A message from Philippe Cousteau

February 11th marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. With the month of February dedicated to the exploration of Black History in the U.S., I find myself wondering how many girls of color see themselves as marine biologists or marine scientists? This made me think about Sheila Minor…

Last March I stumbled upon a Twitter thread that was fascinating and began with the above photo. You can read the original thread for details, but in the photo, we see representatives from a 1971 International Conference on the Biology of Whales in Virginia. Almost completely obscured is what we can assume to be a black female scientist in a sea of predominantly white male scientists. Even more interesting (and ultimately disappointing) is that her name is “not identified” in the caption. She was an unacknowledged contemporary, a peer in this conference whose contributions were neatly filed under “not identified,” until author Candace Jean Andersen took the time to find and contact Sheila D. Minor. Sheila was a Biological Research Technician for the Smithsonian whose scientific career ultimately spanned 35 years with, no doubt, countless accomplishments.

Sheila’s “not identified” status brings to mind the old joke:

What did Watson & Crick discover?

Rosalind Franklin’s notes.

But in all seriousness how many other women, and specifically, women of color, were simply “not identified” over the years? Which brings me back to the girls of color in our schools today who are taking the first tentative steps towards their career pathways now. Where do they find their inspiration to become a marine scientist – can they see a path laid out before them? There is a well-documented lack of diversity in marine science fields. This is an issue that a multitude of research universities and nonprofit organizations—including EarthEcho—are addressing through programs such as EarthEcho STEMExplore. This February letter provides a great opportunity to identify some women of color who have pursued successful careers in marine science. Through this, it is my hope (and one small way) that our young marine scientists will see themselves in people like:

Marine biologist & Zoologist | Roger Arliner Young

Marine Scientist | Joan Murrell Owens

Oceanographer, Attorney, & Professor | Matilene Spencer Berryman

Fisheries Biologist | Noelle Bowlin

Aquarist | Amanda Hodo

Marine Scientist & Educator | Dijanna Figueroa

Marine Scientist & NOAA Director | Dionne Hoskins-Brown

Marine Biologist & Science Communicator | Danni Washington

Marine Biologist & Policy Professional | Letise LaFeir

Chief Scientist, Geological Oceanography Specialist, & Professor | Dawn Wright (aka: Deep Sea Dawn)

Marine Biologist & Conservation Strategist | Ayana Johnson

While these ladies represent just a fraction of the women of color making great strides in marine science fields, they are vital to continued efforts to enrich the fields of marine biology, oceanography, and ocean science. Are you or do you know a marine scientist who is a woman of color who we should recognize like these students? Contact the EarthEcho team at education@earthecho.org or kasey@earthecho.org so we can learn more about them and continue to show young girls of color a career pathway to protect our oceans!