Frozen Tundra Dual Visions
As a woman in STEM, my goals with Frozen Tundra Designs are to help promote a culture of empowerment and self-expression in the sciences and a culture of scientific understanding relating to jewelry. Frozen Tundra Designs is a celebration of science through jewelry and education.
Empowerment and Self-Expression
Gender is felt in science, even in the relatively well-represented field of biology. Mounting evidence shows implicit bias against women. In a study where identical resumes were sent out with only name and gender altered, “male applicants” to lab management positions were seen as more competent and hireable than “female applicants” and were offered higher salaries and more career mentoring. Even worse, female faculty exhibited the same bias against women in hiring. Further complicating the issue, a follow-up analysis found that men were more likely to reject these findings than women, in line with evidence suggesting there’s a bias against gender bias studies (even compared to other social discrimination studies). Even as work is done to decrease existing gaps, women are still fighting a weird stigma against appearing too feminine lest we not be taken seriously as scientists.
My own experiences and observations reflect the literature. I am fortunate to have had damn impressive female scientists as supervisors and mentors. Even so, I regularly observed denigrating responses from male colleagues, administration, and graduate students toward their stations and accomplishments. One imposing mentor had an eye for fashion, which formed a major talking point among her students. (My assumption was that once one acted as an advisor to multiple federal government administrations, one could take such liberties.)
While working at one of Canada’s top 5 universities, I observed – and at times participated in – disturbing chatter and behaviour from staff, administration, and instructors. For every student who wore makeup or a “frilly” outfit, there were comments that students shouldn’t have time for such things, that she or they weren’t working hard enough. I ashamedly caught myself thinking similar things when students showed up well-dressed to final exams, with no thought for how their routines were likely to instill confidence and calm in a stressful situation. The prevailing opinion across staff and faculty is that students who care so much about their appearance simply do not belong in science (though I’ve never seen this directed at well-dressed male students). I saw most instructors that I worked with dismiss questions from these students as quickly as possible, suddenly eyeing up walls or ceilings or scanning the group for other questions or comments.
It took time and concentrated effort to work against these insidious stereotypes and inherent biases, despite my admiration for outstanding female scientists who put care into their appearance. I made the decision to lead by example while employed by the university, dressing for the first time in my scientific career as I wanted with no care for what colleagues or bosses may think.
It was during this stage of my cultural rebellion that Frozen Tundra was born. However, even while making a stand, I was afraid to publicly claim the project. I worried that attaching my real name to a jewelry business would negatively impact both my credibility and hireability. It has taken me three years to find that courage.
We can choose not to contribute to or support a culture of discrimination and intolerance. Younger generations deserve better. We all deserve better. Frozen Tundra Designs is founded on the belief that people of all genders should feel comfortable and safe expressing themselves in any field. Our differences are our collective strength and we should be celebrating them.
Celebrate yourself, your individuality, and your accomplishments. Show the world who you are and of what you are made.
Culture of Scientific Understanding
While building Frozen Tundra Designs, I quickly discovered a new frustration: the difficulty in finding physical, scientific descriptions of gemstones and other materials beneath a swamp of metaphysical blogs in online searches. The relative lack of information is more than a personal annoyance (I always want to know what things are); these descriptions are broadly valuable – not just for interest’s sake, but for making informed purchasing decisions and understanding how to care for your own pieces. For example, if you regularly bash into stationary objects like I do, you will want to wear bracelets with stones that don’t break or chip easily. If you have metal sensitivities, you will want to know the alloy composition of anything that will be worn close to your skin.
This is especially problematic in the jewelry industry where many stones are marketed under false or misleading names. Common examples include a variety of “jades”, most of which are serpentine or quartz, and various “jaspers” that are not actually jasper. These names should be in quotes when used but they aren’t always, possibly due to ignorance or negligence, and shoppers are likely to miss or misinterpret quotation marks even when they are present (thanks to rampant punctuation abuse).
As I build the informational portion of this site, my goal is to provide reliable content to readers and indicate where they can find more. It is clear from the prevalence of specific repeated inaccuracies that many people publishing content online have a difficult time identifying credible sources. I will highlight credible sources and explore reasonable uncertainties.
I recognize the disparities in income and resources brought about by presence or absence of privilege. Additionally, everyone can use a break some times.
The Frozen Tundra Designs Choose What You Pay Pricing Model is a social initiative that benefits those who need it. Designs are priced at an appropriate level to cover costs and allow for moderate business growth, but it is important to me that my work is not only accessible to a privileged few.
I do my best to make thoughtful, informed decisions regarding the materials that I use in my designs. I avoid materials that I know to cause environmental or social damage in their acquisition.
I also carefully consider packaging materials. I want every purchase to arrive undamaged and to feel like a gift.
To balance these objectives with sustainability aims, I use materials that are recycled, recyclable, compostable, reused, and/or reusable. Shipping boxes are crush-proof and great for reuse (my personal favorite for random bits and bobs) or can be recycled or composted. Tissue paper and business cards are made from recycled materials. I reuse the bubble wrap that I receive in shipments from suppliers and hope they may be reused further before being recycled or discarded. The beautiful gift boxes I use are intentionally unbranded so they’ll be perfect for future gifts.
To help maintain site security, I minimize third-party activity by avoiding website plugins that can be replaced with a few extra lines of code and by vetting all required plugins thoroughly. (Yep, I read all of those boring policy documents in full and assess the developer’s activity, reliability, and response quality.)
To help protect visitor privacy, I disable Google Analytics and other tracking options and respect DNT requests. And of course I follow all international guidelines in the collection and storage of data.
Who I Am
Rachel Brown, Owner | Designer | Creator
With an MSc in Systematics and Evolution, a passion for science outreach and public education, an attraction to shiny objects, and a strong creative streak, forming Frozen Tundra Designs has been the perfect, balanced outlet for me.
I am a creator and an educator at heart and Frozen Tundra is equally influenced by both.
Creator. Building something new from disparate parts brings me satisfaction like nothing else, whether it’s jewelry, wood furniture or decor, glass baubles, pottery, or a cake. I love getting lost in the details – smoothing out imperfections and getting the finishing touches just so. I get immense satisfaction from doing things right – working from a solid base and building things that will last.
The problem-solving skills acquired through challenging thesis work and career experience along with obsessive attention to detail and a touch of perfectionism combine with skills I began learning in childhood to ensure that my designs are both functional and beautiful. I settle for nothing less.
Explorer. I’ve always had a deep curiosity and love exploring the natural world and why we are where we are. Growing up on the coast, my love of the ocean bled into my passion for science. My education and research has focused on marine ecology, molecular biology, evolution, and earth and ocean sciences, but my curiosity (and possibly short attention span) has driven me to delve into a wide array of subjects, including astronomy, archaeology, programming, the classics, philosophy, and history of science.
My fascination with just about everything I come across is reflected in my designs as I pull inspiration from anything from sunsets to rocky shorelines to DNA.
Educator. I consider my education to be the most valuable thing I own. It has not only absorbed the most resources (financially, physically, emotionally, and temporally), it has fueled endless passions. Sharing it with others – whether by guiding critical thought, sharing knowledge, or feeding a passion for learning – brings me joy.
My experience in outreach and education has extended alongside my experience in science and research. While I’ve greatly appreciated and enjoyed teaching in a university setting, the experience has highlighted to me the disparity between those with access and privilege and those without.
Through this and other projects, I strive to make knowledge accessible and broaden basic scientific literacy.