On a Mission to Change

In light of the tragic loss of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in early 2020, our lab took a reflective pause to evaluate our culture and the values we seek to uphold as a team. We are not above the diversity shortcomings of academia, but we are on a mission to change.

We believe that Black Lives Matter and feel it is our moral obligation to use our voice to promote racial diversity, equity, and inclusion within ourselves and in the scientific community. We want to use our voice as a platform to uplift those whose voices are not easily heard. We value the importance of community and collaboration that transcends outdated norms. Furthermore, we are actively working towards fostering the empathy it takes to understand the struggles faced by P.E.E.R.s (people excluded by ethnicity or race) in S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and the commitment necessary to become antiracist and properly educate ourselves on how to be better allies. We are actively taking steps to make our lab a more diverse, inclusive, and safe space.

Our Beliefs

At the UM Shark Research and Conservation Program (SRC), we are committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the sciences and beyond.

We value community, diversity, inclusivity, and collaboration.

We believe:

  • Black Lives Matter.
  • S.T.E.M. is for everyone.
  • Environmental justice is social justice.
  • Love is love.
  • Mental health is a priority.
  • Discrimination against any individual or group cannot be tolerated.
  • An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Our Commitment

We are actively working to foster greater diversity in our own group as well as promote diversity in STEM more broadly. To start, we have established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and begun several new initiatives. These include critically reassessing our internal priorities to address diversity deficiencies in our group, working to attract and recruit new members that represent minorities in science and people excluded because of their ethnicity or race, requiring and providing diversity training for all our team members, and using our social media to highlight diversity in S.T.E.M. fields from around the world. We also recognize that mental health issues are pervasive in academia, but often concealed. Therefore, we strive to promote well-being within our own group and, more broadly, raise awareness for mental health issues in academia through public outreach.

Empowering Youth

We believe that anyone and everyone can do S.T.E.M. Core to our mission is to empower middle and high school students with the confidence and desire to pursue S.T.E.M. We hope to increase scientific literacy and pro-environmental attitudes in youth by providing hands-on experiences for students to participate in boat and lab-based research. Working alongside faculty, staff, and students, participants collect data to generate scientific publications and help inform conservation management. We are striving to make these citizen science opportunities  accessible to children from historically marginalized communities, minorities in science and people excluded because of their ethnicity or race. We recognize, however, that our current impact is limited due to various socio-economic barriers to participation. Accordingly, we are actively trying to understand these barriers to improve and increase diversity and inclusivity in our outreach. We are committed to fostering diversity in S.T.E.M. by empowering youth to recognize and reach their potential.

Our Actions

We realize that change doesn’t happen overnight, but we have begun several short-term and long-term actions to fulfill our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity. These activities include:

In-House Diversity Training

Our team is partnering with the University of Miami’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs to build skills in racial and cultural humility. We feel incredibly fortunate to interact with such a beautifully diverse group of people both in the field and through our outreach events; and as such, we recognize that it is our responsibility to identify and challenge any cultural assumptions we may have as individuals and as a lab. Thus, we are committed to developing skills in cross-cultural communication to ensure that everyone we interact with on and off the boat feels safe, respected and understood.

Mental Health is a Priority

A new initiative, comprising trained staff from the UM Counseling Center and RSMAS students representative of every department and degree track on campus, formed this year to further these aims and facilitate student access to UM’s mental health resources. We recognize the pandemic is a time of isolation and heightened anxiety, increasing the already pressing need for safe and easy access to mental health resources. We are working closely with our department ambassador to compile a master list of every mental health resource offered at UM that will be accessible for every member of the lab. To respect individuals’ privacy, printed out copies of this master resource list will be available in a folder on the door of the lab for anyone to take and keep at any time. Moreover, our team will receive training to help us spot the signs of someone struggling with mental health and learn how to provide the help and support they need to access mental health resources. In addition, weekly meditations will be offered to the lab via zoom to provide a safe space to practice mindfulness  and strengthen our sense of community.

STEM is for everyone
  • #STEMSpotlight

Now more than ever, we recognize the lack of diversity in STEM. Thus, we have started a new initiative, #STEMSpotlight, in which we utilize our social media platforms to highlight a diverse array of environmental stewards in STEM from around the world, and feature the amazing work they are doing.

  • F.I.N.S.

Our Females in the Natural Sciences (F.I.N.S.) initiative aims to address gender disparity in S.T.E.M. fields by providing young female students with the opportunity to participate in hands-on shark research led by our female undergraduate and graduate students. By interacting with our all-female team members and UM faculty during these research trips, it is our hope that the participants witness powerful female role models that empower and inspire them that they can do and be anything that they set their mind to.

  • EmpowerU

EmpowerU is a new outreach initiative tailored to empower children from historically marginalized communities, minorities in science, and people excluded because of their ethnicity or race, with the confidence and desire to pursue S.T.E.M. EmpowerU has two main components, boat-based programming and land-based programming. For boat-based programming, we provide middle and high school students with the opportunity to participate in hands-on shark research led by our University students and faculty. While boat-based activities have been successful; we have noticed an inability to effectively engage a diverse population of students due to logistical barriers to participation, including requirements of being able to swim, permissions to be on boats, and the time commitments of 7+ hours in the field. Therefore, we have begun a new collaboration with Miami Seaquarium to break down these barriers to participation and broaden our outreach opportunities to support a more diverse population of students.

  • New Online Educational Resources

In these unprecedented times of social distancing, the need for online educational resources is at an all time high. In response, we are expanding our online resources to help supplement the widespread remote learning taking place in our community. These resources include:

    • The Marine Conservation Science & Policy Curriculum (MCS&P): SRC and Deering Estate teamed up to create a virtual curriculum that provides practical, hands-on marine science education and self-initiated research project opportunities for middle school students in the marine science field. SRC is creating new video lessons to accompany select lesson plans that can be used in the classroom or for remote learning. Download the Curriculum here.
    • Seas by Degrees: A remote learning graduate seminar series created by students, for students. Each seminar offers a brief dive into the research of a current graduate student at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Seminars will integrate middle and high school Next Generation Science Standards and cover STEM subjects such as marine biology, ecology, geoscience, atmospheric science, and climate science. Check out the videos here.
    • Tracking Sharks online: Our team is satellite tracking sharks to better understand the migratory routes and residency patterns in the subtropical Atlantic. We offer an online interactive mapping tool to explore dozens of satellite tracks of sharks we have tagged. Track a Shark here.