The Network

We are a network of ecologists, social scientists, pedagogical experts, and students who are committed to expanding racial, ethnic, and cultural inclusion in ecology and environmental biology (EE) education and practice. Our leadership consists of a steering committee, a student advisory board (current, last year), a postdoctoral liaison, a pedagogy working group, an undergraduate researcher and a graduate researcher. We seek to develop a uniquely integrative approach to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in EE by addressing barriers across networking, research, and teaching practices. The student advisory board ensures the steering committee activities are driven by student needs, desires, and visions.

Steering Committee

Maria Miriti, Principal investigator

Maria Miriti, Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University. My ecological research examines the dynamics of plant populations and communities and I have a special interest in mechanisms of coexistence. I am passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, which has motivated research and scholarship on promoting inclusion for students and faculty of color in ecology and environmental disciplines. I assert that the experiences of people of color are central to identifying and removing barriers to diverse participation. I received a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Northwestern University. To learn more about my research, read more on my website.

Gillian Bowser

Gillian Bowser, Professor in the Department of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. Bowser focuses on ecological indicators of climate change, such as pollinator insects, and linkages between changing ecological conditions, local community livelihoods and climate. She places special emphasis on sustainability, citizen-scientist engagement, and encouraging more students from underrepresented backgrounds to study science. Her current interdisciplinary work looks at biodiversity indicators in high elevations around the world. Bowser has worked as a wildlife biologist and ecologist for the U.S. National Park Service in Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Joshua Tree and Wrangell St. Elias, and was an AAAS Science and Diplomacy Fellow in 2011. She serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network, and participated in the U.N. Framework on Climate Change Convention and U.N. Global Environmental Outlook. Bowser earned her B.S. from Northwestern University, her M.S. from the University of Vermont, and her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Caroline Breitenberger

Caroline Breitenberger, Professor Emerita in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and former Director of the Center for Life Sciences Education at The Ohio State University. My research interests include examining factors that influence student persistence in the sciences. I am a Fellow of a national organization that promotes departmental transformation, the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE). I was awarded OSU’s Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and the President and Provost’s Award for Distinguished Faculty Service.  I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after earning a Ph.D. and BS in Chemistry, from the University of North Carolina and Ohio University, respectively. Now retired, I live in Gunnison, Colorado, where I am thrilled by the many opportunities to learn more about the natural world! 

Carmen Cid

Carmen R. Cid is Professor of Ecology and Dean Emerita of the School of Arts and Sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University. I have been recognized as a national leader in STEM curriculum development, project evaluation of student retention and support programs and career development enhancement for women and minorities in the sciences. In 2017, I was elected a Fellow by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), which represents over 9,000 ecologists, for her leadership and contributions enhancing ecology education outreach to diverse audiences, recruitment and retention of women and minorities in ecology and applying ecological principles to improve undergraduate liberal arts education. Nationally, I helped develop the 2018 ESA-endorsed undergraduate ecology education curricular framework which elevates all aspects of the human dimension, along with innovative data science methods, in the research and teaching of ecology. I have developed bilingual environmental education multimedia curriculum for urban ecology, targeting middle school learners and has worked with undergraduates and graduate students in enhancing their STEM experiential learning opportunities. In 2020, I was awarded the Connecticut Science Center Lifetime Achievement Award for my achievements in improving STEM education. I am currently on the ESA Governing Board, serving as chair of the Education and Diversity Committees.

Marcela Hernandez

Marcela Hernandez is the Assistant Dean of Faculty Affairs and Recruitment in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. I am biochemist and molecular biologist. My professional experience includes designing and implementing programs to enhance and support research trainees with a special focus on those from underrepresented backgrounds. I became a scientist thanks to an awesome Ph.D. mentor whose enthusiasm and love for science made m ewant to become a researcher. He taught me how to think like a scientist. This made me realize the importance of good scientific training and mentorship. I believe this is the single most important factor in becoming a successful STEM professional. Consequently, I am very passionate about mentoring and hope to help the next generation of STEM professionals to retain their love for science and to maneuver around the traps that are responsible for the leaky STEM pipeline.

Valerie Ann Johnson

Valerie Ann Johnson, Co-Director of Operations and Development for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and Former Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities and Professor of Sociology at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.   My research, teaching, and advocacy, conducted in Costa Rica, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the Seychelles Islands and the US, centers on gender, bioethics, disability, the health of women and girls, and environmental justice.  I collaborate with colleagues engaged in maritime archaeological research on the hidden histories of pirates and slave-ships.  This interdisciplinary work supports my belief that our human understanding of ecology and experiences with nature are shaped by a variety of cultural and social dimensions and this in turn shapes how we understand science.  While Dean at Shaw University and with the support of colleagues at NCSU, I instituted a Public Science Internship program designed to facilitate students across all disciplines in meaningful science activity.  I have a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco, MA in Sociology from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) and BA in Sociology from Spelman College in Atlanta. 

Amy Kulesza

Amy Kulesza, Assistant Director of Education Research and Development in the Center for Life Sciences Education at The Ohio State University. My current research focuses on understanding factors that lead to increased retention of minoritized and first-generation undergraduate students in STEM. Broadly, I am interested in how current policies (such as prerequisite courses) and practices (such as use of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences [CUREs] or service-learning) impact student retention. Specifically, I am interested in how classroom tools such as metacognition, time management skills, and positive affirmation can improve student outcomes. I also lead Instructor Professional Development and believe all instructors should be using evidence-based practices in the classroom to support student learning. I have a Ph.D. in Education: Quantitative Research, Evaluation, and Measurement from The Ohio State University, an MS in Ecology from The Ohio State University, and a BS in Biology from the University of Maryland.

Zakiya Leggett

Zakiya Leggett, Assistant Professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. My research is focused on soil ecology, citizen science, and diversity and inclusion in natural resources.  I serve as the director of three programs focused on mentoring students and increasing diversity in conservation biology, natural resources, and forestry – Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, Scholars for Conservation Leadership Program and National Needs Fellowship Program.  Through my research and program activities, I am committed to mentoring and encouraging diverse student populations to pursue their educational and career goals. I earned a B.S from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, AL, a Masters degree from Duke University, and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

Becky Mansfield

Becky Mansfield, Professor of Geography at the Ohio State University. My research and teaching are in nature-society geography, political ecology, and science studies and I have a long-term interest in ideas about nature and race in both science and the popular imagination. My recent research investigates shifting understanding of environmental chemicals and their effects, the politics of deregulation of these chemicals, and implications for health and justice. I also have written about equity issues in the university, including articles on feminist and anti-racist mentoring and on sexual harassment. I have a PhD in Geography and MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon and a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Read more on my website.

Natasha Woods

Natasha Woods, Assistant Professor of Biology at Moravian University. My research interests broadly include plant facilitation and competition, seed dispersal and germination, woody plant encroachment, and stability of coastal dune vegetation. My recent research investigates the impact of grass density and dune elevation on shrub encroachment on Hog Island, Virginia. I have a long-term interest in equity in science education and in increasing the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in ecological research. I have a PhD in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology from The Ohio State University and a BS and MS in Biology from Jacksonville State University.

Luanna Prevost

Luanna Prevost, Associate Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida. My research in biology education examines student thinking about core concepts and practices, and how faculty teaching interactions and professional development contribute to STEM teaching transformation. My work also investigates how to broaden participation in ecology by working with USF’s S-STEM and the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) SEEDS programs. I also serve as Chair of the ESA’s Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework subcommittee. I earned a PhD in Plant Biology from the University of Georgia, an MS in Plant and Environmental Sciences from Clemson University, and BS degrees in Biology and Environmental Science from Tuskegee University.

Postdoctoral liaison

Ariel Rawson

Ariel Rawson, Postdoctoral Scholar, Ohio State University. My long-term interests are at the intersection of environmentalism, social justice, and interdisciplinary education. Specifically, I’m interested in how “human” dimensions are integrated into ecology or (not!) and the ethical implications of routine environmental concepts (e.g., competition, community, population). Recently, I’ve been collaboratively examining the relationship between colonialism and natural history in the context of increasing inclusion in ecology education. My Ph.D. examined the way race emerges, explicitly and implicitly, in excitement around the microbiome as a new ‘Anthropocene’ science of society-environment interactions. My previous work investigated the uneven relations between the global North and South in both Sustainable Development and in alternatives, such as ‘Rights for Nature.’ I have a Ph.D. and M.A. in Geography from Ohio State University and a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies from San Diego State University.

Graduate Researcher

Emily Rabung, PhD Candidate in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University. My research focuses specifically on how military organizations manage and impact biodiversity and more broadly about how ideas about nature impact the management of public lands. Additionally, as a teacher I am interested in how educational approaches can be a tool for larger societal change such as expanding the access that underrepresented populations have to environmental decision-making and knowledge production. I am currently managing a UNIDE project through OSU’s Center for Life Science Education about culturally responsive teaching. The aim of the project is to design a teaching tool that can be used in introductory courses in biology and ecology to increase student belonging and therefore retention of underrepresented students in environmental and ecology majors. The project includes identifying current barriers to using culturally responsive teaching practices among instructors, designing a tool that addresses those barriers, and testing the impact of the tool on student perceptions of belonging. 

Undergraduate Researcher (2023-2024)

Name: Ava McLeod

Institution: Eckerd College

Major: Marine Science and French

Expected graduation date: May 2024

At my home institution, I am studying the relationship between black bodies and the environment and how that relationship has been/is affected by systemic racism and anti-black violence in the United States. Additionally, I am examining how current teaching pedagogies in environmental and ecology courses are impacted by implicit and explicit biases that stem from the often imperialistic minds that the concepts featured in these courses came from. Along the same lines, I am interested to determine whether guidelines for inclusive, culturally informed teaching pedagogies can be created and distributed for the natural sciences as well as how societal opinions shape scientific ideas that are considered to be “objective.” This summer, I am reviewing the trends and gaps in EE syllabi across the country based on a co-developed rubric that centers diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) as key criteria. Click here if you are willing to contribute syllabi!

Pedagogy Working Group

Karen Bailey, University of Colorado, Boulder
Sara Bombaci, Colorado State University
Caroline Breitenberger, Ohio State University
Carmen Cid, Eastern Connecticut State University
Matt Cover, California State University, Stanislaus
Gaurav Kandlikar, Louisiana State University
Amy Kulesza, Ohio State University
Megan Lupek, North Carolina State University
Ava McLeod, Eckerd College
Elena Ortiz-Zuazaga, Northern Virginia Community College
Lara Pacifici, North Carolina State University
Luanna Prevost, University of South Florida
Emily Rabung, Ohio State University
Ariel Rawson, Ohio State University
Porché L. Spence, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Student Advisory Board (2023-2024)

Felix “Javi” Berrios-Ortega

University of Puerto Rico, Humacao

Biology/Wildlife Management

Undergraduate (Senior)

Alexis Ellis

American University

Environmental Science

Undergraduate (Sophmore)

Kristina Fite

The University of Northern Texas

Aquatic Biology

First-year graduate student

Bryan Guevara

Indiana University

Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior

First-year graduate student

Jordyn Hardy

Wesleyan College


Undergraduate (Senior)

Darius Ledbetter

North Carolina State University


M.S., graduating 2023

Frederick Nelson

University of California, Davis


Ph.D. Candidate

Yeishmary Soto

University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

Environmental Science and Audiovisual Communication

Undergraduate (4th year)

Student Advisory Board (2022-2023)

Name: Toluwalase Ennie Akinwunmi

Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Year: Senior

Name: Felix “Javi” Berrios Ortega

Institution: University of Puerto Rico, Humacao

Year: Senior

Name: Al’ya Bushelle

Institution: Spelman College

Year: Junior

Name: Kyle Gatdula Dahilig

Institution: University of Guam

Year: Senior

Name: Miles Dillard

Institution: North Carolina State University

Year: Senior

Name: MJ Dinong

Institution: University of Hawaii

Year: Junior

Name: Anna Grondolsky

Institution: The Ohio State University

Year: Junior

Name: Jordyn Hardy

Institution: Wesleyan College, GA

Year: Junior

Name: August Hurtado

Institution: University of Vermont

Year: Junior

Name: Prachi Ingle

Institution: University of Texas, Austin

Year: Junior

Name: Federick Nelson

Institution: University of California, Davis

Year: Graduate Student

Name: Kristina Fite

Institution: Ohio State University  

Year: Senior, Class of 2023 

Name: Khanh Ton

Institution: Rhodes College, TN

Year: Senior

Name: Tatjana Washington

Institution: University of Massachusetts

Year: Graduate Student

Name: Sidney Woodruff

Institution: University of California, Davis

Year: Graduate Student