Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science

Chanda Bennett

CBC Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Chanda Bennett, who is working on the CBC's diversity initiative.

Leo Douglas

The field of conservation biology aims to address the challenges that threaten the persistence of biodiversity. Today’s complex conservation challenges require input and analysis from a variety of voices, vantage points, and expertise. The present day conservation workforce does not, however, reflect the potential diversity that could be brought to bear to address complex conservation issues. Some racial, ethnic, and cultural groups remain underrepresented in the conservation field, due to a combination of historical, financial, educational, and social barriers. Recognizing the need for diversity in the conservation workforce, the CBC created the Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science Initiative (DI). Advancing the representation of historically underrepresented groups (HUGs) in the field of biodiversity conservation is a natural component of the CBC’s mission of education, research and outreach. Taking on number of activities to achieve our vision, Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science broadly looks to:

  • Identify and support the needs of faculty members in the NYC metropolitan region and beyond who instruct undergraduates and graduates from HUGs at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) in order to promote student diversity in conservation-related fields;
  • Build bridges between the CBC/AMNH and institutions and faculty from MSIs on topics related to the conservation of cultural and biological diversity with an interest in raising conservation participation among students from HUGs in their programs; and
  • Promote the recruitment, achievement, and success of students and early career professionals from HUGs with the intention of encouraging fidelity and retention in the field of conservation.
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Specialist Michael Foster with CBC Diversity Initiative Intern Seamus Boyle

CBC Biodiversity Specialist Michael Foster (left) with CBC Diversity Initiative Intern Seamus Boyle.

Ho-Ling Poon

Current DI activities include generating a synthesis of research and strategies that have been successful at enhancing diversity more broadly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to tailor strategies specific to conservation science. We are working to effectively share this knowledge with strategic partners at both minority- and majority-serving institutions through workshops, presentations, and publications. Past efforts included a professional development workshop, entitled “Increasing Conservation Literacy and Engagement in the New York Region,” organized by SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) and NCEP(the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners). Workshop participants were polled regarding their needs and/or obstacles to increasing diversity in the sciences.

Related Publications
  • Foster, M.J., M.E. Blair, C. Bennett, N. Bynum, and E.J. Sterling. 2012. Increasing diversity in conservation science through education policy: Barriers to success and ways forward. Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Graduate Education. (poster).
  • Foster, M.J., C. Bennett, E.J. Sterling, and N. Bynum. 2011. Fostering the development of conservation leadership at minority-serving institutions. Fisheries 36: 461-463 
  • Foster, M.J., C. Bennett, S. Habib, E.J. Sterling, and N. Bynum. 2008. Increasing diversity in the conservation sciences through active teaching, faculty communities, and conservation leadership. (poster). 
  • Foster, M.J., A.L. Porzecanski, N. Bynum, and E.J. Sterling. 2008. Resources for promoting conservation biology literacy and civic engagement in environmental problems: modules and case studies from the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP). (poster).