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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Belfer

Celebrating Black Contributions to Marine Biology

When our Director of Education, Kimberly, participated in the NAAEE (North American Association of Environmental Educators) annual conference virtually this past October, she had the honor and privilege to "meet" Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, the founder of Urban Ocean Lab, and a pioneer of marine biology in the 21st century. She is an inspiration to not only aspiring marine biologists, but to young girls breaking into science, as well as young black girls who see themselves in her.

As our first of two blogs this month celebrating black history, we're looking at the here and now to see some of the newest faces of black entrepreneurs, marine biologists, and influencers to modern science. Ayana spoke in her Plenary session at the conference about what it meant to her to be a black woman and a black marine biologist. Her conference session titled: Ocean Conservation, Climate Justice, and Education was an informative one that we have incorporated into our programming and our business going forward.

The key takeaway from her session was that ocean conservation is also cultural preservation. When we look to the conservation of our marine life, ecosystems, resources, and survival, we also must look into the preservation of tribal and cultural uses for those resources, spiritual reverence to those ecosystems, and ancient understanding of how to live and survive interdependently with marine life. We have now incorporated a land acknowledgement statement to the beginning of every one of our lessons, to show that we recognize the tribes that were once and continue to thrive in our area. We will also be including indigenous land uses into the background information, so that students learn not just about modern ecosystems, but the way they were before we were here.

Dr. Johnson also said that most kids have this innate curiosity about the world around them. We must never hinder that curiosity with the way we view the world or the tight curriculum we teach. In creating and producing our hands-on lessons with Watershed Walkabout, we are providing an opportunity for students to explore in their way. They problem solve without us giving them the answers or pressuring them to give us a "right or wrong" solution.

Dr. Johnson has a podcast: How to Save a Planet with insight into what we can do right now, in this moment, to keep our planet sustainable for all of our futures. You can listen to her podcast here. She also has a Ted Talk about coral reefs in danger and can be found here. For more information about Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, check out this bio on her, with some links to her work: SPEAKER BIO

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