Diversity at RMBL


RMBL strives to promote scientific learning, discovery, and collaboration among students and researchers from all backgrounds and to foster a diverse and inclusive community. Diversity among researchers, teachers, and students has been shown to promote academic rigor, enhance research quality, and improve learning effectiveness (1,2,3). As such, we provide our services without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation and welcome students and faculty members from all ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds.

REU students at RMBL. Photo from RMBL Archives

From the beginning RMBL has been committed to a culture of inclusiveness. In 1928 a woman, Vera Adams, was among RMBL’s five founders. Dr. Harriet Barclay was one of the RMBL’s first faculty members, and RMBL scientist Dr. Jean Langenheim served as the second female president of the Ecological Society of America. This tradition of inclusiveness continues with RMBL scientist Dr. Noah Whiteman, who is the first openly gay faculty member hired into the Integrative Biology department at Berkeley. RMBL has also always had a strong, family-oriented work environment, and we welcome children and spouses. In 2019, 49% of the 74 scientists with approved research plans and 38% of the 13 trustees are women.

Marmot researchers processing an animal. Photo from RMBL Archives

RMBL is working to diversify its community by actively recruiting and supporting scientists and students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2019, at least 10% of the 110 scientists, postdocs, and graduate students with approved plans either live outside the US or have an international component to their research. Out of the ten participants in our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program each summer, 70-80% are typically underrepresented minority students. An additional 5-10 minority students often work as research assistants or participate in the Undergraduate Education Program. Furthermore, we work closely with faculty from Los Angeles community colleges to recruit first-generation and underrepresented minority students. To recruit diverse scientists and students, RMBL provides fellowship support for first-year students in the REU program, returning students, and students and faculty from Hispanic-serving institutions. Through this funding we hope to promote the long-term diversification of RMBL’s research community and attract diverse scientists as role models for students.

To ensure the long-term recruitment and retention of scientists from all backgrounds, the RMBL Diversity Committee strives to create an inclusive culture at RMBL. During the summers the Diversity Committee holds social events, discussions, and workshops and actively works with RMBL staff to create positive institutional change. RMBL welcomes feedback to the Diversity Committee, or directly to our Executive Director, Dr. Ian Billick, about how we can better serve students and scientists of all backgrounds and diversify our long-term research community.

Student researchers in the Gothic Research Center. Photo by Greg Dimijianrch community.

Literature Cited: 1) Gurin et al. (2002) Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard educational review 72, 330-367. 2) Freeman & Huang (2014) Strength in diversity: Richard B. Freeman and Wei Huang reflect on a link between a team’s ethnic mix and highly cited papers. Nature 315, 305-306. 3) Campbell et al. (2013) Gender-heterogenous working groups produce higher quality science. PloS one, 8, e79147.