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Diversity and Inclusion in Fisheries and Natural Resources

Cartoon faces placed in the outlines of two fish approximate the current (bottom) and potential (top) diversity of the U.S. fisheries science profession.

Cover of the June 2016 issue of BioScience.

Fisheries and aquatic sciences confront exceptional challenges
due to complicated problems from the overexploitation and
degradation of aquatic-riparian ecosystems worldwide. It involves
focusing on a diverse array of natural resources and working with
diverse groups of people. However, progress towards changing
the human face of the fisheries and aquatics sciences workforce
so that it more closely reflects everyone who uses and depends on
those resources has been slow.

Brooke Penaluna
Ivan Arismendi, Oregon State University, Dept.
of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences

Research Description:

We offer a comprehensive understanding of the current demographic status of the workforce in a major discipline of natural resources, fisheries, across the federal government and academia. Fisheries is making progress toward more inclusion of individuals from minoritized groups, but inequities for women and people of color remain. This work has provided a starting point for discussions about disparities of diversity in the fisheries and aquatics workforce. Our work highlights where efforts for change can be made at the individual, community, and institutional levels.

Key Findings:

• Advances in fisheries and aquatic sciences are accelerating, as supported by the sharp increase in publications. Although these sciences have widespread support for enhancing workforce diversity, there remains a mismatch with the current population demography, especially in the federal government and academia.

• We highlight a continuing gap for gender and race/ethnicity in the fisheries workforce, with slow progress toward proportions that would reflect US demography in general. We propose actions that would promote intentional advances toward diversity and inclusion in fisheries.

• Fish biologists with mentors are more satisfied with their jobs than fish biologists without mentors. Among fish biologists who responded, mentors play an important, positive role, increasing job satisfaction by two-fold. See link to feature in Inside the Forest Service: "Mentoring among USDA Forest Service fish biologists"

Horizontal bar chart of gender composition (male versus female) of the fisheries science profession in the federal government and academia as compared to the US general population.

Gender composition of the fisheries science profession comparing federal fisheries scientists/managers and academic positions with the ration in the general population as measured by the 2010 U.S. Census. From Arismendi and Penaluna 2016.

Management Implications:

• If managers want to confront complicated problems of overexploitation and degradation of natural resources in fisheries and aquatic sciences, a diverse workforce increases their options. A diverse workforce of managers and partners leads to competitive advantages, new knowledge, a wider range of skills, and a broader variety of experiences for understanding and solving complex natural-resource problems. See link to feature in Inside the Forest Service:" Diversity and the Power of Inclusion"

• It is important to understand the current status of the fisheries workforce to identify where change can occur. Managers can integrate proposed actions into their everyday culture to foster a more inclusive workplace, including encouraging a culture of mentoring.

Horizontal bar chart of the composition of fisheries science professionals in federal and academic workforce by race and ethnicity, as compared to the general population from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Composition of fisheries science professionals in federal and academic workforce by race and ethnicity, as compared to the general population from the 2010 U.S. Census. From Arismendi and Penaluna 2016.

Selected Publications:

Abernathy, E.F., I. Arismendi, A.G. Boegehold, C. Colon-Gaud, M.R. Cover, E.I. Larson, E.K. Moody, B.E. Penaluna, A.J. Shogren, A.J. Webster, and M.M. Woller-Skar. 2020. Diverse, equitable, and inclusive societies: Progress and opportunities in the Society for Freshwater Science. Freshwater Science 39:363–376. https://doi.org/10.1086/709129

Batavia, C., B.E. Penaluna, T.R. Lemberger, and M.P. Nelson. 2020. Considering the case for diversity in natural resources. BioScience 70: 708–718. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa06

Penaluna, B.E., D. Shively, B.R. Roper, L. Cerveny, S. Witt, and J. Rothlisberger. 2020. Mentoring relates to job satisfaction for fish biologists: A longitudinal study of the USDA Forest Service. Fisheries. 45(12): 656–663. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsh.10500 | https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/publications/mentoring-relates-job-satisfaction-fish-biologists-longitudinal-study-usda-forest

Penaluna, B.E., I. Arismendi, C.M. Moffit, and Z.L. Penney. 2017. Nine proposed action areas to enhance diversity and inclusion in the American Fisheries Society. Fisheries 42: 8, 399-402. Link to doi.10.1080/03632415.2017.1345549.

Arismendi, I., and B.E. Penaluna. 2016. Examining diversity inequities in fisheries science: A call to action. BioScience 66(7):584–591. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw041