As a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, I had the opportunity to attend the New Horizons in Conservation Conference with other motivated young professionals working in the environment. This conference was unique because it celebrated diversity, equity and justice in creating sustainable solutions. This is important to me, because without the representation of every group, solutions of any scale will not be able to satisfy everyone. As a first generation student, I am grateful to be part of such an innovative network of students that I will undoubtedly use throughout my professional career. The conference was specially for the “new generation of passionate professionals” which means it is welcoming to young and inexperienced students such as myself.

I presented research that I got involved in during my summer internship at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology. In the coastal area of Morehead City, there is an invasive marine animal, Clavelina oblonga, that was impacting the ecosystem. I studied the use of light exposure as a solution to mitigate its impact. I presented this research at the conference, and in addition to giving my resume out to several professionals, I received useful feedback on my results.

There were also many opportunities for professional development through workshops. I learned from a career advisor, that I will be keeping in touch with, that I could set up informational interviews with employers even when I am not immediately looking for an internship or job. This is useful because I can put my name on the radar of companies I am interested in working to give me leverage when I am actually searching for work. Additionally, I met a few people of interest at a career fair. I received contacts from organizations such as the National Parks Conservation Association and the Audubon Society.

Being a conference focused on equity and justice, I attended a session on community regeneration in the Pine Ridge Reservation and Flint, Michigan. I learned the injustices that the indigenous people of South Dakota faced regarding their treatment by powerful people and how they are building a community where they can be self sustainable while preserving their culture.

As an ETM major, I am concerned with troublesome pollutants and what we can do to reduce their impact. I attended a session on the hazards hidden in cosmetics and hygiene products. This is related to the emerging pollutants in Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products that I learn about in ET labs. It was disheartening to learn about the racism that is integrated in the cosmetic industry. Women of color are more likely to be exposed to harmful chemicals through the products that are used within their culture. In the end, we need to educate ourselves in what we areĀ using and more transparency between the consumer and producer and what ingredients are being used.

 

Overall, I had an amazing time in Chicago. Although I wanted more time to explore the area, I am grateful for the experiences that I had and feel as though I grew from this experience. I have a deeper understanding of diversity, equity, and justice and what it means in solving environmental issues and now I have met a supportive community to help me enforce these qualities in the field of conservation.