A statement on diversity, inclusion, and solidarity

This year has brought a cultural reckoning as the anti-Black racism inherent in so much of America and its systems has been laid bare in the collective conscience of society like never before. As a person that has benefited from privilege my whole life, I have been using this time to learn, reflect, plan, and start to act.

My advisor, lab members, and I (the Burford Reiskind Lab) recently drafted a statement that I will paste below. These ideas represent my own personal views on diversity, inclusion, equity, and solidarity with the current movement. You can view the original posted to the Conservation Currents blog here.

 

Burford Reiskind Lab Statement

Collectively as a lab, we present our lab statement that addresses solidarity, inclusion, our core values, and anti-Black racism and anti-racism actions we support and are taking as a lab at the university, and as a PI.

In Solidarity

Members of the Burford Reiskind lab are sickened by the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery and many more, which are sobering reminders of the systemic racism our country was founded on and that continues to present day. This includes institutional racism that promotes inequities that white citizens in the country continue to benefit from, as well as blatant acts of discrimination, oppression, and exclusion. We stand with Black Lives Matter and Antiracist leaders in our communities in academia, in Raleigh, in North Carolina, in our nation, and beyond. We acknowledge that we have not done enough in the past, and thus were complicit to the perpetuation of systemic racism. The call has come from many of our Black colleagues and other underrepresented groups in academia, “to become true allies through action!” We are responding to this call by crafting our own inclusion and core value statements and committing to specific activities as a lab that we hope will promote meaningful future change and the destruction of existing systems of oppression. This is a work in progress and as we learn more we will continue to update and add to our statement. We will post a blog report on our activities once per semester, to help keep ourselves accountable.

Inclusion

We are committed to making sure our lab and our university are safe communities for all people. We recognize that anti-Black racism does not occur in isolation—there is also anti-indigenous and other forms of racism, sexism, classism, trans-antagonism, heterosexism and homophobia, ableism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. Students, faculty, and staff in these groups feel both micro and macro-aggressions, discrimination, and marginalization in our classrooms, in the hiring process, and in the work environment. Underrepresentation is pervasive in STEM fields, including the life sciences, and represents a failure to promote equity in all facets of research, education, outreach, and extension. This lack of diversity is not only morally problematic because of inadequately addressed systemic oppression, but it hinders the ability of STEM initiatives to solve the very problems they set out to address in order to better the world we live in. A diversity of voices and perspectives is better equipped to tackle any problem. We are committed to providing an environment that is welcoming to and supportive of all humans.

We also seek to celebrate and elevate our colleagues from underrepresented groups by highlighting their work with our students, in our lab meetings, on our websites, and in our outreach. We encourage others to do the same (check out Black in the Ivory: @BlackInTheIvory ; Black in Stem: @BlackAFinSTEM @BlackAndStem @BlackInStem ; Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS): @MISS_Elasmo)

Core Values

We believe that equity is essential to a work environment where ALL scientists thrive and succeed. We aspire to the core values elegantly expressed by Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/) and highlight some of our specific values as follows.

  1. We strive to create a lab environment that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and honors ALL identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability) with acceptance and support
  2. We will listen with empathy and openness to understand others’ perspectives
  3. We will value humbleness and humility to admit when we get things wrong
  4. We will actively stand up for our core values and values highlighted by Black Lives Matter with accountability and integrity

Actions we are taking to promote inclusion and diversity in our lab and community

  1. We provide a competitive payment for undergraduate research assistants in the lab to reduce barriers to participation.
  2. We include undergraduate students in our lab meetings and events and actively mentor these undergraduates
  3. Outreach through our science learning modules for K through 8th grade with schools in our region
  4. Reading papers in our field by BIPOC scholars will be part of our lab meetings to increase representation in citations and knowledge base
  5. Equity in authorship following goals highlighted by Dr. Max Liboiron here
  6. Allowing remote work and flexible schedules to accommodate the need of lab members

Actions we support within the broader academic system

We believe in the importance of levelling the playing field, but additionally, the value of taking active steps to increase representation for underrepresented groups, especially in faculty and administration. Here are some steps we support at NC State.

  1. Eliminate barriers to underrepresented/marginalized groups such as application fees and standardized test score requirements for both undergraduate and graduate applications
  2. Build diversity training into degree requirements and professional training, with an emphasis on updating outdated models/modules
  3. Work with other university leaders for independent research funds for BIPOC undergraduate and graduate students research projects

Actions I’m taking as PI

As the laboratory head and faculty member, I recognize that I have often been silent or sat down when I was dismissed for speaking up, and I know I should have spoken up and kept standing, and that inaction has helped perpetuate racism in the sciences. I commit to actively fighting racism and injustice in my lab, in my department, in my college, in the University and in my communities within and outside of academia. I know I will make mistakes, but I’m committed to educating myself until I do get it right, and to holding myself and our lab to our core values of inclusion. Here’s a few things I’ve done, I am doing, and will continue to do, that I will expand as I learn more ways I can be an active ally.

  1. Trainee in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HMII) Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) Inclusive classroom Workshop & Training at NCSU  –  completed March 2019
  2. Mentor for the HMMI CUREs Inclusive classroom Workshop & Training mentor at NCSU – Spring 2020
  3. Attending the Columbia University EdX Training course on Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom – Summer 2020
  4. Holding weekly office hours for BIPOC graduate students at NC State, to hear and elevate their concerns and suggestions for change to the leadership at the University
  5. Facilitating a semester event for the Graduate Peer Mentor/Mentee program for the GG Scholars program and for affiliated Graduate programs that want to join.
  6. Facilitating a graduate student Discussion Group on Allyship & Inclusion

Signed by all members of the Burford Reiskind Lab

PI: Martha Burford Reiskind

Postdoctoral Associates: Erica Henry & Elsita Kiekebusch

PhD Students: Emily Reed & Andy Maurer

Undergraduate Researcher: Emma Wallace

New publication: the genetics of urban invasions

Our new review paper on the genetic processes and considerations underlying urban invasions is now out in Oecologia! Check it out HERE.

This review originated from a class on invasion genetics and was spearheaded by Emily Reed, a PhD candidate in the Burford Reiskind Lab doing fascinating research on the urban landscape genomics of Aedes mosquitoes in the Raleigh area—focusing on the invasive Asian Tiger Mosquito A. albopictus. An additional big shout out to coauthor Dr. Megan Serr, whose PhD research focused on the reproductive behavior and mate choice of wild house mice.

Nocturnal Activity and Anoles, continued

Collaborator Dr. Chris Thawley and his colleague recently published an interesting paper illuminating the consequences of nighttime artificial light use by diurnal anoles (catch the pun?). Check out the new paper HERE!

Our previous publication offers natural history observations for anoles using artificial light at night (ALAN) but stops short of the fitness consequences of this behavior, i.e., how ALAN use might affect survival and reproduction. Chris’ new paper goes into these important aspects — valuable and interesting work!

 

Citation: Thawley CJ, Kolbe JJ. 2020 Artificial light at night increases growth and reproductive output in Anolis lizards. Proc. R. Soc. B 287: 20191682. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1682

High natal homing precision in Caribbean hawksbill sea turtles

Dr. Kathryn Levasseur and her colleagues recently published a must-read paper exploring natal homing in Caribbean hawksbills. Check it out HERE. Primarily through the lens of population genetics, their findings show high natal homing precision to our tiny study site on Long Island, Antigua. Additionally, they contextualize this within the greater Caribbean and discuss the effect of nesting beach context (i.e., small islands versus larger “mainlands”) on the degree of homing precision. Important stuff for the field of sea turtle conservation!

Below, Kate receives the University of South Carolina’s Cindy & Dan Carson Best Graduate Student Paper of the Year Award during her PhD dissertation defense.