INCREASING DIVERSITY IN PALEONTOLOGY REQUIRES INCREASING ACCESSIBILITY
The state of diversity in paleontology has spurred many important discussions about attracting more underrepresented students. However, we suggest that some of the primary obstacles to diversity stem not from attracting students but retaining them; that there is a lack of concerted effort to make continued participation in paleontology accessible to underserved students (a group that shares significant overlap with underrepresented students). If the most exciting, integral parts of paleontology (e.g., field work, museum visits, lab work) are not made more accessible for students that do not have the private resources to support their participation, we miss tremendous opportunities for the field to serve as an introduction to elements of scientific literacy. Further, we effectively bar diverse students from participating in research at higher academic levels by failing to provide the experiences they need to progress.
Here, we outline common paleontological teaching practices and highlight how their traditional applications may present barriers to underserved students. We then propose approaches to these activities that we have found helpful to make paleontological study more accessible for students who are both underserved and underrepresented. As current educators and former students from underrepresented and underserved groups, we hope that our insights will be useful for educators and research mentors looking to make opportunities in paleontology more equitable and inclusive.