Our Doris Duke Conservation Scholars are taking part in conservation internships all over the US this summer. They are guest blogging here at L-C-Ideas to keep us up to speed on what they’re doing. Please check back for more!
Marine Conservation Internship Update (part 2)
By Zach and Maria
We have been focusing mainly on the conservation and research aspects of our internship, but we wanted to take some time to look at diversity in the field of oceanography. The SURF program is similar to the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program in its emphasis on increasing diversity in their respective fields. Fellow SURF participants, Richard and Diana, were gracious enough to answer a few questions we had about their perspective on diversity in oceanography.
How would you rank the diversity in the field now?
Richard: It is pretty diverse with many people from different backgrounds and countries doing research. There is great collaboration between such different people such as at different conferences. However, diversity could improve with more scientists from underrepresented countries being better integrated, but it might be interesting to see if there is a correlation to the nationality of researchers in oceanography and the countries with more of a stake in marine conservation such as fisheries. However, now with such connectivity with globalization there is opportunity to expand it.
Diana: Diversity in the field has definitely improved over the years. There has been an increase in the number of women and minorities in high research positions such as principle investigators. I have seen it here at SIO with my own PI. Also, I have not felt any discrimination as a woman and minority while doing research.
What are the benefits of diversity for this field?
Richard: Having a diversity of people from different countries can bring different perspective to the efforts of conserving and managing marine ecosystems. Diversity can lead to a more holistic view on the issues that are global issues and to find mediations.
Diana: I think a lot of what a person is and knows is influenced by their personal experiences. A person’s ethnic or economic background influences what they know and can impact what they do in their field, including other sciences. In fact, life experiences can lead to novel ways of approaching their research.
How would improve diversity within this field?
Richard: My solution would be outreach to people who may not have the opportunities to learn about the ocean and marine biology. I was fortunate to have grown up in the Virgin Islands so I knew about marine biology. I also think that it is important to start young so that people can become interested and curious in more than what they are surrounded by.
Diana: First, I would want to see what aspects of diversity are lacking. I see things like the SURF program that supports people of diversity by giving them opportunities while also financially supporting them being important. I think that it would be beneficial to start a program for undocumented students in the U.S. even though that would mean it would be privately funded. This is a sad reality and there is a waste of their potential. Both the field and the students are missing out on great opportunities and that should change.