Minorities in Water Sciences
As with so many other scientific fields, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are poorly represented in the ranks of practicing water science professionals. Minority students interested in becoming oceanographers, marine biologists, fisheries scientists, hydrologists, ecologists, aquatic chemists, or limnologists have few role models to emulate. In part, this reflects a history of a lack of minority science and mathematics teachers in the K–12 schools. A number of institutions, such as Northern Arizona University and State University of New York at Oswego, are trying to correct that by offering programs that are directed towards elementary and secondary environmental education. Students can see profiles of minorities in aquatic sciences at <http://www.aslo.org/mas/> and <http://www.marinecareers.net> .
However, there is also good news for minority students who are interested in becoming water scientists. Reflecting the views of many, Dan Goldin, former administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, emphasized the importance of opening educational programs in science and mathematics to all levels and cultures in order for the United States to be competitive in these fields in the twenty-first century. Federal and state agencies, professional associations of water scientists, and colleges and universities all recognize the need to improve minority representation. As such, a number of specific programs have been created to help promote minority participation. In addition to these special programs targeted toward minority students, there are numerous other programs open to all students, and
Many students, whether minorities or not, become attracted to a career in water science while they are still in high school. Others make that decision after starting college. For those who know early that they want to study to become water scientists, there are a number of colleges to which they can apply that offer specialty undergraduate degrees in the field. For others who make the decision to study water science only after they have begun their college career, there are several options available. They can transfer to an institution that offers the program at the undergraduate level, they can take a summer or a semester away at a special program, or they can apply to study aquatic sciences in graduate school. Regardless of the path taken, students must master certain essentials in order to succeed in their studies.
The successful water scientist must have a strong background in basic academics. The abilities to quantify, think critically, and communicate are essential. High school and undergraduate students should take very seriously their studies of mathematics, science, and English composition. In high school, they should work toward the highest level of math offered, generally calculus or precalculus, and then complete a sequence of calculus and statistics in college. Although desirable, high school calculus is not a prerequisite to pursue a career in water sciences. A solid background in algebra, trigonometry , and geometry is important for success in the aquatic sciences, and those high school courses will provide the foundation for calculus at the university level. High school students should also take as much basic science as they can. This generally includes biology, chemistry, physics, earth or physical science, and whatever advanced-placement science course might be available.
In college, students need to follow the same path, taking courses in all the basic sciences. This includes biology, 2 years of chemistry, and a year of physics. This strong foundation will prepare the student to take courses
The minority high school or community college student seeking an undergraduate degree in water science can choose from both minority and majority institutions. Leading programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), such as Hampton University in Virginia and Savannah State University in Georgia, and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI), such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, include both public and private institutions. Many other institutions with a high population of minorities, too numerous to mention here, have programs that can prepare students for successful careers in water sciences. These programs differ in their areas of emphasis, but are tailored to meet the needs of all students, including minorities. Prospective minority students of aquatic science should search the internet for the terms "water resources," "aquatic science," "university," "college," and "minorities" to obtain listings for many of these institutions. Students may also search for specialty terms such as "hydrology," "groundwater," "oceanography," and "ecology" to reflect their specific interests.
Minority students may, of course, attend majority institutions with undergraduate water science programs. Most states have at least one large university that has undergraduate programs in fisheries, ecology, or natural sciences. Generally, but not exclusively, inland schools specialize in freshwater lakes and rivers, while programs located in coastal states tend to be oriented toward marine systems.
While earning an undergraduate degree in aquatic sciences can provide excellent preparation for a career in the field, most professionals in the field earn degrees in one of the basic sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, or physics) before beginning their aquatic science studies in graduate school. However, many of these scientists participated in special (generally offcampus) programs as undergraduates. Many spent summers at marine or fresh-water stations to gain hands-on experience in specialized courses. Others participated in special undergraduate research programs or worked as assistants to professors conducting research.
A growing pathway to a career in water sciences is through intern programs. Many high schools and universities encourage their students to seek an association with a professional aquatic scientist outside the academic environment. Although most of these are unpaid positions, they are invaluable as a source of experience. Interested students may begin this process by talking with their instructors or contacting individuals directly; state and federal water agencies may provide a rich opportunity to experience the "real world" applications. Most water scientists cite such an undergraduate experience as the true beginning of their careers.
Special off-campus programs for minority students are offered at a variety of institutions. Like the special degree programs at minority-serving institutions, special off-campus programs are tailored to meet the needs of
Alabama A & M University, Center for Hydrology, Soil Climatology, and Remote Sensing (HSCARS)
Arkansas State University, Research Internships in Science of the Environment (RISE)
California State University, Center for Environmental Analysis-NSF. Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CEA-CREST)
Colorado University (Boulder), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
Hampton University, Multicultural Students At Sea Together (MAST)
Hampton University, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), Special Program for Minority Students Interested in Aquatic Sciences
Montana State University, College of Engineering Minority Program (Wetlands)
Northern Arizona University, Environmental Studies (Applied Indigenous Studies)
Oregon State University, Native Americans in Marine and Space Sciences (NAMSS)
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division, Minority Internship Program
University of New Orleans, Coastal Research Laboratory, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Minority Field Camp Program (Wetlands)
College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), Summer Intern Program (SIP)
Western Washington University, Minorities in Marine Science Undergraduate Program (MIMSUP)
Xavier University of Louisiana, Office of Environmental Education (African American Focus)
Minority students also can take advantage of a variety of nontargeted programs that are offered by a multitude of institutions. A list of those with an REU-type structure can be accessed on the World Wide Web at <http://www.geo.nsf.gov/oce> . For example, the Sea Education Association offers students a semester aboard a tall sailing ship, where they study marine science and participate in a program that is keen on increasing the diversity of its participants (see <http://www.sea.edu> ).
Minority students may obtain much information regarding the aquatic science programs that are being made available at the ASLO website ( <http://aslo.org/mas> ). At this website, links to a number of useful sites can be found: for example, a student directory ( <http://aslo.org/mas/directory.html> ), profiles of aquatic scientists ( <http://aslo.org/mas/profiles.html> ), and resources ( <http://aslo.org/mas/resources.html> ). Students can register on-line with the MAS program at <http://aslo.org/mas/reg_form.html> .
Another useful source of information to minority students regarding the water science profession is through professional organizations and scientific societies. These organizations are open to students and often provide minority students with information targeted for them. The box on page 97 lists several such organizations and their web addresses.
In addition to the professional organizations listed in the box, there are many state and international organizations that students can explore, either through direct membership or via the internet. Most of these organizations have sections that are devoted to different career paths within the discipline.
SEE ALSO W OMEN IN W ATER S CIENCES .
and Dennis O. Nelson
Bolster, W. J. Black Jacks: African American Seaman in the Age of Sail. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Cuker, Benjamin. "Minorities at Sea Together (MAST): A Model Interdisciplinary Program for Minority College Students." Current: The Journal of Marine Education 18:45–51.
Cuker, Benjamin. "Steps to Increasing Minority Participation in the Aquatic Sciences: Catching Up With Shifting Demographics." Bulletin of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanograpy 10:17–21.
Day, J. C. "Population Projections of the United States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050." U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P25-1130. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996.
Gilligan, M. R. "Promoting Diversity in the Fisheries Profession: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities." Fisheries 21 (1996): 26–29.
Huang, G., N. Taddese, and E. Walter. Entry and Persistence of Women and Minorities in College Science and Engineering Education. NCES 2000-601. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2000.
National Science Foundation. Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2000. NSF 00-327. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2000.
ORGANIZATIONS OF INTEREST
Below is a partial list of professional and scientific organizations whose activities are at least in part devoted to aquatic sciences. Each organization provides information that is career-related and often has programs that target minority students. Students may join these organizations.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Fisheries Society
American Geophysical Union
American Indian Science & Engineering Society
American Institute of Hydrology
American Institute of Marine Studies
American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
American Water Resources Association
American Water Works Association
Association for Women in Science
Center for the Advancement of Hispanics in Science and Engineering
Council on Undergraduate Research, Geosciences Division
Ecological Society of America
Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society
Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
International Association of Hydrogeologists
International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology
Geological Society of America
Marine Technology Society
National Association for Black Geologists and Geophysicists
National Groundwater Association
North American Lake Management Society
Oceanic Engineers Society
The Oceanography Society
Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health
Society of Wetland Scientists
Soil Science Society of America