I value diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice and I strive to emphasize these values in my personal life and professional career. I believe it is crucial to acknowledge how racism, colonialism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and injustice have shaped the history and contemporary expression of science, academia, and culture—even paleontology. More broadly, I believe it is critically important in everyday life to be anti-racist, inclusive, and support and social justice initiatives. I’m committed to help make academic settings more accessible and welcoming to students and colleagues from diverse backgrounds and identities, especially those from historically underrepresented groups.
Science is a social activity that enables us to participate in something larger than ourselves. I believe participation in scientific research is a public good and strongly support increasing the accessibility of data and other forms of knowledge to other researchers and to the public. I dislike hierarchical systems and power dynamics, in academic settings or otherwise. I view most typical academic responsibilities (e.g., collaborative research, teaching, advising, etc.) as a mutual contract that seeks the benefit for all parties involved (e.g., individual students, colleagues, society, etc.). I believe the best kind of science is conducted within a culture of inclusivity that emphasizes mutual respect and among all participants and is free from harassment, discrimination, and other non-inclusive behaviors.
Science and what it can can tell us about life, the universe, and everything is intrinsically interesting to many people, but there’s nothing intrinsically special about scientists. We’re just people that know a lot about how some aspect of the universe works. Sure, science can be difficult—and many concepts, theories, equations, etc. are challenging to understand. That’s why it’s important we don’t make things more difficult than they need to be when teaching or communicating science to the public. But keep in mind we scientists are fundamentally no different than auto mechanics, artists, factory workers, & politicians. In modern society, science is often treated as a commodity (and unfortunately so are scientists themselves), but that isn’t the way things have to be and I believe a better way of doing science is possible.
I’m a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, not a social scientist or expert on the intersection of science and social issues. But speaking as participant in both science and society, I believe there’s immeasurable value in learning about the perspectives and experiences of others who are more knowledgable and incorporating diverse perspectives into the way we do science and live out our lives. Confronting the relationship between science and social issues can provide opportunities for personal reflection and growth (i.e., to become a better scientist, educator, mentor, and person), but more importantly, it helps shape the ways we can collectively move our community forward to build a better, more inclusive way of doing (and communicating) science that isn’t blind to its history, actions, or consequences. If you’re interested to learn more but don’t know where to start, here are some books I’ve read (or am currently in the midst of reading) that I found helpful/insightful and recommend, in no particular order: The Dialectical Biologist (1985) by Richard Levins & Richard Lewontin; The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred (2021) by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (2021) by Joseph L. Graves, Jr. & Alan H. Goodman; Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (1999) by Linda Tuhiwai Smith; and Conservation Refugees: the Hundred-Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples (2009) by Mark Dowie.
A little about myself: I grew up in a very rural, small town on the east coast. I am the first in my family to attend college—long story, but getting there was a challenge! I’m a professional, academic paleontologist but I didn’t collect my first fossil until I was in my early 20s. (If you’re curious, it was the Cretaceous bivalve Inoceramus). I support mutual aid. Also, trilobites are really freakin’ cool fossils and a paleontologist’s wardrobe isn’t complete without trilobites patches.
“The future will only contain what we put into it now.” –Graffiti, May 1968