DIVERSITY

If you've ever been to a large meeting of ecologists or environmental scientists, you probably noticed that racial diversity was pretty low among the attendees. Most of the professional societies are now trying to increase the percentages of underrepresented minorities and make the field more inclusive. But this is a tricky situation with no easy fix.

Evidence-based details on the scope of the problem are scarce - it is one of those "elephant in the room" issues. One notable exception is a 2014 Green 2.0 Working Group report (The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations) on the numbers of minorities working for government agencies and NGO's with an environmental or ecological focus. Across all organizations, minorities never accounted for more than 16% of the total staff. . .despite the fact that they account for 38% of the U.S. population. The numbers are even lower in fish ecology and fisheries science (my own discipline). According to Arismendi and Penaluna (2016; Examining Diversity Inequities in Fisheries Science: A Call to Action), minorities comprise ~9% of the fisheries science and fish ecology workforce.

I myself am Korean. I was adopted by a terrific American family and spent my formative years among a diverse group of peers. This included (as it does for all teens) many difficult moments as I struggled to understand my place. But never quite fitting in turned out to be a blessing because I now understand and value diversity in a way that is unique among many of my professional peers.

High school, senior football photo. See a future ecologist in the mix?

High school, senior football photo. See a future ecologist in the mix?

Rooftop lunch in Gatlinburg, TN with the 2017 Team: (left-right) Serena Moncion, Daijona Revell, Raquel Wetzell, and Felisha Walls.

Rooftop lunch in Gatlinburg, TN with the 2017 Team: (left-right) Serena Moncion, Daijona Revell, Raquel Wetzell, and Felisha Walls.

Now I am trying to do my part to help the field of ecology diversify. In 2016, I was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation and I am using this opportunity to mentor and train small cohorts of underrepresented minorities. In each of four summers, I am leading an all-minority team of research assistants on a 2-3 week survey of streams, focusing on a different region each year (eastern and western U.S., Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica).




 - click here for a preview of the summer 2018 survey of western U.S. streams -