Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Alberta, Edmonton AB, CAN
I am a marine spatial ecologist and an advocate for equity and diversity in conservation sciences. My postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta focuses on developing a interactive conservation tool to inform interventions for marine invasive species. I work with multiple partners and management agencies to develop spatial priorities and quantify economic costs for managing Indo-Pacific lionfish in US Caribbean and Tropical Western Atlantic territories and invasive European Green Crab in BC, Canada.
How did you get started on your career path?
I took a very circuitous route to get to where I am today. I first went to university to obtain a degree in English and Human Communications with the intent of becoming a high school English teacher. However, I was always interested in marine biology so after I graduated with a BA I decided to take advantage of my location... Monterey California... and go back to school.
I began working in a Seafloor Mapping Lab at Cal State Monterey Bay helping to create high resolution bathymetry maps used to create Marine Protected Areas in California. I was also fortunate enough to become a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, which provided me the opportunity (and funding) to intern and do research with multiple labs. I became interested in understanding the fish whose habitat I had mapped, so I got my basic, rescue, and advanced SCUBA certifications and became a scientific diver.
After completing my BS in Marine Science I went to Oregon State for my PhD. There I was able to combine my diving skills and my GIS and spatial ecology background to study the distribution of invasive lionfish in the Bahamas. I also spent a lot of time while there working to create spaces for BIPOC graduate students. Along with some of my fellow brown students we were able to create a official club on campus (https://emus-osu.weebly.com/), as well as start EDI committees in our department.
I am now a Liber Ero Conservation Fellow (http://liberero.ca/meet-the-fellows/), located at the University of Alberta, where my current research integrates conservation and invasive species management and focuses on how to manage invasive species that may be beyond the point of total eradication.
What is one thing you wish you would have known when you were getting started in your STEM journey?
People care way to much about titles and accolades in these fields and I find that really hard to deal with. I like where I am and I am proud of what I do, but I also think I would have enjoyed being a field assistant or a tech for life! Anything to keep me in the water. I really wish I'd had more information about what the options were outside of getting a PhD. I'm a really slow writer and it takes me TIME to put forth a product, which makes it difficult to stand out when comparing CVS. I struggle knowing people are judging you for the line on your CV and not based on what you do daily or your intangible accomplishments.
What is one piece of advice you would give to Black/BIPOC women who are interested in STEM careers?
Its going to be a long and hard journey. And no matter how many people tell you this, it doesn't quite prepare you for the actuality of being a Black/BIPOC woman in STEM. Whatever you do, find people outside of your field, your school, or your job, that can be there to support you. My "non-academic" friends and family are my greatest and most important life line. They are a constant reminder that while the work I am doing is important and cool, there are so many other WAY more important things in life.
What current projects and initiatives are you working on?
Currently I am working on lots of things! I've just wrapped up part of a project on invasive lionfish removal in marine protected areas. Many invasive species removal plans must now strive for suppressing densities rather than total eradication of the invasive species. Invasive lionfish in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean is such a species due to its widespread range and detrimental effects on native species. In this study we found removal efficacy of invasive lionfish is determined by removal experience, density, and size of the lionfish as well as the time of day when removal are performed. Read the full paper here! https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/csp2.541
I am also working on creating effective removal practices for invasive European green crab (EGC) in the Salish Sea and west coast of Canada. This project has been difficult and fun. My original research plan went up in smoke at the beginning of Covid so I had to adjust how I wanted to approach things. I really enjoy the direction it ended up taking as instead of doing traditional field work I ended up creating a survey to share with stakeholders. The survey is designed to collect information where management for EGC is happening, what valued resources may be affected by the presence of EGC, and what types of additional resources or data are needed to help improve management strategies.
I am also venturing back into teaching this fall which is exciting. Starting October 2021 I will be teaching a Marine Population Ecology Course at Bamfield Marine Science Center on Vancouver Island in BC.