only the fourth woman to be so honored. In 2014 she was awarded the Coke Medal by the Geological Society of London, who described her as playing a “pivotal role in shaping and directing the Earth science carried out in polar regions, through her extensive service on a staggeringly wide range of national and international policy committees.” In 2017, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG) for services to polar science and diplomacy.
Photo Credit: British Antarctic Survey