June 4, 2020
Listen, learn, and reset your compass to build an anti-racist future

This week revealed the deep failure of our nation to acknowledge how racism shapes our world, our nation, our institutions, and our relationships. SF State’s mission includes an “unwavering commitment to social justice,” and the EOS Center’s mission includes commitments to environmental justice and educational equity. We will not be silent.

George Floyd, Breonna Tayler, and Ahmaud Arbery are only a few of the many Black people who have been killed, murdered, injured, traumatized, or made ill by systemic racism. Racism impacts the lives of Black people every day, in many ways, and not only when courageous people record violent, murderous acts for all to see. We stand in solidarity with demands for change. Black Lives Matter.

When I learned that Christian Cooper had been falsely accused of a crime by a White woman, Amy Cooper, when he was birding while Black in the Ramble of Central Park [1] , I was quickly reminded of my own racist upbringing and the traumas faced by Black environmental and ocean science students. As a young girl I first learned birdwatching in Central Park, in the Ramble, during an organized nature walk. I was amazed to find this hidden patch of wild nature in the middle of New York City. My mother was horrified. She immediately forbade me from going to the Ramble ever again – the Ramble was where Black men hooked up and raped White girls. Racism is learned.

We hear about some of the traumas Black students bear, not only when they head to field sites to do science, but also during the most mundane of daily activities. When a Black student walks along a dock during an early morning low tide to conduct a survey of invasive marine species, and someone calls the cops on them because they are perceived as suspicious. Or when a Black student gets stopped by the police riding their bike into town and their backpack is searched, while White bike riders continue unimpeded. Black students experience racism.

It is no secret to those of us working in the ocean sciences that we are much whiter than the US population. In 2016, underrepresented minorities made up 31% of the US population but only 4 % of the PhDs conferred in the ocean sciences – the lowest representation in the geosciences, and of all STEM fields [2] . For Black people, the numbers are even more scathing: 0% of PhDs compared to 12% of the US population. This is not because Black people are not interested in the ocean or ocean science careers. There has been no progress in diversifying who becomes a marine scientist for 40 years.

We must work together to change our institutions, our interpersonal relationships, and our own minds to heal from the cancer of racism. Black students should be able to study and enter all careers without the extra burdens of racism. Nature, the ocean, and the planet are gifts for all humanity to enjoy, to sustain us, and to care for. Race should not limit the careers Black students can purse.

This week we focus on sharing resources to learn about racism and anti-racism, and opportunities to listen to and elevate the voices of Black scientists. We will continue to share anti-racism resources here. I am taking more time to listen and learn and act. I invite you to do the same. Dismantling systemic racism is not a “one and done” checkbox on your to do list. Listen, learn, and reset your compass to build an anti-racist future.

Karina J. Nielsen
Executive Director Estuary & Ocean Science Center
Professor of Biology

[1] Cooper, M. 2020. Chris Cooper Is My Brother. Here’s Why I Posted His Video. New York Times. May 31, 2020. https://nyti.ms/2MhNvP4
[2] Bernard, R. & EHG Cooperdock 2018. No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geoscience 11: 292-295. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0116-6
Educate Yourself, Take Action

Statements to Read:

Books to Read:
An abbreviated reading list below from Baratunde's World-Saving Bookshop (see entire list here ) . Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and cleaned bathrooms to pay for his Harvard education. He wrote the New York Times bestseller  How To Be Black , and serves on the boards of  BUILD  and the  Brooklyn Public Library

What Has Happened:

Children's Books:

Time for Action:

To Do:

Elevating Black Scientists

  • Dr. Dawn Wright - @DeepSeaDawn, Chief Scientist of Esri and Professor of Geography and Oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Dr. Wright was the first African-American woman to dive to the ocean floor in the deep submersible ALVIN.
@BlackAFinSTEM brings you #BlackBirdersWeek Black Birders Week promotes diversity and takes on racism in the outdoors. Sparked by a racist incident in Central Park, the new initiative aims to boost recognition and representation of Black people enjoying and studying the natural world.

World Oceans Day screening of "Surviving in the Lagoon"
Monday, June 8
This stunning film takes us on an adventure to the most remote atolls of French Polynesia in the middle of the immense Pacific Ocean. The lagoons are like passageways between two worlds, breaches in the coral that allow communication with the ocean. Follow the convict surgeonfish from larval growth to adult spawning to discover the impressive life journey of this iconic marine species.

After you register for our World Oceans Day screening of "Surviving in the Lagoon," you will be sent an email containing 2 links. One will be to watch the actual film, and the second one will be for the "Ask a Scientist Q&A" session that will begin at 7:30pm. Even if you don't get through the entire film, you are very welcome to come to the Q&A. All you have to do is REGISTER !
A TEDxSalon (VIRTUAL) event on 
The Climate Crisis / Realities and Solutions
Thursday, June 25th at 7:30pm  

EOS Center's DR. KATHARYN BOYER, Ecologist, Coastal Climate Resiliency Expert Panelist, will discuss the local impacts of sea-level rise to the Bay Area, and adaptation efforts underway to buffer wave energy and reduce shoreline erosion while restoring wildlife habitat.

This content will be presented exclusively online to registered ticket buyers ONLY.
Marine LiteraSea
Book Group returns!

Wednesday, June 17th at 2pm

Erin Blackwood will lead this discussion on Rachel Carson's "The Edge of the Sea." Rachel Carson is most well-known for writing Silent Spring, warning of the dangers of DDT and sparking an environmental movement. But her training and career were in marine biology, and she wrote three other books on the sea and its unique ecology, infused with her own sense of wonder and evocative prose. 
From Amazon: “‘The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place.’ A book to be read for pleasure as well as a practical identification guide,  The Edge of the Sea  introduces a world of teeming life where the sea meets the land.”

Join the Estuary & Ocean Science Center’s Educational Outreach Coordinator, Erin Blackwood, for a discussion of one of marine biologist Rachel Carson’s lesser-known books, and all things Rachel Carson.

Join Zoom Meeting | Meeting ID: 913 3432 2225 | Password: 927967
Word Puzzle Fun will be back next week, answers from last week's word scramble: dollar, limpet, herring, scene.

The scientific term for animals such as sea stars, sea cucumbers, sand dollars and brittle stars is echinoderms.
These are especially challenging times for our students,
please consider making a gift , thank you!