Diversity among ecologists?

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is essential for strong, thoughtful, and productive communities in all fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). Yet, despite many studies, analyses, and clarion calls, increasing DEIB in STEMM communities in North America and Western Europe remains a pressing challenge. And one of the least diverse STEMM fields—Ecology—is our own.

For nearly a century, ecologists have recognized that diversity makes for more robust and resilient communities and ecosystems. But at the same time, the field of ecology has been predominantly white. As recently as 2015, the membership of the Ecological Society of America was > 90% white and ecology continues to face many challenges in increasing the diversity of its “human” community and disciplinary ecosystem.

Earlier this month, a Forum entitled “The diversity challenge confronts ecology” was published in Ecological Applications, one of the flagship journals of the Ecological Society of America. This set of seven papers, catalyzed by the lead paper by Professors Gillian Bowser and Carmen Cid (Developing the ecological scientist mindset among underrepresented students in ecology), not only highlights the many and varied challenges for recruiting and retaining diverse people in ecology, but also suggests many ways to successfully accomplish these goals. 

Multiple factor interventions. Ecological science elements (yellow; as outlined in current ESA‐endorsed 4DEE curriculum) integrate with social science elements (green) as part of the ecology field experience to provide intercultural connections. Figure (CC BY 4.0) reproduced and reused from Gillian Bowser & Carmen Cid (2021) Developing the ecological scientist mindset among underrepresented students in ecology fields. Ecological Applications 31(6): e02348.

The combined 18 co-authors of the seven articles in the Forum also highlighted that a diversity of approaches and voices leads to a range of ideas and solutions to increase DEIB in ecology. In our own contribution (Broadening the ecological mindset), co-authored with Professor Sydne Record and Harvard Forest Senior Scientist Audrey Barker Plotkin, we suggest that inclusion in ecology of diverse people and backgrounds can be increased by broadening the definition of ecology. 

To be continued …

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