Considering the Case for Diversity in Natural Resources

A field crew samples fish and salamanders in Lookout Creek at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest


Like many academic disciplines, those in natural resources and conservation science are aspiring to enhance our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And like those disciplines we are fairly unimpressed with our successes thus far. A recent publication in BioScience entitled “Considering the Case for Diversity in Natural Resources” by Andrews Forest researchers Chelsea Batavia, Brooke Penaluna, and Michael Nelson examined the history of these calls for enhancing DEI by searching the publications in professional journals on this topic. The goal of the paper was “to understand the reasons why scholars and practitioners of natural resources seek to diversify their communities, and to critically evaluate those reasons by developing them into formal arguments.” The analysis reveals a number of things. First, enhancing DEI has been a long-standing and frequent aspiration in natural resources and conservation science. There are more than 200 papers, written over approximately 50 years, making the call for enhancing DEI. This paper, however, analyzed more recent called for enhancing DEI (2000-2019). Second, there are a wide-range of arguments for enhancing DEI in natural resources and conservation science. Third, when we employ argument analysis to formally lay out and assess these arguments you find that DEI looks different depending on your reason or argument for it. For example, if your reason for enhancing DEI is to represent the demographic make-up of the public at large, then your success would be measured on attaining that demographic make-up. Whereas, if you reason was to make sure that you were representing diverse perspectives, your success might be measured differently. That is, the reason for DEI is connected to what DEI looks like on the ground, and the reasons vary greatly. Finally, warning that “the recent natural resources discourse has been detached from the themes and critiques explored in” literatures in other disciplines, the paper suggests that the natural resources and conservation science community needs to be “actively engaging with diversity scholarship in other fields that can yield fresh and perhaps provocative insights.”

Full paper: Chelsea Batavia, Brooke E Penaluna, Thea Rose Lemberger, Michael Paul Nelson. Considering the Case for Diversity in Natural Resources, BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 8, August 2020, Pages 708–718,