I spent most of my formative years in southern California, attending school with an incredibly diverse student body and group of friends that forever influenced my thoughts, interests, and the value I see in embracing and incorporating diversity into all aspects of my life. My work and outreach has, by design, far-reaching impacts across multiple underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. I make a concerted effort to volunteer to speak with student groups whenever approached or when I see the opportunity, sit on panels discussing challenges for students and post-doctoral scholars in STEM fields, teach at field camps for high school students, hire interns and employees from a variety of diverse organizations, and act as a mentor to individual students or on-campus diversity groups, and intend to continue doing so.
As an entering student in 2011 to U.C. Davis, I completed the Graduate Student Ally training to ensure a safe, positive space for all students in my office and lab space. To build on that, I also re-activated and act as mentor to the U.C. Davis chapter of the student-run diversity organization known as Minorities/Multiculturalism in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS). My involvement began in 2008, when I joined MANRRS as a student via a sister organization, Latinos in Agriculture (LIA), which promotes diversity, success, and academic and professional excellence via leadership and mentoring workshops, and by creating a welcoming “home” for minority students. My responsibilities as a mentor for the U.C. Davis chapter include advising in job, internship, and academic issues, preparing students for interviews and preparation of resumes, attending the national conference with a select group of these students (5-10) and coordinating logistics and travel arrangements, providing students with opportunities to practice their speeches and presentations for competitions at the national level, and encouraging them to remain involved in their colleges and other on-campus organizations and extracurricular activities. Once my PhD degree has posted, I plan on continuing to mentor MANRRS members by registering as a professional member to build this organization and encourage minority student academic and professional success.
I was a Students Engaging, Exploring, and Discovering Science Undergraduate Student mentor (SEEDS1) for one year, and a Strategies in Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability mentor (SEEDS2) for two years, providing undergraduate students with internship opportunities to learn more about agriculture, research, and applied natural resource management. When conducting research and fieldwork, I hire student interns or student employees of diverse backgrounds by soliciting from a wide variety of majors and organizations, including MANRRS, SEEDS1 and SEEDS2, and environmental and wildlife-related majors. All students receive internship units or transcript notation from the Plant Sciences, Animal Biology, or Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology departments. This generally resulted in 10-20 or more student interns or employees each quarter, and from each group, I generally hired as an employee one outstanding intern who then oversaw a small aspect of the research, such as a seed rain study. Most of my interns come from underrepresented groups in STEM, including female, minority, LGBTQ, and students with intellectual or physical disabilities.
I take the mentoring of each volunteer very seriously, and provide each with hands-on experience, including training in plant identification, vegetation monitoring, experimental design and analysis, and GIS/GPS applications, as well as assistance with navigating graduate school applications, choosing concentrations, and job searching. My mentorship continues beyond the quarter, particularly for graduating seniors entering the workforce and seeking valuable job opportunities and experience, and I am always happy to provide a strong letter of recommendation when merited.
I am a voting member of the Graduate Group in Ecology’s (GGE) Diversity Committee (see http://ecology.ucdavis.edu/diversity.html), acting on the Admissions and Orientation sub-committee, Diversity Scholarship sub-committee, and Outreach, Mentoring, and Broader Impacts sub-committee. While one of the most prestigious Ecology graduate groups in the nation, this group is also one of the least diverse on the U.C. Davis campus. We seek to encourage admission of students of more diverse backgrounds by institutionalizing in the application review process the consideration of other important qualifications for admission to graduate school, including extenuating circumstances, surmounting challenging situations, single parents who have continued to pursue post-secondary education, contributions to diversity, and students who have taken time off to work in between their undergraduate and graduate careers.
Each year I spend one week in Half Moon Bay teaching a group of 20-25 high school students, often with challenging circumstances and backgrounds, at an immersive educational camp about natural resource management, otherwise known as the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management’s “Range Camp”. At this camp wear many hats, acting as a mentor, logistical planner, grader, lecturer, performer, soil scientist, wildlife biologist, botanist, and livestock manager, as the situation calls for. Each year my role is a bit different, as the needs of the camp change and our speakers frequently change as well, so I may give a talk on hydrology and watersheds one day, a field talk and activity on wildlife trapping or tracking another day, and coordinate rides and act as a facilitator on yet another. This type of camp requires a lot of flexibility, patience, and the ability to change roles quickly and competently. Leading up to the camp, we spend at least three months planning via group conference calls the many aspects of camp, teaching schedules, and field days and tours, coordinating with teachers and managers across California, as well as U.C.C.E., 4-H, and Elkus Ranch staff, and local caterers, landowners, and ranchers.
Ranchers and land managers are also an integral part of my research and outreach, not only because they are very interested in applying the results on their land, but also because they are critical to addressing site-specific logistical challenges (e.g., managing grazing animals or wild porcine populations that may interfere with research). They have engaged in continued discussions regarding potential management actions that may enhance success of restoration and wildlife and plant diversity. Members of several local community organizations have been involved in my research, including the Central Valley Birders Group.
Finally, I conduct extensive outreach at local, regional, state, and national levels by speaking at workshops, giving talks for small local or student-run groups, publishing in technical and peer-reviewed journals, and frequently posting about my research on my website and other social media venues (Facebook, LinkedIn, Research Gate). I plan to continue my efforts as mentor to the MANRRS group, teacher and facilitator at “Range Camp” annually, and other diversity organizations.