Early this summer, when things felt bleak, Dalhousie University graduate students Catalina Albury, Suchinta Arif and Melanie Massey had a great idea brewing. Together while apart, they founded Diversity of Nature, an educational experience for students facing barriers to getting involved in science. They wanted to empower young BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) folks to pursue marine science and ecology but providing them with cost-free opportunities in the classroom and the field, and by connecting them with BIPOC mentors to look up to.
“I was feeling so isolated after the murders of so many Black and Indigenous folks all over the world in June,” says Albury. “Many people within the scientific community feel that science should be ‘impartial’ or ‘objective,’ but looking at the makeup of academia, this is simply not true. Poor enrollment and retention rates of BIPOC academics in institutions globally demonstrates this clearly.”
After launching a crowdfunding campaign and joining forces with the Fathom Fund, this week Diversity of Nature reached its goal of $12,500, which unlocks an additional $37,500 of MEOPAR funding for the project. This will support Diversity of Nature’s first two years of programming, including in-class workshops and overnight field courses, as well as an ongoing study of the effectiveness of hands-on, intersectional science education that they aim to publish the results of. The group hopes this will help set Diversity of Nature up for long-term success.
“Science as a whole is missing out on the perspectives of too many people due to the fact that academia is not a welcoming place for BIPOC students and scientists. In my journey as a Black woman into and throughout academia, I have lived through far too many events that told me that I did not belong in these spaces,” says Albury. Together with Arif and Massey, she wants to use Diversity of Nature to remind BIPOC scientists that their perspectives aren’t just important—they’re invaluable, she says. “They make science more robust and comprehensive.”
“MEOPAR is very pleased to be supporting the Diversity of Nature project, in conjunction with its successful crowdfunding campaign,” says MEOPAR’s Associate Scientific Director, Ron Pelot. “On top of addressing two of our main strategic research areas of ocean observation and coastal resilience, this initiative complements our focus on training for the next generation of marine scientists and, being BIPOC-led, is an outstanding example of MEOPAR’s commitment to diversity.”
This marks the sixth successful Fathom Fund campaign for MEOPAR since the program’s debut in 2018. If you’re interested in applying to be the next Fathom Fund researcher, read more here.
For more information on Diversity of Nature, or to make a donation, click here
Photo credit Carolina Andrade