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Found: The Twitter Mystery Woman

NextTribe Sheila Minor Huff mysterious marine biologist

Did you catch the recent mystery that Twitter helped solve? Candace Jean Andersen, an illustrator, wanted to do a picture book about the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. While doing her research, she came across a photograph from a gathering of experts at the 1971 International Conference on the Biology of Whales in Virginia. Almost 40 attendees were seen, and they were virtually all white men. There was one young black woman, barely visible in the crowd. Everyone was identified in the photo, except – you guessed it – the woman of color. It almost seemed like a moment from the recent movie Hidden Figures.

NextTribe Sheila Minor Huff mysterious marine biologistAndersen turned to Twitter and asked for help figuring out who the unnamed woman was. Helped by hordes of online sleuths, Andersen got her answer within a matter of days, as some of the men in the photo and others associated with the conference shared memories and pieced together her identity. So who was she? Answer: Sheila Minor Huff, now 71, of Virginia. She had served our country and our planet, working on a range of wildlife and environment-related projects and earning one of the highest-level designations as an employee at the Department of the Interior before retiring over a decade ago. During the course of her career, she earned a master’s degree while working full-time, and traveled to the Soviet Union to participate in a mammalogists’ conference.

NextTribe Sheila Minor Huff mysterious marine biologistHuff was interviewed by The New York Times about the fact that she hadn’t been identified in that decades-old photo. Here’s what she had to say: “It’s no big deal. When I try to do good, when I try and add back to this wonderful earth that we have, when I try to protect it, does it matter that anybody knows my name?” Our Tribe is glad to know her name – and of her contributions.

Janet Siroto


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