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Dalhousie biologist chosen as mentor for Barbie’s 60th anniversary You Can Be Anything campaign

Click to play video 'Dr. Sara Iverson' Dr. Sara Iverson
Dalhousie researcher and OTN Scientific Director, Dr. Sara Iverson, to take one lucky girl on an opportunity of a lifetime thanks to a partnership between Barbie and National Geographic – Jul 22, 2019

A Dalhousie University biology professor has been included in a national campaign that shows young girls they can be anything they set their mind to.

Sara Iverson has been selected by Mattel Inc. and National Geographic as an influential Canadian scientist and role model for Barbie’s You Can Be Anything campaign as part of the doll’s 60th anniversary.

The goal is to help young girls experience first-hand some of the careers available to them today in fields where women have historically been underrepresented.

“I think it’s a tremendous way to reach out to young girls and show them they can be anything they want to be,” Iverson told Global News.

READ MORE: Dalhousie University appoints new president for 2020

Iverson, along with three other professionals, will provide the four contestant winners with one-on-one experiences in their career fields.

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Mattel Inc., the toy manufacturer that owns Barbie, announced earlier this year that it would be launching a product lineup of five career dolls and playsets that have a focus on research, science and exploration.

The lineup, which will be released this fall, features Barbie as a wildlife conservationist, an astrophysicist, a wildlife photojournalist, an entomologist and a polar marine biologist.

“If a little girl is going to play with Barbies, what better way for her to imagine a really cool career?” Iverson said. “I think it’s great.”

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Click to play video 'Barbie set to reach 60 years one day after International Women’s Day' Barbie set to reach 60 years one day after International Women’s Day
Barbie set to reach 60 years one day after International Women’s Day – Mar 8, 2019

Iverson studies how marine animals adapt to and exploit their environments. She uses her research to better understand the biology of free-ranging animals and their populations as well as their food webs and ecosystems. She completed her PhD at the University of Maryland in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

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Iverson has been a faculty member with Dalhousie since 1994, becoming the scientific director of the Global Ocean Tracking Network in 2008. Many young women, she says, have been trained in her lab and field programs.

“I purposely take them out in the field so they can experience all aspects of science,” she said. “I think it’s getting the breadth of experience that really strengthens them and makes them really committed.”

For Iverson, the You Can Be Anything campaign is personal.

“There were many times in my life as a young girl, in grade school and in junior high school, that my grades weren’t great. I wasn’t good at certain kinds of test-taking but I knew what I wanted to be,” Iverson said. “Some people [told] my mother I wasn’t going to amount to very much.”

READ MORE: Researchers tag third great white shark during N.S. expedition

One of the winners of the campaign will be given the opportunity to go blue shark tagging in the Northwest Atlantic with Iverson and the four graduate students in her lab.

Which, as it turns out, are all women.

“I think the little girl will be a little overwhelmed with women role models,” Iverson said.

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The boat trip is planned to last a day and a half, weather permitting. The excursion will be filmed with the hope of inspiring a whole new generation of young girls.