GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 146-5
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


DOWNEN, Matthew R., Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045 and OLCOTT, Alison N., Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Ritchie Hall, Rm 254, Lawrence, KS 66045; Center for Undergraduate Research, University of Kansas, Strong Hall, Rm 151, Lawrence, KS 66045

Recently, there has been an increased focus on encouraging and supporting the participation of marginalized groups in STEM, but this effort is not usually specifically focused on the LGBTQ community. This community is particularly underrepresented in the geological sciences, and, given that the visual expression of LGBTQ persons is highly varied, they can face unique challenges. According to our preliminary surveys, paleontology appears to have a relatively higher proportion of LGBTQ persons compared to other subdisciplines within geology, making it an especially crucial issue in this field. Additionally, as a field-based science, doing paleontological research can present specific challenges related to local prejudice, the rise of LGBTQ-related hate crimes, and countries with restrictive anti-LGBTQ laws.

In this talk, we will provide a model of how faculty and programs/departments can specifically support LGBTQ students. Many of the approaches used to broaden participation in paleontology, such as active learning and student-centered pedagogy, help the retention of LGBTQ students. However, here we will focus on what our research, and that of others, suggest are best practices for supporting this community. For instance, formal and informal mentorship by faculty plays a crucial role in retaining and supporting LGBTQ students, including the use of inclusive language and pronouns, allyship, visibility, informed academic advising, and thoughtful planning of field trips, research, and conferences. At a programmatic- or departmental-level, these students can be supported by cultivating a culture of student-centered teaching, intentional mentorship, inclusive language in departmental communications, and a celebration of LGBTQ-related accomplishments. Together, these approaches would create an environment in which LGBTQ students would feel more accepted and supported by the paleontology community, broadening participation and strengthening the field as a whole.