Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice is the work of all

by Kathleen Weathers, ESA President

Six months into my tenure as ESA President, and as the nation continues to reckon with racial injustices, I would like to reflect on where we are as a Society, and a community, on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ). We know that making real and meaningful progress takes a long-term commitment, and that the steps needed to make change are intertwined in our structures, practice, and mindset.

As we have announced in the past, ESA has a dedicated DEIJ Task Force that is bringing focused attention on many aspects of our operations. Among other more interactive initiatives, we have assembled a collection of resources and articles posted on esa.org that draw attention to the issue of racism in science, as individuals as well as collectively. I encourage you to use these resources to begin conversations and consider how to make change in your own research groups and classrooms. More actively, our DEIJ Task Force has identified and is proposing solutions to barriers to full participation in ESA. Plans are also in progress to provide anti-racism training workshops this spring and during the Annual Meeting, as well as an open portal to receive ideas for improvement. We are committed to change.

SEEDS field trip to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, October 2015

During this time of identifying and breaking down barriers and committing to an ESA that has a fully extended tent, we also want to celebrate ESA’s programs and efforts that have been forward-looking and life-changing for those who have participated or engaged. For example, ESA’s diversity mentoring program for undergraduate students is a model: the SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It is a groundbreaking diversity program which is a national, if not international model, and has provided 1,870 student awards to explore becoming an ecologist. Further, ESA sections and chapters, such as the Asian Ecology, Black Ecologists, Environmental Justice and Traditional Ecological Knowledge sections or the Latin American Chapter, actively advocate for and advance an inclusive science and professional support for our Black, Indigenous and colleagues of color.

While we have started important conversations and steps toward progress in addressing DEIJ matters in ESA and the ecological sciences – this is just the beginning and there is still so much to do. We may not always know the best approach and are likely to make missteps along the way, but we need to continue to put DEIJ initiatives front and center in order to make progress together. It is imperative that we build a stronger ecological community which is inclusive of and supports diverse colleagues. So, join me in showing support for our remarkable SEEDS programs, which in this 25th anniversary year of supporting diverse students early in their careers, as well as our ESA sections and chapters that are already making important contributions toward a more inclusive scientific community.

Contribute to the Dr. Henry Gholz Endowment: https://www.esa.org/seeds/donate/

Kathleen Weathers, ESA President