The Penn State Ecology Community is Committed to Combatting Racism and Injustice

The leadership of the Penn State Ecology community wishes to express solidarity with marginalized members of our society, and has prepared the following statement of support to all those who struggle against systemic injustices. We can and must do better.

The last few weeks and months have shined a light upon injustices in our human society that have simmered and flared consistently for over 400 years. Whether it has been the unequal vulnerability of people of color to COVID-19, the police brutality that has led to the death of Black Americans, the continued silencing of Indigenous voices, or the denial of civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community, we must do better. As ecologists, we understand that organisms and social systems are complex; we understand that vulnerabilities to hazards are unequal across environments and systems, leading to environmental racism1; and we understand the fragility of all life on this planet. We also acknowledge that our scientific community does not reflect the makeup of society at large. Efforts within our national organizations and institutions have not yet turned the tide in ensuring that our science is fully inclusive, diverse, and equitable.

We must and will do better. Recognizing this ongoing division in our societal and scientific communities, we commit to the work of combating inequity and injustice within our research and educational communities. We commit to standing united against racism, religious, or gender inequality and striving to enhance inclusive and supportive communities – in the research we choose to do, how we conduct our research and educational mission, and with whom we collaborate. We will work with our community – you, and those we have yet to embrace - to take action.

As a start, first, we acknowledge that #BlackLivesMatter and stand with similar groups that denounce racism and oppression. Second, we will foster educational events and research activities that promote scholarship at the intersection of ecology, justice, and policy, and that enhance inclusion. Third, we will amplify and prioritize decisions in our operations that proactively support a just, equitable, and resilient research and educational community. Fourth, we will uplift and support each other as we move forward, deliberately and with compassion.


Erica Smithwick, Director, Penn State Ecology Institute

Jason Kaye, Chair, Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology

1 Washington, H.A. How environmental racism fuels pandemics. Nature 581: 241, 21 May 2020