D.C. Randle, Citizen Science & Education, ACTSPeru
2016 Women in Science Summit, California Academy of Sciences
This year, my friend and mentor, Dr. Meg Lowman asked me to join a panel session at the first annual Women in Science Summit hosted at the California Academy of Sciences. Although I was very honored to be on the panel, I wasn’t quite sure what I was to speak about other than my time in the Amazon with my students, both male and female. Meg told me not to worry it would be easy. Ha! She said the same thing when I presented at the Cal Academy Tree Summit in 2015. Even though things did not go as planned that day, a quick summation of my finer points in bullet-point fashion saved the day and it turned out that what I perceived as a disaster, was in fact a success.
The topic of the panel session was Allies: speaking to modeling, mentoring, and partnering. Our panel consisted of: Jo Boaler, Rodolfo Dirzo, Liz Hadly, Tizeew Sisay and me. We were all asked to share our personal stories and the importance of role modeling, mentoring and form allies have shaped our lives. In addition, we were to discuss ways to create better cultures of inclusivity in the field of science. Women roles in science today are making great contributions to the many different fields and they are making a difference. But how was I helping women to make this difference? Was I actually helping them to contribute to science?
For years I have taken students from St. Francis High School and the surrounding areas down to the Amazon Rainforest. Although the expedition is open to both female and male high school students as well as college students, when you examine my data from years past it clearly shows that a large percentage of students are young women. About 90%to 98% have been young female students really excited and invested in science and the many different fields of science – not only the natural sciences but the social sciences as well.
This conference was a celebration of how far female scientists have come and it too was a day to inform others that there is still much work to be done. So how has my personal journey as a minority myself, prepared me for the job of helping to increase women in a field so decorated with males?
I told the story of my social, physical and cultural struggles growing up and how at every level during my young life I was met with adversity. I was one who slipped through the cracks, left to fend for myself. Either make it or become a statistic. Times changed and I did not become a statistic, thanks to the many heroes who came before me and fought for inclusion of everyone from all walks of life no matter what the differences we were going to be a team of one. That was my personal challenge and deep inside of me, I knew I would be an ally to the under-served in our society. Being a science educator for many years in the field of special Ed, I worked with students that are under-served in our educational system – including students who were incarcerated and from impoverished rural areas. I used my passion for science to foster programs to help my students achieve their dreams in science, education and life.
While I never set out to intentionally help young women in science achieve their goals and dreams in science, it turns out that I have. The young women who have traveled to the Amazon with me through the years are living proof! This year I will travel back to ACTSPeru with eight female citizen scientists, six from high school and two adults. I know our time together immersed in the Amazon will feed that science fire inside of them and I intend to be their ally forever as they pursue their passion for science. No child should slip through the cracks of our society whether they are a child of diversity or not. Someday we will have no need to have conferences to show separate contributions of people of diversity, just conferences that celebrate the accomplishments of humanity.
Do you work with young women who are interested in science? You can join us in the Amazon! Register for Meg Lowman’s 2017 Citizen Science Expedition