As conservationists and biologists, we are all familiar with the term “biodiversity,” which has become a buzzword in the conservation world. But what about diversity? In our mission to protect nature, are we excluding the people most affected by some of the biggest challenges of our time, like climate change, habitat loss, and now pandemics?
Indigenous lands hold 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Yet, Indigenous Peoples are frequently excluded from the conversation and have a long history of oppression. Climate change is increasing gender inequalities, but women are underrepresented in climate science. Only 22% of contributing authors in the 2013 IPCC report identified as women, and 72% of them identified as Caucasian, white, or European. Black and ethnic minorities are also vastly underrepresented in ecology, biology, and conservation disciplines. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, nonbinary, and their spectra), people with disabilities, women, and caregivers continue to face discrimination and unequal pay, funding, and opportunities within academia and conservation.
Science is not representing the people who need it most. The good news is that together we can change this. Countless research highlights the importance of recognisable role models and a sense of belonging for retention of minorities in academia and STEM. One study published in 2018 found minority students, when deciding to work at an environmental organisation, considered an organisation’s diversity program and racial diversity in leadership as key influencing factors. So, diversity, inclusion, and role models are key for underrepresented group recruitment and retention in science and conservation.
Increasing inclusion and equity in conservation and biology requires a multilateral approach. We need to create equal opportunities from primary education up to the highest academic positions, and work to reduce implicit bias in funding and recruitment. However, a support network and sense of community is also important, and we are beginning to see this necessary change, such as with Black Birders’ Week in May 2020.
This is where the Bio-Diverse Festival comes in. Organised by four minority biology students from the University of Sheffield, this online, week-long conference tackles these issues in a three-pronged approach:
- By highlighting minority and underrepresented groups in biology and conservation, creating a safe and inclusive platform for a diverse group of scientists and conservationists to promote their work and have their voice heard
- Through open discussions, challenging and raising awareness of the issues faced by minorities in conservation and biology disciplines
- By hosting skills and inclusion workshops in partnership with the British Ecological Society, to provide free, accessible opportunities for employability advancement and how to tackle the challenges in creating greater diversity, inclusion, and equity in science
The Bio-Diverse Festival 2020 is a week of scientific talks, discussions, Q&As, and workshops delivered by minority scientists from all over the world. In partnership with Conservation Optimism, we are also hosting a Twitter conference on the 15th of October, bringing you a day of positive conservation stories and solutions from minority and underrepresented conservationists.
And there’s still time to get involved. This year, the festival is being held between the 12th and 18th of October, and is free to attend. We are open for abstract submissions for talks until the 18th of September, and for Twitter presentations until the 28th of September. Subscribe to the mailing list on our website or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.
The Bio-Diverse Festival 2020 celebrates the diversity that does exist in conservation and biology, and opens the conversation about the prevalence of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and ableism in this field, how they often intersect, and how we can solve them together. This event is creating a positive space for minority and underrepresented biologists and conservationists to have a voice in one of the most important conversations of our time: how to save the world.