Waterbird Society Diversity Program

To further the efforts of the Waterbird Society to promote diversity in the study of natural sciences and in careers based on the natural sciences, the Society is offering a full day of outreach efforts to students at UMES (a Historically Black College or University or HBCU) and several other HBCUs in the region. The full day event will take place on Friday, November 8.

The morning session will include talks by notable achievers in academia, federal agencies and conservation organizations. These six speakers will tell the students how they became interested in nature, obtained academic degrees, internships, and other training opportunities, and found career opportunities and excelled in natural resource conservation and management and academic science. They will also address challenges faced as a person of color in white-dominated fields and how they are changing that culture in their own organizations and universities.

Speakers include:

  • Drew Lanham (Clemson University)
  • Miguel Mora (Texas A&M University)*
  • Jerome Ford (Assistant Director for Migratory Birds, USFWS)
  • Dawn O’Neal (Director, Science Impact Project, Nature Conservancy)*
  • Benjamin Tuggle (USFWS Director for Science Applications)*
  • Chavonda Jacobs-Young (Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Research Service)


A panel-format Q&A will follow these talks, facilitated by Dr. Moses Kairo, Dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at UMES.

Over the extended lunch period, there will be a structured workshop that will give students an opportunity to discuss the academic and career pathways they might follow and talk about real and perceived barriers and how to overcome those barriers. This program will be designed and led by Phyllis Pouyat Thibodeaux, who has combined an extensive experience in career and leadership coaching with her work in community, education and business networks invested in conservation education and sustainable economic development

The afternoon sessions will feature three “demonstration” papers. The demonstration papers will be a full hour each, including Q&A. Presenters will explain how they became interested in biology/ecology as kids/undergrads; their college majors; undergrad or summer field work projects; how they decided to go to grad school; how they decided where to go to grad school,; whether to seek a M.S. vs. a Ph.D and why; what grad school is like in terms of coursework and research and working with an advisor; why they chose to do this particular research – what questions were they trying to answer; the literature search; why they decided to use these particular methods; then the traditional paper presentation. Followed by discussion of how the information they produced can be used by natural resource agencies, private landowners, decision-makers, etc., and how the information gets to the people who we hope will use it.

In the evening, students may present their research or their pathway stories at a poster session and reception.

Students will be welcome to attend all paper sessions as their schedules permit.

-State and federal natural resource agencies, natural resource conservation and management NGOs, and other, relevant organizations and corporations will be invited to send representatives to offer information about career opportunities and diversity programs at their agencies and organizations.