ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. The members of the Ecological Oceanography laboratory at California State University Northridge stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and want to acknowledge and condemn all acts of racial injustice and systemic racism across society and in STEM fields. We affirm our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and human rights. We acknowledge that we have not done enough, and commit to continue to do the work to end systemic racism.
I was recently accepted into a global leadership program for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM). On December 31, 2018, I will join 79 fellow women in STEMM from 27 countries on a 3-week expedition to Antarctica; this will be the climax of our year-long leadership journey. We are the third cohort of Homeward Bound, a groundbreaking leadership, strategic, and science initiative for women that seeks to equip a 1000-strong global collaboration of women to lead, influence, and contribute to policy and decision-making as it informs the future of our planet within 10 years. Each participant must seek sponsorships to fund their involvement in the program.
There are many reasons why I decided to join this program, but I’ll share with you the two most pressing. One of the biggest threats of all in conservation is an increasing disconnect between humans and the environment. This program will help me connect with other women from around the world trying to bring people closer to the planet and understand their dependence on its health. I have already escalated my science communication efforts and there will be many avenues in the coming months that I will be exploring to connect people to the planet, especially the ocean. Second, I am committed to making science more accessible and welcoming to women, not only through helping create more opportunities for women, but also through fighting sexual harassment and assault in scientific societies, field stations, and ships. Big causes and lofty goals, I know, but that’s why the program is building a large network of women that I am now a part of.
If you’re interested in supporting me, please visit my fundraising page. There’s perks, check them out!
To my students
Something happened this week that I think is worth talking about. Of the people that voted, a little less than 50% voted for a candidate who is anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-environment. Because of the way our election system is set up, this candidate will be our next president. There are many, many reasons to react to this news, and I want to bring up a few points, as they pertain to what you are learning in this class and in your chosen careers in science.
First off, not that many people voted. Only 43% of registered voters voted.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, so the majority of voters supported science and acknowledged the importance of climate change. We need to remember this.
California is an AWESOME place to be – for science and the environment:
Now, more than ever, WE NEED YOU. I NEED YOU. A lot of people in our country do not have access to information and fundamentally do not understand the value of science and the environment. They cannot comprehend the concept of climate change because they do not understand the physical basis or the impacts and do not have access to reliable and UNDERSTANDABLE information. A lot of people also do not see the immediate consequences. People are hurting and they want change, and we need to empathize with those feelings.
I could definitely do a better job at this, but hopefully in my class you have seen how things are connected in the ocean – we’re kind of just getting to this topic now. One thing affects the other. Increased temperature increases stratification, which decreases mixing and prevents nutrients from coming to the surface. Nutrients that phytoplankton need to grow. Phytoplankton that krill need to eat. Krill that fuel our ecosystem – the ecosystem that fishermen rely on for their livelihood. It’s all connected. I’m pretty sure most of you realize this now, and now you need to help other people understand this concept as well. The same could be said for most other systems – beyond the ocean ecosystem. Things are connected. We are connected. Our actions have consequences.
Global problems, even national problems, can feel completely overwhelming. Please also remember that local actions might even be the most important. Every day you make choices when you buy something. You can get involved in local agencies and local actions and policies – look at what California accomplished!
You will all be graduating during what might be a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history. Moving forward, science will be under attack. The environment will be under attack. The problems you have expressed passion about – conservation issues, habitat loss, climate change – these are likely to get worse moving forward. This only emphasizes the importance of your role as marine science majors now and in the future.
I can’t stress enough how much you all are needed. I hope that we can all rise to the challenge together and I hope that going forward you feel free to reach out to me whenever you need to, during this class and beyond. We must support each other and build new and more diverse relationships. Social justice issues are environmental issues both in this country and worldwide.
I want to close with something my friend and colleague, Dr. Kevin Ringleman, wrote in a letter to his own students at Louisiana State University, which inspired me to talk to you. “The future of our country and planet depends on you. Your ability to think critically, to sift facts from fiction, to apply your academic training to real-world conservation problems makes you invaluable, more so now than ever. Let this election galvanize you to seek the changes you want to see in the world. Use it as motivation to work harder and smarter as a scientist. Let it serve as a reminder that empathy for others is foundational to the success of our conservation mission, at local and global scales. Stay focused. Work hard. Care for each other. We need you to show us all a better tomorrow.”
Thank you for being here.
Dr. Kerry J. Nickols