To celebrate UK Pride Month, the British Ecological Society journal blogs are hosting a ‘Rainbow Research’ series, which aims to promote visibility of STEM researchers from the LGBTQ+ community. Each post will be connected to a theme represented by one of the colours shown in the Progress Pride flag. In this post, Danielle Orrell discusses her sunlight.
I am a final year PhD candidate at the University of Windsor in Canada, and as part of the Hussey Lab I have conducted my research over on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean. My research is centred around exploring and understanding the distribution and movements of aquatic animals, and the abiotic conditions that may drive their behaviour. I was born in southern England and have since gone on to explore and work across a range of locations from the tropics to the poles.
I wrote last year about finding sunlight on Ascension Island, and finally feeling comfortable and accepted as a queer woman. Upon returning to Canada, I was driven by the aim of building community, and helping others navigate their student experience and celebrate their sexuality and gender. I contacted two of my talented peers and discussed my vision for creating a community to provide a safe space to socialise and build networks among STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) disciplines at the University. Queer in STEM at UWindsor was formed in December 2021 and has since hosted in-person and virtual socials including bowling, games and trivia nights, and begun building a network of queer researchers. Most importantly, this group has offered queer students unified by a common interest in STEM a place to celebrate their identity and form relationships.
There is a clear need for community and support, particularly for individuals with diverse experiences. A recent study found that queer scientists are more likely to experience career limitations, harassment, and professional devaluation than their non-LGBTQ peers (Cech & Waidzunas, 2021). I believe that Universities should hire diversity experts with their own experiences in intersectionality to ensure an even playing field in STEM disciplines, and support diversity within higher education and beyond. Research has found that the academic climate directly impacts the comfort (and by proxy happiness) of queer-identifying faculty, and is valuable in retention (Patridge, Barthelemy & Rankin, 2014). Universities and organisations promising to support diversity therefore have a duty of care to their students and staff to provide access to resources and actively dismantle systemic diversity issues. In the future, I hope that others will find sunlight in their local community whether they are far from home, seeking chosen family or understanding their identity.
E. A. Cech & T.J. Waidzunas (2021) Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM. Science Advances, 7(3), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abe0933
Patridge, E. V., Barthelemy, R. S., & Rankin, S. R. (2014). Factors impacting the academic climate for LGBQ STEM faculty. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 20(1), 75-98. https://doi.org/10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2014007429
Danielle’s social media: Twitter @daniorrell and Instagram @bigfishmoves
Read her post from last year’s Rainbow Research series, ‘Finding acceptance in remote places’, here.
Queer at STEM at UWindsor is looking to growing their network and connect students at Windsor and beyond! Find them on Twitter @queerinstem21 or Instagram @queerinstem