At the beginning of March, Candace Jean Andersen, an illustrator, was doing some research for a children’s book on orcas. While looking through articles about her topic she found a photo of a group of scientists at the 1971 International Conference on the Biology of Whales in Virginia. And there, “amid the sea of male faces — 37 of them — was a lone woman, her face partially obscured.”1 The article named each one of the men but the woman, an African-American was listed as “not identified.”


A closeup of the photograph

(A closeup of the photograph)
Andersen said, “It bothered me for days not knowing who this woman was. If she was there, at that conference, she’s got to be important. I need to know her.” However, the picture was more than four decades old and only half of her face was visible.
So she turned to Twitter for help:

Because she didn’t have a huge Twitter following, she didn’t expect much but the tweet captured attention and soon people all over the world were helping in the search!
Thanks to the many social media detectives ( and a bit of help from an archivist at the Smithsonian) within days they had a name: Sheila Minor Huff. At the time of the photo, she was a biological specimen analyst at the Fish and Wildlife Service. And she would go on to have a 35-year scientific career with the federal government, retiring in 2006 as a high-ranking environmental protection specialist.

When Andersen finally tracked Huff down on Facebook, the two had a chance to talk.
Huff had no idea everyone had been looking for her!

But she wasn’t worried, saying, “I do consider myself hidden because what’s important is the outcome. It’s no big thing not being named. When you know inside yourself, who you are and what you are, does it matter?”

What an amazing story!

Sources and References

  1. CNN, March 20, 2018.