The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) is an interdisciplinary unit of researchers, educators, staff, and students that support a more sustainable future through the development of science-based solutions to environmental management problems. NRES is committed to supporting the diverse identities and national origins of its members and the communities they serve. In our research, teaching, and extension work, we recognize the need to integrate all perspectives to achieve just and sustainable solutions to today’s environmental problems. We also aim to design solutions in ways that honestly account for previous and ongoing injustices to marginalized communities, as well as repair these relationships in our work.

Land Acknowledgement

Our department has adopted the land acknowledgment statement authored by the Native American House on our campus:

We recognize and acknowledge that we are on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations (link to approximate pronunciations of these names). These lands were the traditional territory of these Native Nations prior to their forced removal; these lands continue to carry the stories of these Nations and their struggles for survival and identity.

As a land-grant institution, the University of Illinois has a particular responsibility to acknowledge the peoples of these lands, as well as the histories of dispossession that have allowed for the growth of this institution for the past 150 years. We are also obligated to reflect on and actively address these histories and the role that this university has played in shaping them. This acknowledgement and the centering of Native peoples is a start as we move forward for the next 150 years.

 

Our Evolution

Body

NRES formed its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee in Fall 2020. Its mission is to create a more equitable, just, and fair environment for NRES faculty, staff, and students and the communities we serve. To achieve this goal, we have engaged in grassroots efforts at the department level while coordinating with broader DEI initiatives across the college and campus. The committee has worked to assess the current community climate around DEI issues through survey efforts, discussed how to stimulate diversification of the NRES faculty and student body, created an open-exchange platform by facilitating a department-wide discussion about DEI, and raised visibility of topics of diversity in NRES through a newsletter series. We are also inviting speakers that come from diverse backgrounds and study DEI topics in relation to natural resources and environmental science in our seminar series, which is broadly accessible. Members of the Committee hope these efforts will help raise awareness, normalize issues of diversity, and encourage more frank discussion of these topics throughout the department.

As a department, we cannot move forward without acknowledging the past, because no discipline is immune from the historic and systematic oppression in society at large. We recognize that NRES fields of study have traditionally been dominated by select voices, and that individuals who do not share these identities remain marginalized and, without recognition of ongoing biases, may continue to be impacted in the future. While our focus is on NRES topics, we cannot separate our personal identities from ourselves and our scholarship1,2. Structural and overt racism have affected the study of NRES, generating displacement and undermining environmental protection of communities that identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)3,4, and still pose barriers to BIPOC communities5–9. Women and LGBTQ+ people have been historically underrepresented in the sciences and still face barriers10–13, while LGBTQ+ people in particular have been criminalized, omitted, and erased in institutions and society at large1,12,14. People with disabilities have also suffered from limited access to work in the outdoors, non-adaptive pedagogies, and cultures in STEM15,16. Moreover, people at the intersections of these identities face added discrimination and erasure. In addition to historic and ongoing discrimination, minority individuals in academia often have added burdens 2,6,17 and barriers18,19. In response to these injustices, NRES is approaching diversity, equity, and inclusion as a long-term endeavor that requires continual dedication, learning and resources8. Therefore, we are committed to creating a community where all members experience robust feelings of belonging and enjoy the conditions necessary for their personal, professional, and academic pursuits to flourish.

Considering this, NRES strives to:

  1. Reflect upon and address our own exclusionary practices and structures;
  2. Embrace multiple forms of knowledge including scientific and Traditional Ecological Knowledge;
  3. Teach about the historic oppression of underrepresented groups in NRES disciplines;
  4. Broaden access to natural resources and environmental benefits;
  5. Address the environmental burdens that have disproportionately affected BIPOC communities;
  6. Elevate the people and perspectives that are often dismissed; and
  7. Listen to and adapt to the needs of our community.

If you have any questions about the DEI Committee or our tasks, please contact us.

Current Committee Members:

  • Carena van Riper, Faculty and Committee Co-Chair
  • Joy O’Keefe, Faculty and Extension specialist and Committee Co-Chair
  • Carmen Ugarte, Specialized faculty
  • Evan Salcido, Graduate student
  • Lisa Kelly, Staff member
  • McKenzie Johnson, Faculty
  • Nathan Alexander, Graduate student
  • Robert Hudson, Faculty
  • Tony Yannarell, Faculty

Previous Committee Members:

  • Trent Shumway, Staff

DEI Committee Meeting Minutes:

Note these documents can be accessed by any faculty, student, or staff with a valid login. If you are not currently part of our academic community and are interested, please do not hesitate to reach out. Meeting notes for the 2020–21 academic year are available.

Additional resources

Report a Bias Incident

If you have witnessed or experienced an incident of bias, such as discrimination, harassment, or barriers to access, please report any incidents by reaching out to the campus. You can also report any behavior that has negatively affected your or other’s sense of belonging and inclusion by contacting any active member of the Committee. Many faculty and staff are mandatory reporters for incidences of sexual violence. For confidential reporting of sexual violence, please see the Women’s Resource Center has Confidential Advisors available to all genders.

Champaign-Urbana Human Rights Ordinances

We acknowledge that for on-campus department members, our lived communities impact our well-being, support, and success. We are fortunate that both Champaign and Urbana have developed Human Rights Ordinances that protect people based on age, color, creed, family responsibilities, marital status, matriculation, national origin, personal appearance, physical and mental disability, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, prior arrest or conviction record or source of income, or any other discrimination based on categorizing or classifying a person which is not based upon factual data about the persons or group and is not related to the purpose for which it is used.

For further reading:

1. Pettorelli, N. W. et al. Applied ecologists in a landscape of fear. Journal of Applied Ecology 56, 1034–1039 (2019).

2. Sealey, B. A. et al. Human Dimensions: Raising Black Excellence by Elevating Black Ecologists Through Collaboration, Celebration, and Promotion. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Am. 101, (2020).

3. Schell, C. J. et al. The ecological and evolutionary consequences of systemic racism in urban environments. Science 369, eaay4497 (2020).

4. Schelhas, J. Race, ethnicity, and natural resources in the United States: A review. Nat. Resour. J. 42, 723–764 (2002).

5. Schusler, T. M. et al. Students of colour views on racial equity in environmental sustainability. Nat. Sustain. (2021).

6. Halsey, S. J., Strickland, L. R., Scott-Richardson, M., Perrin-Stowe, T. & Massenburg, L. Elevate, don’t assimilate, to revolutionize the experience of scientists who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 4, 1291–1293 (2020).

7. Kou‐Giesbrecht, S. Asian Americans: The Forgotten Minority in Ecology. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Am. 101, (2020).

8. Schell, C. J. et al. Recreating Wakanda by promoting Black excellence in ecology and evolution. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 4, 1285–1287 (2020).

9. Nguyen, K. H. et al. Who are we? Highlighting Nuances in Asian American Experiences in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Am. (2021).

10. Greider, C. W. et al. Increasing gender diversity in the STEM research workforce. Science 366, 692–695 (2019).

11. Maas, B. et al. Women and Global South strikingly underrepresented among top-publishing ecologists. Conserv. Lett. e12797 (2021).

12. Cech, E. A. & Waidzunas, T. J. Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM. Sci. Adv. 7, 933–948 (2021).

13. Knutson, D., Matsuno, E., Goldbach, C., Hashtpari, H. & Smith, N. G. Advocating for transgender and nonbinary affirmative spaces in graduate education. Higher Education (2021).

14. Yoder, J. B. & Mattheis, A. Queer in STEM: Workplace Experiences Reported in a National Survey of LGBTQA Individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers. J. Homosex. 63, 1–27 (2016).

15. Marin-Spiotta, E. et al. Hostile climates are barriers to diversifying the geosciences. Adv. Geosci. 53, 117–127 (2020).

16. Stokes, A., Feig, A. D., Atchison, C. L. & Gilley, B. Making geoscience fieldwork inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities. Geosphere 15, 1809–1825 (2019).

17. Jimenez, M. F. et al. Underrepresented faculty play a disproportionate role in advancing diversity and inclusion. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 3, 1030–1033 (2019).

18. Wanelik, K. M., Griffin, J. S., Head, M. L., Ingleby, F. C. & Lewis, Z. Breaking barriers? Ethnicity and socioeconomic background impact on early career progression in the fields of ecology and evolution. Ecol. Evol. 10, 6870–6880 (2020).

19. Allen-Ramdial, S. A. A. & Campbell, A. G. Reimagining the pipeline: Advancing STEM diversity, persistence, and success. Bioscience 64, 612–618 (2014).