Following the of Christian Cooper in Central Park in May 2020, Black birders created to celebrate Black nature enthusiasts and highlight their belonging in outdoor spaces. Since then, of campaigns have emerged to amplify and appreciate Black academics, scientists, and naturalists.
Next up is , running from November 29th to December 5th. Led by founder and organizers Amani Webber-Schultz, Dr. Camille Gaynus, Carlee Jackson, Al Troutman, Jasmin Graham, Jeanette Davis, Kris Howard, Leslie Townsell, Kaylee Arnold, and Jaida Elcock, this week represents an opportunity for community building and improved representation.
“There are few Black folks in ecology and even fewer in marine ecology,” says , a science communicator and disease ecologist. “The network that I’ve gained through organizing this week is phenomenal. Meeting other Black marine scientists and showing that to the world, especially young Black folks, is a way to say we exist, we’re here. We have a full day dedicated to young kids, which is unique and exciting.”
The organizers hope that the week will help normalize Black folks doing marine research, inspire younger generations, and remind everyone to check their preconceived notions.
“When I say I study sharks people seem concerned about my swimming or my hair, [and] sometimes respond with ‘Oh, that’s super interesting’… I don’t know if that’s because it’s unusual for people to study sharks or because I’m Black and I study sharks,” recalls , an elasmobranch movement ecologist, science communicator, and co-founder of . “Science is for everybody. People say there isn’t diversity because [Black] people aren’t interested… that’s clearly not true… there’s a whole week dedicated [to it].”
Discussion this week will address the fact that not lack of interest, led to today’s lack of representation. Centuries of segregation and in Black neighborhood pools led to, and are perpetuated by, these incorrect and harmful ideas.
“My grandparents and my mom said there were just no pools for her to go to… I had a very different experience. Despite people trying to push us out of the water and science, we persevered, and now we get to break down those stereotypes,” notes Arnold.
Black in Marine Science Week is here to do just that, showcasing organizers and participants from every imaginable marine science niche, all shaping how society views the oceans and its inhabitants.
“There’s more Black folks than even we know and are showcasing. I hope that if the media picks up on the number of us as well, and has better representation. Seminar series are extremely white, and now you have a resource of people you can invite instead,” emphasizes Arnold, pointing to the necessity of non-Black marine scientists to step up and ensure representation continues beyond this joyous and educational week.