Diversity, equity & inclusion

Class of students in field posing for group photo

Better together

A fall field ecology class, taught by doctoral student Haley Burrill (second from left) of the Bever/Schultz Lab, makes creative use of plant species inventory frames.

Much of our work in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging takes place as a matter of routine. Individual labs are committed to creating safe spaces for all members, including students, to share ideas and points of view, and many researchers have taken courses offered by KU and elsewhere in compassionate communication, Safe Zone training and other topics related to DEI. Several faculty scientists are members of the DEI Committee in KU’s Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (one served as chair in 2021), and several researchers have longstanding relationships with Haskell Indian Nations University, providing internships and other opportunities. Some of the specific efforts by our researchers and staff included:


  • Serving as mentor to a student in KU's Emerging Scholars program, which supports research experiences for low-income students their first year at KU and supports their overall transition to college. The program uses federal work-study funding to support the students while they gain their first college research experiences and as they attend training in academic success.

  • Through KansasView, awarding 21 mini-scholarships to students enrolled in remote sensing and geospatial courses at Haskell. (One of our researchers is the principal investigator and coordinator for KansasView, a member of the AmericaView Consortium, which advanced the education and research of remote sensing technologies.)

  • Helping to create an opportunity, as part of the KU Honors Common Cause conversations on racial and social justice, to screen and discuss the documentary, Picture a Scientist, which explores the ways women are marginalized in STEM fields.

  • Taking part in the Ecological Society of America’s Biogeosciences Mentoring and Networking Workshop, which was specifically aimed at helping to make ESA, and the biogeosciences in general, more welcoming and inclusive.

  • Giving a presentation to high school teachers, as part of NSF’s Research Experience for Teachers program, on the importance of earth science education for high school students; this was geared toward improving the representation of historically underserved populations in the sciences.

  • Hiring students from historically underrepresented groups, including women, in the sciences.

  • In at least one lab, signaling the value of undergraduate researchers by making the starting pay for all $15/hour regardless of skill level.

  • Completion of an ethnobotany project with the Osage Tribe, and forging two new ones with the Omaha and Arikara tribes, and mentoring several Native American students as a graduate committee member and in other capacities.

  • Serving as a speaker at EPA Region VII's series, "Honoring Indigenous Identity and Culture."

  • Assisting in development of a strategic plan for an NSF Biology Integration Institute. The plan includes ways to accomplish short- and long-term goals aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented groups in research and outreach activities, and creating a culture that fosters collaboration, respect and diversity in communication, conflict resolution, recruitment, training and retention of talent.

  • Hosting Doris Duke Conservation Scholar; this two-year experiential conservation training program is for undergraduates who are interested in careers in conservation and in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field. The student was Lakota and finishing an undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.