“IDEA” in Biology
As members of Duke Biology’s graduate Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism (“IDEA”) committee, Raymond Allen, Lauren Carley, and I developed a a credit-bearing course on DEI topics in summer 2020 for graduate students in the biological sciences. You can read more about the process here and view my syllabus from Spring 2022 here.
I have taught public classes through Duke Gardens and the Durham County Library. Cultural context can influence our assumptions about nature and how it works — luckily, the diversity of the plant world often defies those assumptions. My favorite classroom example is the “vegetable lamb of Tartary.” When tree cotton arrived to western Europe via the Silk Road, John Mandeville — the 1300s equivalent of an Instagram influencer — popularized the idea that tiny lambs attached to the plant made it woolly. The topic also provides a nice entree into discussing anemochory and dispersal syndromes!
As a queer and nonbinary ecologist, I am invested in mentoring young queer and trans folks who are interested in science. I have participated in a Pride Month panel at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and I also speak at a recurring series called “Our Futures” for queer and questioning undergraduates at the NC State GLBT Center.
I grew up in North Carolina and was politicized by Amendment One; as part of our state government’s rightward turn, a state referendum was raised in 2012 to define marriage in the constitution as solely between a man and a woman. The Moral Monday movement, led by the state NAACP, gave me hope and taught me about power. For any decision-maker, whether a campus administrator or state legislator, the cost of inaction is always lower than the cost of action. Our power comes from our united ability to shift the balance by imposing costs on inaction, win the changes everyday people need, and alleviate suffering.