As a diverse profession, perhaps the only things we collectively share our love for wild places, wild things, and dedicating our lives to the sustainment of natural resources. Uniquely, our vocation is also our avocation. As members of The Wildlife Society, we unite in basic tenets. We are dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship dictated by the ever-changing needs of society and ecology. We maintain competence to integrate these needs in an ethical and professional manner. As such, we must commit to lifelong learning and continue to ask questions – outside our expertise, and integral to our growth – both personal and professional. Questions such as: how does racial justice and inequity fit into the efforts of our professional society? Why does the diversity of our profession not reflect the diversity of the greater population? Please join us for an inclusive discussion for all wildlifers to reflect on our past, take stock of the present, and plan for the future of The Wildlife Society and our profession at large. The summer of 2020 has brought to the fore the persistence of anti-Black violence in our country. To ignore the deep impact this violence has had on us, especially our Black colleagues, is to turn a blind eye to the way racism is entrenched in our country and the deep injustices it was founded upon. The recent murders of Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are just a few examples of the violence and racism that Black people live with every day — and have for centuries — in the US, Canada, and around the world. We acknowledge the ways in which the effects of racism are compounded for Black people who are also women, non-binary, LGBTQ+, Indigenous to the lands occupied by the United States and Canada, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, and disabled.To some, these events may seem like a political issue; they are not. These events are rooted in the right to live with dignity and respect regardless of your skin color. The lack of diversity in the wildlife field has been recognized by TWS in our position statement on workforce diversity within the wildlife profession (https://wildlife.org/tws-standing-position-workforce-diversity-within-the-wildlife-profession/) and in our 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. Yet, we recognize that our field, despite rhetoric about diversity, equity, and inclusion – is failing. Membership of TWS is 90% white and minority representation is incredibly low with Black representation among the lowest. Black colleagues and students often feel unwelcome, unsupported, and even unsafe in their institutions and predominantly white workplaces; how do Black wildlifers feel at TWS meetings and conferences? How can we transform The Wildlife Society into an equitable and safe space, a platform for recruiting and supporting diverse people to the profession, and a proud example of a 21st century professional organization that firmly dismantles systems of racial inequity? How do we collectively ensure this work endures? This panel will focus on a set of constructive talks on how we can use the experiences of our colleagues to create a welcoming environment and make substantive change in TWS.
Organizers: Ken Wilson, Tracy Melvin, Jamila Blake, Tricia Fry, Carol Chambers, Gary White