Fostering anti-racism in ecology, evolution and conservation biology

Fostering anti-racism in ecology, evolution and conservation biology
Fig. 1: Representation of BIPOC among students in EECB, other life science fields and non-life science STEM fields in the United States. Bar graph of the representation of people of different ethnicities among students of EECB (n = 1,661), STEM-LS (n = 7,473; includes all five fields under the National Science Foundation (NSF) subfield of life sciences that we did not categorize as EECB) or STEM-NLS (n = 16,339; includes all other (non-life science) STEM fields, as defined by the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates159). The percentage of PhD recipients of each racial or ethnic group159 was subtracted from the estimated percentage of each group in the United States then divided by the percentage of each race or ethnicity in the United States (American Indian or Alaska Native = 0.7%; Asian = 5.6%; Black or African American = 12.3%; Hispanic or Latino = 18.3%; white = 60.2%)160. Positive values indicate over-representation and negative values indicate under-representation relative to the US population. The racial categories in this figure are those used by the NSF and US Census Bureau and differ slightly from those used elsewhere in this paper (for example, Hispanic or Latino instead of Latin). The error bars represent 99% confidence intervals from the US Census Bureau. The data from the NSF were from a complete census and contained no sampling error. See the Supplementary Information for more details on data collection. Credit: DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01522-z

Academic departments in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology are increasingly aware of the need to address longstanding barriers and challenges faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in these disciplines. A diverse group of faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at UC Santa Cruz has now compiled a set of tools and strategies which departments can use to address shortcomings in equity and inclusion.

Published August 9 in Nature Ecology & Evolution, the recommendations are based on a review of the literature in an effort to identify evidence-based interventions for fostering anti-racism in the classroom, within research labs, and department-wide.

"There's nothing novel in our recommendations. These are empirically-based approaches developed by people who study these issues, and we've put them all in one place and tailored them for the disciplines of , , and ," said first author Melissa Cronin, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and at UCSC.

Cronin said she and senior author Erika Zavaleta, professor of ecology and evolutionary , saw a growing need for an easily accessible set of resources to help departments wanting to address historic and current inequities in their fields.

"There is greater awareness now, and a lot more departments are thinking about how to address these issues, so we thought this would be a helpful contribution," Cronin said. "This paper is not a perfect response to the systemic racism we see in scientific life today, but we hope it is a useful tool for those scientists and departments looking to take action at the local level."

The paper addresses the problematic histories of racist policies and ideas in the fields of ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, such as the use of pseudoscientific interpretations of evolutionary biology to advance eugenics and racist ideologies. These historic legacies have contributed to racial gaps by discouraging BIPOC participation in those fields.

Cronin noted that, while people of color are underrepresented in science generally, the gaps are even greater in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology. "Underrepresented groups are even more underrepresented in these disciplines than in other areas of science, so these disciplines are a high priority," she said.

Cronin and Zavaleta recruited a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff within their department to work on the paper, which has 26 coauthors.

"It was a really positive and constructive experience for our department to work together on this paper," Cronin said. "And we built on this incredibly rich tradition of scholarship at UC Santa Cruz in critical race studies, a field which historically has not always intersected with the STEM fields."

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More information: Melissa R. Cronin et al, Anti-racist interventions to transform ecology, evolution and conservation biology departments, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01522-z
Journal information: Nature Ecology & Evolution

Citation: Fostering anti-racism in ecology, evolution and conservation biology (2021, August 10) retrieved 19 October 2021 from
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