Culturally Inclusive Research Internships in Ocean Sciences

Melissa Peacock1, Rachel J Arnold1, Sylvie Arques2, John Rombold3 and Sherry L. Palacios4, (1)Northwest Indian College, Salish Sea Research Center, Bellingham, WA, United States, (2)Northwest Indian College, Native Environmental Science, Bellingham, WA, United States, (3)Northwest Indian College, Native Environmental Sciences, Bellingham, WA, United States, (4)NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Tribal colleges and universities, like other Minority Serving Institutions, provide an environment that supports diverse students. Students at Northwest Indian College (NWIC) in Bellingham, WA can earn a Bachelor’s degree in Native Environmental Science through place-based classes and research. Many students choose to participate in internships with the Salish Sea Research Center (SSRC) at NWIC, aware of the importance of hands-on research in the geosciences when applying for a competitive MS or PhD program, or the ocean sciences workforce. The SSRC broadens participation and recruitment by working with students throughout their undergraduate degrees. We facilitate trusting mentorships between our students and Indigenous and minority graduate students, faculty, and elders and the tribal community to support our students as they experience what may be a hostile working environment and address issues of inclusion in the ocean sciences. Mentors include the students in all aspects of the research project, and all students are required to submit abstracts for conferences and present their research. To support the students, we provide both a STEAM and writing mentor that they meet with regularly. We build inclusive cohorts so our students are not isolated and encourage the use of traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous teachings, art, and culture into their research. The internship research projects are identified by tribal partners and incorporate elements of food sovereignty, resource management, and social justice. We aim to build confidence in the students, including opportunities to engage in the ocean sciences workforce (e.g., a 2-week stay at NASA), share with their communities during outreach events, and present their work as first authors at diversity inclusive conferences. By opening up the research internships to all levels of undergrad students, we hope to increase recruitment and retention into the sciences program at NWIC and ocean sciences workforce.