Water has been a consistent, in my life for over twenty years. I started swimming when I was three and throughout middle and high school I was a competitive swimmer; strengthening my comfort and skill in the water. Because of my comfort level, I relished going to the beach. Boogie-boarding with my cousin’s or body surfing, the ocean brought me peace and adventure. It was not until I spent a summer at the University of Penn as a Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science (TREES) student that I realized there were career opportunities in natural science. I entered Hampton University as a Marine and Environmental Science major. Hampton and a variety of internships helped me explore numerous marine science career paths.The nail in the coffin came when I participated in The Diversity Project an initiative through the University of California Office of the President to get a SCUBA certification and travel to one of the most biodiverse regions in the world,Bali Indonesia. Upon seeing my first coral reef in person, I was hooked and knew I wanted to see more. The following year, I entered as a PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UCLA, where I worked in the Fong lab. A common sign of coral degradation is the transition from coral to algal dominance. My PhD research focused on the environmental factors influence turf algal proliferation across a gradient of reefs in Moorea French Polynesia. I graduate with my PhD in Biology in 2019 from UCLA.
Broadly speaking, I am interested in the changes happening to coastal communities. I focus on coral reef ecosystems, which are vital to fisheries globally (It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 fish species spends a portion of their life in a coral reef), local economies (i.e ecotourism, oceanic goods for sale) and shore protection. Reefs, however are not doing well, and we see their demise happening at an expedited speed. Typically reefs are full of corals, fish, invertebrates, and a variety of other organisms. They are underwater cities, however when stressed vital members of the community are loss. A warning sign for reef degradation is the transition from coral dominance to algae dominance. Throughout my career I have focused on the environmental changes that allow algae to succeed. I have conducted a variety of field experiments, manipulating herbivore presence, sediment, and nutrients and measuring algal responses. Currently I am working at the University of Penn as a Postdoctoral Fellow. I am using novel metabarcoding techniques to measure how environmental changes affect algal diversity.
My Black Experience
The society we live in has been unforgiving to Black Women. I navigate professional spaces that were never met for me , a Black Woman and a Marine Scientist, to exists. I want change and use my platform to make the change needed for a more diverse group of scientist to exist. I am cofounder of A WOC Space, (Pronounced A WOKE Space) an organization that focuses on creating a safer space for Women of Color(WOC), the most oppressed group in the workplace to exist. We provide support for WOC and offer trainings to assist employers in changing the culture of their workplaces. Many of the changes discussed in A WOC Space directly apply to my workspaces, we need space to cultivate diversity. Last year I was a co-organizer for #Blackinmarinescience week, which highlighted the work and experiences of Black Marine Scientist. It was a huge success and the organization has grown legs. Now a nonprofit, Black in Marine Science (BIMS) provides services for our members to help advance their career and opportunities for non-scientist to learn more about the ocean through our YouTube channel.
“Those who cannot forget the past are destined to remix it” -Evie Shockley