Advancing Science through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

By Kathleen Weathers, Pamela Templer, and Catherine O’Riordan

To fulfill ESA’s mission to advance the science and practice of ecology, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color must be fully supported throughout their careers.”

-DEIJ Task Force Recommendations

At its November 2020 meeting, the Governing Board of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) unanimously endorsed the recommendations submitted by the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ). These recommendations include four broad categories: 1) educate ESA members and leaders in anti-racism and support of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC); 2) reform structures, mechanisms and practices throughout ESA; 3) improve recruitment, retention and advancement of BIPOC in ESA; and 4) acknowledge DEIJ efforts throughout ESA.  The endorsement of these recommendations make concrete the public commitment by ESA’s leaders to break down inequities following a national outcry for action in our scientific community in the wake of the horrific death of George Floyd.

In August 2020, the Governing Board approved a preliminary action plan and voted to appoint a DEIJ Task Force.  In September 2020, the DEIJ Task Force members were appointed with an initial charge to review barriers to full participation by all ESA members, prioritize actions, and propose metrics and a timeline for implementation of these actions. The DEIJ Task Force began its work with a focus on expanding participation of BIPOC in ESA programs and activities, with plans for efforts to expand participation of other groups typically underrepresented going forward. The DEIJ Task Force used several methods to obtain broad input from the ESA community.  The Task Force held a listening session on October 7, gathered input from an open call to all ESA members and surveyed leaders of ESA Committees, Sections and Chapters throughout fall 2020.

The input received identified critical barriers to full participation of ESA’s BIPOC members, ranging from the lack of knowledge about how ESA members and leaders can support DEIJ, to structural barriers to inclusion of BIPOC in leadership. Also identified were the weak mechanisms and practices for engagement of BIPOC at ESA; limited recruitment, retention and advancement of BIPOC members; and insufficient acknowledgement of DEIJ efforts.

Among the Task Force recommendations to address these barriers are structural solutions that will have long-term impact on the way ESA operates. For example, the existing Committee on Diversity and Education (CDE) will be split into two standing committees of the Governing Board: the Education Committee and the Diversity Committee.  The Diversity Committee will work with all committees, sections and chapters to facilitate implementation of the DEIJ Action Plan.  Other recommendations focus on processes to ensure diversity of award nominations, editorial boards, and plenary speakers at ESA annual meetings.

Also recommended by the Task Force are steps to expand engagement with BIPOC networks and to develop scholarships and fellowships for BIPOC to fully participate in ESA events, as well as leadership mentoring to make ESA more transparent about its programs and opportunities.

As we implement these recommendations, key accountability measures will be put in place to keep DEIJ at the forefront of all programs and operations. These metrics will include tracking both numbers as well as the quality of experiences that our BIPOC members perceive. In this effort, we look forward to working with ESA’s leaders and members to fulfill the mission of ESA as we advance the science and practice of ecology.

*The DEIJ Task Force is chaired by VP for Education and Human Resources, Pamela Templer; Task Force members include:  Anjali Boyd, Duke University, Jacoby Carter, U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center; Jacquelyn Gill, University of Maine; Zakiya Leggett, North Carolina State University; and Robert Newman, University of North Dakota.