*Editor’s Note: GSA’s official position statement on Diversity in the Geoscience Community may be found here.

By Rebecca Dzombak, 2020–2021 GSA Science Communication Fellow

I’m excited about being GSA’s Science Communication Fellow because it allows me to combine the two paths I’ve been pursuing in parallel for years: geology and communications. I received a dual B.S. in both fields and now, as I near the end of my Ph.D. work in the geosciences, I’m looking forward to using this position to help advance GSA’s diversity and equity goals. The geosciences remain one of the least diverse STEM fields, for many systemic reasons ranging from hyper-masculine stereotypes about who fits the image of ‘a geologist’ to the historically-white use of outdoor spaces. To help our field be more inclusive and welcoming, I’m planning to focus my efforts on providing coverage on Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other underrepresented groups’ research as much as possible.

2020-2021 GSA Science Communication Fellow Rebecca Dzombak at “Glacier Lagoon” (Jökulsárlón) in Iceland. Photo taken by Dr. Emily Beverly.

There are three key reasons to focus on highlighting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other underrepresented scientists. The first is parallel to the Black Lives Matter movement. In science, yes, much research is worth sharing, but right now, STEM fields are working to increase diversity – and we won’t do that by furthering the ‘white geoscientist’ narrative.

That leads to the second reason, which is simply that science and science-related narratives have been dominantly white for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Geoscience is a newer field, yet it suffers from this; I’ve been reading a history of geologic controversies, and it’s chock-full of independently wealthy Scotsmen, Englishmen, and Germans wandering the countryside, describing rocks, and getting into debates while smoking cigars late into the night at elite clubs. (Marie Curie got a passing mention as “Pierre Curie’s assistant.”) That’s not what the geosciences are today, and it’s time we focus the spotlight on scientists of color who are deserving of public recognition.

Which brings me to my final point: visibility and representation matter. Studies* show that students in underrepresented groups are more likely to pursue a field and be successful in it if they have positive, strong role models and mentors whose backgrounds and experiences are similar to their own. To actively combat stereotypes about who is welcome in geoscience and who can be successful, we have to be intentional about who we represent and how they are visible to society more broadly; if we rely on “Who’s publishing research now?” to inform geoscience media, coverage will continue to reflect current, white-dominated demographics. Writing about geoscientists of color is one way to help change the image of geoscience and encourage potential geoscientists of color to pursue their passions.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the geoscience community better – I can’t wait to hear what cool research and stories everyone has to share!

*Curtin et al., 2016 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11162-015-9403-x

Campbell & Campbell, 2007  https://doi.org/10.1080/13611260601086287


Rebecca Dzombak
began her term on 1 July as the 2020–2021 GSA Science Communication Fellow and developed GSA’s Anti-Racism Resource Guide