Breaking down barriers: The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program Collaborative at UF, CU, NCSU, UA and UI
The field of conservation in the US has not kept up with the demographic composition of US society. While racial and ethnic minorities make up nearly 40% of US society, only about 12-13% of the staff of environmental organizations and agencies belong to these groups. Barriers to diversity are thought to include financial considerations, family expectations, professional networks that favor the status quo, and unconscious bias. The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (DDCSP) aims to overcome these biases by providing a diverse group of students that are committed to conservation with paid field experiences, internships, mentoring, and networking opportunities. The DDCSP Collaborative is one of three DDCS programs, all of which are structured differently but share the mission of helping to diversify the conservation workforce.
In 2014, the University of Florida, in collaboration with North Carolina State University, Cornell University, University of Arizona, University of Idaho and all associated USGS Cooperative Research Units, launched the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program Collaborative. This 2-year program selects 5 students annually at each of the 5 collaborating institutions, for a total annual cohort of 25 students. Students are selected based on their commitment to the environment, their commitment to breaking down barriers to diversity, and their potential to benefit from and contribute to the program. During their first summer in the program, students attend a conservation leadership retreat at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center and work on field research projects with faculty at their home institution. During the second summer, students are placed into agency or NGO internships relevant to their area of interest. Students also meet regularly with mentors throughout the academic year, work together on group projects, and are participating in the ESA Annual meeting through the SEEDS program and poster presentations. We expect this program, both individually and as part of the larger Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program initiative, to increase diversity in the field of conservation by promoting an interest in conservation careers, breaking down barriers to diversity in conservation, and providing the field with trained and knowledgeable participants who are committed to breaking down barriers for others.