An Inclusive Ecology

In order to produce the best science possible, the LTER Network needs to draw on a diverse pool of talented investigators with a variety of perspectives—and share our work with a broad range of individuals and communities. Each individual LTER site faces unique challenges and opportunities in building the strengths, skills, and relationships needed to create a fully inclusive learning and work environment.

In collaboration with the LTER Diversity Committee, the LTER Network Office is developing resources to support sites in becoming more broadly welcoming and inclusive and encouraging every participant to contribute at the highest level.

Links to key resources are broadly categorized below. Please make use of them freely and let us know your experience with them. If you have additional resources to share, please contact the LTER Network Office or the LTER Network Diversity Committee.

Background Reading

Site Diversity Plans and Strategies

Developing a specific strategy for improving inclusion of underrepresented groups can be helpful in building community consensus and support and in identifying the resources that are most relevant at each site. The plans linked below may serve as helpful models. As additional sites develop plans, they will be added to the list.


Informal Science (formerly the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education) has released a new toolkit: Broadening Perspectives on Broadening Participation in STEM. Key practice briefs, such as these on Cultural Norms of STEM and Modeling Workplace Inclusion serve as discussion-starters for identifying the issues and solutions for each site.

The ADVANCEGeo project has compiled a a terrific set of resources to help in creating a climate of inclusion and tools for addressing problems when they occasionally arise. Visit the ADVANCEGeo resource page to learn more.

Native Land Acknowledgement

The US Department of Arts and Culture has developed a guide to acknowledging native lands (linked to a map of ancestral native territories). From the guide: 

“Acknowledgment is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth. Imagine this practice widely adopted: imagine cultural venues, classrooms, conference settings, places of worship, sports stadiums, and town halls, acknowledging traditional lands. Millions would be exposed—many for the first time—to the names of the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of the lands they are on, inspiring them to ongoing awareness and action.”

To download the guide, print, download and customize #Honortheland art, and more, visit

Diversity Improves Problem Solving and Creativity

Diverse teams incorporate different perspectives, promote healthy debate, and balance biases between team members. Research supports the idea that team collaboration is improved when women participate in a group. The phenomenon of diverse groups outperforming groups with similar constituents also seems to hold true for other types of identity diversity (i.e. race or culture) as well as functional diversity (i.e. diversity in how people solve problems). Emotional intelligence between group members can also improve group performance.

Related Literature

Programs to Broaden Participation in Ecology and Environmental Science

A variety of programs exist to increase participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields in general and specifically in ecology and conservation science. Local chapters of these organizations may be interested in partnering in education and engagement activities. National alumni networks can be helpful in recruiting students, staff, faculty, and collaborators.

Disability in Geosciences

Resources for help in fully including people with disabilities are still limited in the GeoSciences, but one good place to start is the International Association for Geoscience Diversity, which maintains discussion fora for scientists and aspiring scientists coping with a wide variety of challenges. 

They also run an accessible geology field trip each summer in association with the Geological Society of America annual meeting.


The Nature Conservancy: Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future. The LEAF program provides paid summer internships for high school students and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources.

National Council for Science and the Environment: EnvironMentors. EnvironMentors is NCSE’s youth mentoring and college preparation program for underrepresented high school students across the country.


Ecological Society of America: SEEDS. SEEDS’ mission is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology.

Doris Duke Foundation: Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. DDCSP works to increase the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who choose to pursue coursework and careers in conservation.

Graduate and Beyond

NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate AGEP

American Museum of Natural History’s Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science Initiative. The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History works to build bridges with faculty at minority-serving institutions and promote student diversity in conservation-related fields.

Diversify Ecology and Evolutionary Biology seeks to identify ecologists and evolutionary biologists who are women and/or from a group traditionally underrepresented in the sciences (e.g., those from racial or ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQIA). The group’s goal is to help people identify scientists who might diversify seminar series, award nominees, etc. A companion list at diversify EEB grads focuses on PhD students.

ADVANCE: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers

Effective Mentoring

Building a fair and inclusive work environment encompasses far more than recruiting from underrepresented groups. Effective mentoring improves the learning, performance, and professional growth experience for everyone, by clarifying expectations and opportunities. First generation academics—from all backgrounds—may benefit most from good mentoring, but researchers instituting these practices have also seen better relationships and productivity for all their trainees.

The Entering Mentoring curriculum, developed by The Wisconsin Program For Scientific Teaching, is available free, from the web site of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute or as a printed book.

Unconscious Bias

Addressing unconscious bias is an important step in creating an environment that is welcoming to and accepting of a diverse group of individuals. By becoming aware of your own implicit bias, you are in a better position to ensure your biases don’t unintentionally impact the work environment. It is important to note that these implicit biases are held by people of all genders and races, and so need to be addressed by all members of the scientific community.

Leadership Development

Everyone can benefit from opportunities to acquire and exercise new skills, contribute to the scientific community, expand their professional networks, and increase their visibility. Such opportunities are especially important in the advancement and retention of women and minorities. The organizations below offer peer-mentoring and leadership development opportunities that are especially focused on the needs of specific groups.

Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) offers several intensive leadership development programs, regional conferences, networking events at national conferences, and position posting.

The Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) is an international peer-mentoring network of women in the Earth Sciences, many of whom are in the early stages of their careers. They promote career development, build community, provide opportunities for informal mentoring and support, and facilitate professional collaborations.

Step up to Leadership for Mid-Career Growth. This article from the Nature Careers section provides some hard-earned advice for mid-career scientists with big aspirations. 

Funding Sources

Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) is a comprehensive effort to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering discovery and innovation by proactively seeking and effectively developing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent from all sectors and groups in our society.

L’Oreal USA for Women in Science