Session: Vital Connections in Ecology: Mentoring, Education, and Training
Diversity and skills development for fieldwork in undergraduate field research experiences
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Ajisha Alwin, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, Karina Cortijo-Robles, University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus, San Juan, PR, Ahinya Alwin, Ecological Society of America and Teresa Mourad, Education & Diversity Programs, Ecological Society of America, Washington, DC
University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus San Juan, PR, USA
Background/Question/Methods When students are exposed to field learning activities, they tend to gain experiences that promote skill development and conceptual understanding. For employers who pick their employees from undergraduate researchers, they look for specific skills and traits in the interviewees to ensure a smooth recruitment. Our study explores the degree to which expectations of employers, students, and field program directors align with regard to workforce readiness in the natural resource field. Another aspect of our study is to analyze the development of skills in underrepresented students that participate in undergraduate field experiences and the inclusion of them in the recruiting process. To learn more about these aspects, we created a series of webinar interviews to know more about the perspective of students and employers on diversity and inclusion in skills development for fieldwork. Results/Conclusions The purpose of the project is to investigate if there is an alignment between employer expectations, field training, and student outcomes. And, to explore the skills development and inclusion of underrepresented students applying to entry-level field positions. Our study focuses on researchers from undergraduate field experiences and employers recruiting for entry level field research positions. Through our study, we found a potential gap in transferable skills expected by employers and offered by field training programs. During the webinar interviews with the students and employers, we gathered that students focused on mastering technical skills while employers looked for transferable skills among the applicants for entry-level positions. With regards to the emergent need for diversity and inclusion in fieldwork, both students and employers valued the undergraduate experiences gained from a diverse working environment and acknowledged the need for more efforts to diversify fieldwork workspaces. The employers were also optimistic and encouraging to welcome the needed changes in workspaces. We hope our study will serve as a reference for students, employers, and field research programs by offering insight into the skills desired for an entry-level job in fieldwork and the urgency for the inclusiveness of underrepresented students.