Cyn: [00:00:04] Hey, Cis! from coast to coast, we're bridging the gap between the cisgender and transgender community, creating meaningful dialog and space to learn and grow.
Isaac: [00:00:12] Join us as we connect with our community, break down tough conversations and get comfortable being better humans.
Cyn: [00:00:21] Hey, Cis! podcast is proudly brought to you by TD Bank Group. Hello and welcome to Hey, Cis!. We've seen a huge jump in listenership this season and we want to do a big shout out to all of you. Thanks for tuning in. Downloading and taking an interest in going beyond binary with Sid and I.
Isaac: [00:00:36] We're also doing a little celebrating over at Simply Good Form. We are literally over the moon with hearing. We've been named finalists in the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Best New Business 2023 category. You're going to have to watch this space though, and there is a bit of a space theme happening with the awards, but you have to watch this space until January 26th when the winners are going to be announced. We're just thrilled to have been made finalist alongside some of the new amazing businesses here in Halifax.
Cyn: [00:01:08] Right, Isaac? Yeah, and we'll be sharing the link down in the show notes right soon.
Isaac: [00:01:12] Yeah, Yeah, we will pop them in there. But for now, we are going to be going under the sea. In this episode, we are joined by two salty ocean scientists from Neil Parker, who I know Isaac will have a lot in common with. We're going to introduce them both to you in one moment. But first, for those of you who don't know what Neil stands for, Isaac, want to break it down for us?
Cyn: [00:01:38] It's my pleasure. So MEOPAR stands for Marine, Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network. That's m e p a r. It is a national network of Centers of excellence linking top Marine researchers and highly qualified personnel across Canada with partner organizations and communities. And today's guest joining us from kjipuktuk are Alexa Goodman and Aaron Judah. Alexa uses they/them pronouns and is MEOPAR's training program manager. They're passionate about doing good for our planet and its people by shifting awareness into action. Alexa says they use their curiosity, compassion and strong project management to lead the way.
Isaac: [00:02:16] We are also joined by Aaron Judah. Aaron uses He/They pronouns is a marine ecologist who focuses on the functionality of marine ecosystems under human impacts and global change. In addition to being an honours Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology student at Dalhousie University here in Halifax, Aaron is also an equity and diversity representative at the Dalhousie Association of Marine Biology. Welcome to Hey, Cis!. Aaron and Alexa.
Aaron: [00:02:44] Thank you so much for having us.
Cyn: [00:02:45] Thank you for joining us. I'm very excited and I are both extremely excited for this conversation.
Isaac: [00:02:50] So I am. Oh, yeah.
Aaron: [00:02:52] Been great.
Cyn: [00:02:53] And how are you doing, Alexa?
Alexa: [00:02:55] I am. Okay. Just another great day in Halifax.
Isaac: [00:02:59] I know. I'm feeling it, too. And sticky is sticky out there.
Cyn: [00:03:05] So not only are you both ocean scientists, but you're both queer ocean scientists, which is an extra special layer. So, Alexa in particular, before we dive into your role as a marine biologist at Mayo Park, can you share a little bit about what those two intersections of your identity and how they interplay with each other within your everyday life?
Alexa: [00:03:25] Hmm. Well, I'm going to go ahead and start off with a broad, sweeping statement by saying, I truly believe that nature is queer and especially marine biology and marine life. It's all a little bit queer. And I think I actually recognize that in the world around me before I recognize that in myself for a variety of reasons. But I think being a queer ocean scientist allows us to have a more holistic approach to the work that we do. I'm not sure if it's just my own personal background and upbringing, but the adversities that queer folks face and other minority groups, I think allows us to see issues and problems with a more broad perspective, and we're able to see the intersectionality and how various issues kind of play out. So my role with me apart is actually more on the training side of things rather than the biology side of things. But being queer has allowed me to try my best to foster safe spaces and create those environments that may have not necessarily been there for myself when I was moving through my education in marine biology and marine management and early in my career too.
Isaac: [00:04:42] There's so many things I want to unpack there. But just on the last note you said about how maybe you're trying to really work to create these safe spaces that weren't there when you were going through, what did you feel like you missed the most? Like what did you feel was some of the biggest barriers around inclusion when you were going through and doing your degree?
Alexa: [00:05:01] I think one of the biggest things I noticed is kind of the higher up you go in academia, the more streamline those folks in positions of authority or higher up in academia are not necessarily seeing as many openly queer scientists was really challenging. Although I am proud to say that Dalhousie actually does have, I think, a really strong representation, at least in the biology department for for for queer professors and teaching associates and all of that. But I will say that the narrative is still predominantly cis, heteronormative, and I don't know that I necessarily was as attuned to it as I am now, but I think had I have been more aware of my identity as I was going through school, maybe I would have noticed more, more barriers. But I think I was really focused on my studies at that point in time.
Cyn: [00:06:02] No, it makes perfect sense. And I'm going to ask this question to both of you because this is one of my favorite questions to ask queer individuals who work within STEM, in particular in sciences. But do you find there's a lot of folks within. Well within their careers, usually of older generations, that with a science background, it's more difficult to be queer or LGBTQ or at least have that understanding because they have the stereotypical biology perspective on things. Or do you find that that's really being reshaped in in modern day?
Aaron: [00:06:41] I guess I can take a first stab at this. I'm still kind of going through the whole process of undergraduate and everything, and I've been able to interact with a lot of different professors and I feel like it is changing. I feel like professors now have a lot more of an understanding of gender and of the biological associations of gender. So it is getting better. I will say, though, that there are also from especially queer professors of an older gender from a prior generation where things were not a lot of them speak about not having anybody else who are gender nonconforming or LGBTQ+ or any other identities along those lines. So they didn't have the role models and that community aspect that I think Aleks and I are maybe didn't have in the past. But we're starting to see now. Like I live in a household of four other queer marine biologists. So like it is, we have a much more of a network community now starting to grow and I feel like they didn't have that opportunity. So even though they may be sometimes a bit more or other professors may be a bit more behind on understanding diversity, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality, I feel like they're getting there and they're moving towards better understanding and better also supporting students who are coming to their labs who identify along these categories.
Isaac: [00:07:56] I love that. That is I mean, I'm so inspired to hear that you're living with for queer ocean biologists, like because like, how big is the department itself? Like, is it would it be a fairly medium sized department? Like Dollhouse is a big university.
Aaron: [00:08:14] I think like we have quite a large biology department and a lot of students. Marine biology is probably one of the main, if not one of the main programs at Dow, which it's known for. And I'm happy to say that like we actually have quite good queer representation, both gay bi Pam, but also non-binary and trans. We have actually quite good reports. We're working on it. We have a long way to go still, but my best friends, also queer, queer marine biologists. So we, we find each other and we find ways to support each other. And there was actually a recent conference here in Nova Scotia which was directly focused on queer Atlantic Canadians in STEM, which I think was amazing, to be there and be among all these other queer scientists, and many of which were from Dow and Zinifex and Mount Saint Vincent and Acadia. So we had a really, really the community is growing and more people are starting to connect. And I think that's why we're seeing a bit more representation. But again, we still have a long way to go.
Cyn: [00:09:11] So I'm going to jump in there because that was going to be one of my questions. And I was and now I have you and I can ask you how the conference went, because I think I mentioned this to you that I've gone to that conference for. Oh, goodness. Since 2019, 2018. Yeah. And it's been fantastic. And it's grown exponentially. And I mean, since COVID has had to go online, now it's back in person. But how did it go?
Aaron: [00:09:32] Oh, my gosh, I was in heaven. It was so I presented to my work on Re Fish there and it was a blast. Landen did a fantastic job at organizing everything. We had such amazing speakers, many amazing trans professors as well, which was so awesome to see. And we had an amazing panel. But the pros and cons of being queer in science, we had amazing talks from people, not only from gender and sexual orientation minorities, but also along race as well. So that was really interesting to see that intersectionality were presented at the conference and it was just very cool to also see the diversity of stuff that queer people are working on. We have we had everything from stars and astronomy and planets to, you know, new AI technologies and cancer treatments to my area, which is marine protected areas and even stuff directly on queer culture and queer studies like queer nightlife and and as well as relationships. So we had so much and that was really amazing to see that queer people are working in every different field. And we're starting we're starting to make waves and we're starting to make a difference. And I think that's what Alexis pointed out to what Alexis said. We have a holistic understanding of certain things, and I feel like we have a voice that's useful and should be heard in all disciplines. And I feel like we have something to bring. And that was really demonstrated here.
Cyn: [00:10:55] Yeah, and just for listeners too as well. So the conference that that Erin is referring to is the Canned STEM Colloquium, I believe, trying to grab the dates here. It was October I believe, 19th to 21st or 20th to 21st at Mount Vincent University.
Isaac: [00:11:13] It was I think, yeah, just just the other week. But what we should do is we'll put a link in the show notes. To it because it's an annual event and we should definitely be there next year. I would love to connect with some folks there and hear what they're doing. I think that would be great. Can I jump in there, Aaron, and ask? So when we're talking about then the intersections of your identity and what you're bringing into science from your background, So you are Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern and you're also bi religious. Just so you're from Toronto. Were you were you born in Toronto or did you move over?
Aaron: [00:11:48] Yeah, So I was born in Toronto. My mom's side is Italian, so my great grandmother was born in Italy, but they moved over in the twenties. My dad is born in Mumbai, India. But the Indian community, the Jewish Indian community in India has been there for over 2000 years. We are originally from Israel and Judea. We came over due to a shipwreck because we weren't too great navigators or we are most likely escaping the destruction of another temple at the hands of the Romans or another group coming in to conquer Jerusalem. So we escaped 2000 years ago and we set up shop in Mumbai and, well, way before Mumbai was a thing. The villages on the coast of India and we're called the Israel. So we're an ancient tribe of Jews who ended up in India, and now we've moved all over the world. Not many are left in India, many, but everyone's kind of moved over to Canada, the US, UK, Israel. So that's where I'm coming from. And my mom is Roman Catholic, it's Jewish. So I was raised along those religions and also being Indian, I also got quite a lot of experience with Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism because those are primary religions of India and I have many family members who practice those religions and I have many friends who do as well. So that was also a really good upbringing to kind of see all of those things come together, which India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. And I think the Western nations can learn a lot from India and other nations especially.
Isaac: [00:13:17] And so with your studies, and that is taking you around the world and doing a lot of diving, you're both avid diving in researching that way. I love the photos you sent and we'll put them in the blog because they're super awesome. But so all of those intersections then and also being gay, has that impacted like the travel that you do, like in the dives in different locations? I'm just wondering if you could share a little bit about what that the layers of your identity there and how that may be impacts the studies as a as a as a world diving traveler?
Alexa: [00:13:52] You know, I.
Aaron: [00:13:52] Think I've I've been very fortunate to be able to travel around the world for my research and also to visit family and that kind of thing. And I feel like I have to take my identity wherever I go. And with that comes various issues and sometimes benefits when I travel. So, for example, I have done fieldwork and countries where it's very accepting to be gay. Canada is one example of that. But I have done fieldwork in countries that where it's taboo or not accepted. So that has had me to change the way I present myself to the world and also how I interact with my colleagues, but also local communities. So I feel like although we can provide really interesting perspectives to where we work and although it gives us this extra sort of dimensionality when we go to these places, we also have to deal with that baggage. And we also have to be very cognizant that our safety is at risk and we have to be careful. So I feel like that's so changing my way. I present myself, which is unfortunate, but that's just kind of the way the world is at this time and hopefully gets much better.
Isaac: [00:14:54] So it's a little bit yeah, I mean, obviously the elements of the diversity are like the elevating piece and that brings so much more into everything that you do. But it can be, if I'm understanding you right, like it can, it can narrow and add to the layers of the challenge, the challenges around that those levels. Yeah, for sure. Which many marginalized communities face. So if you have I guess that's the whole essence of intersectionality, one marginalization and then another and adding those on top just compound the challenges or the layers of of I guess, trickiness. As Alexis said, I love that word that you have to consider more when you're going into different environments.
Aaron: [00:15:41] Yes, for sure. Yeah. I've definitely had to do a lot of pre trip planning and thinking about how I want to present myself to the community, but also how I present myself to my colleagues and in the academic system, because a lot of these things are still also under consideration, under much discussion, even within our even within academia and marine science.
Alexa: [00:16:00] And just even building off what Aaron is speaking to, you do almost have to be really careful what you put forward depending on the situation that you're in. I've noticed that since graduating from school, various conference events, webinars. Aren't always as diverse as I would like to see. And at 100% changes how I move through the space. I'm definitely still working on bringing my whole self to my work. But you definitely face and I hope this happens less and less, but I have definitely faced discrimination based on my gender identity and sexual orientation. I think it's especially challenging for I don't know if Elder Queers is the right word because I'm not that old, but when you are already in the workforce and you have to come out and I think that for everyone who's listening is is just important to really to pay attention when when someone raises a concern and you notice that someone is doesn't necessarily fit that norm, providing space for them to feel safe and comfortable.
Cyn: [00:17:10] And Alexa, yourself to have you, what are kind of your your experiences around your identity and travel while you while you work?
Alexa: [00:17:20] I don't do as much travel these days. Traveling takes way more out of me than it used to. Being someone who is differently abled, which is totally okay. My energy reservations are not as high as they used to be. I have suffered from five concussions, so rest is very important in my life and that's definitely a facet of my identity. I was also raised Jewish. My ancestors immigrated to Canada around World War Two, being Jewish and my family residing in Poland and parts of what is now Russia. It just wasn't safe for our family at the time. I'm no longer someone who really practices the Jewish faith. I'm much more of a spiritual person, but I have the most respect and very profound understanding of my upbringing. And I'm still very proud to be Jewish. But definitely it has affected, I think, how we move through the world. And again, going back to how I communicate and the spaces that I create. I remember growing up being almost triggered around the holidays when people would say Merry Christmas, like, Have a great Christmas, and just really feeling like I wasn't seen. And I think especially once I moved. I'm originally from Montreal in Quebec, and I grew up in a in a pretty Jewish community. The school I went to had a great representation of Jewish folks. When I moved out here, I didn't know anyone who was Jewish. I wasn't able to to kind of find that community. And maybe that also kind of swayed me in a different direction. But. Ultimately, I think it's important just being aware that we can't just assume that folks all practice the same religion. And so just being inclusive in our language as much as possible. And I think it's really hard for folks who know. Are are part of that norm. There's within Canada and within, I would say, almost all of North America. There is very much a almost like a cookie cutter version of I think what. When you when you think of a North American, what comes to mind? And maybe that's just the stereotype that we've been brought up in.
Isaac: [00:19:53] Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, I think there's been know, like, I think even for my, like in growing up I grew up in a small town in Ontario, was a, was a small town in Brampton, but it was very you know, there wasn't a lot of diversity in my early childhood. And that's what we're always trying to break it down for cis gender listeners. And that's why it's so important, like you're saying, around representation and that visibility and just pausing, you know, before you assume that, you know, we not everybody celebrates Christmas under the Christian faith and that umbrella and and maybe thinking about how you're going and how you going into it, it can make it so much of a nicer interaction and experience for others by doing that. Right.
Alexa: [00:20:36] And what I thought was really interesting is when I was in high school, there weren't many openly queer folks. I didn't really have anyone to look up to. I think I also suffered from a lot of internalized homophobia. My parents very much, you know, wanted me to find a nice Jewish boy, and that was just not that was just never what I had in mind, although I wasn't able to verbalize that at a young age. But my parents no longer live in Montreal, and I actually went back to visit with my partner, who's also nonbinary, and we went back. It was probably in the spring, and even though I felt much more accepted in terms of my cultural heritage and my background, I just felt like I looked out of place and my partner and I were just walking down a strip mall and we were holding hands and people were looking at us. And that really doesn't happen in Nova Scotia. I know Nova Scotia has a pretty large queer community, and I think within Canada we might have the highest number of folks who are non-binary or genderqueer. So it was really interesting to kind of have those contrasting experiences where Montreal in Quebec in general have had massive amounts of immigration over the last few years. And I mean, one of the things I love most about Montreal is the cultural diversity, because I think diversity leads to innovation and just so much of a deeper perspective and broaden understanding, but also the food in Montreal, so many great cultures bring so many great cuisines.
Isaac: [00:22:04] Absolutely. Just wondering, do they think do you think they lag behind in Quebec or Montreal because of the pronouns, like because of the language and it's such a gendered gendered language that that is maybe part of it or.
Alexa: [00:22:16] I think that could have something to do with it. That's something that we internally have been discussing a lot. I mean, the language around pronouns going gender neutral, it's definitely a learning process. I just recently learned the term for like niece and nephew is nibbling, but I didn't know I wasn't an auntie until Y to my niece, but I didn't know what the term was. And someone asked me what you call a nine, a non-binary little little nephew. So I have to look it up.
Isaac: [00:22:49] So you spell is nibbling. Did you say it was nibbling?
Alexa: [00:22:52] Nibbling?
Isaac: [00:22:53] That's so cute. Oh, I love that. And Auntie. Oh, nice.
Alexa: [00:22:59] But I think the I don't want to say a language barrier, but I definitely think how the French language works with conjugation things. Having, you know, being feminine or masculine is just tricky. It is tricky to to kind of use neutral language. With a language that's inherently binary. I always thought it was really weird that a chair could be feminine and a cat is feminine, but, you know, like, it's just. I know it makes sense to some people, but my brain just had a hard time conceptualizing that.
Cyn: [00:23:33] No, And it's it's really interesting to because I find the French language in particular really tries to define things into boxes. And one time I asked I had a French teacher and I was like, Why is something like masculine and why is something feminine? And even she was like, Oh, well, I don't know. And I think she said, feminine words are things that can like explode and then masculine words are things that don't. And I was like, okay, no, no, like this is that. No.
Isaac: [00:24:05] Hey, Cis! is all about connecting communities and thanks to support from TD Bank Group, here is this episode's connected community moment.
Cyn: [00:24:14] Okay listeners, we want to hear from you. Head over to our socials or click the link in the show notes to hop on over to Facebook or Instagram and help us build an ocean identity word cloud.
Isaac: [00:24:23] What is an ocean identity? You ask? Well, we thought it would be fun as we're talking a lot about the intersections of identity and this episode to share one of our own identities. But here's the kicker is that it has to be an ocean related identity. So maybe you're a diver or a queer hyphen snorkelers, or you could put in a Queensland hyphen beach hyphen lover. If you hyphen your two words, it'll become one word and word cloud, which is my what I'm saying there. So anyway, head over there and let's build a word cloud this month that is highlighting our amazing identities that are ocean based and and get connected with some ocean themed fun.
Cyn: [00:25:06] We always invite your feedback and thoughts and you can email them to connect at Hey, Cis!. That Cisco link is also in the show notes. This has been a Hey, Cis! and TD Bank Group Connected Communities moment because inclusion matters. Backing things up a little bit because just a pure curiosity. Because Aaron, you mentioned, you know, there are certain places that you had to make that call and say, you know, I just I don't feel comfortable going. But what where have been some of the most interesting dive locations so far for you both.
Aaron: [00:25:38] I guess for me. And on that a little bit like there's definitely like thankfully my fieldwork has taken me to places that usually pretty accepting. When I referred to that, I was referring to opportunities for graduate school where I've had to make decisions not even applying because of that, but I have been in many locations where being out and queer is not usually a good thing or it is very taboo. So in terms of so that is more, I guess I'm referring to on that stance in terms of best dive experiences. Oh my gosh, South Africa diving in the kelp forests was a fantastic experience. South Africa is famous for its endemic shark species, meaning that there are sharks there that occur nowhere else in the world. They're only in that specific area of South Africa and being able to dive with them and work with them for a long period of time was amazing because you don't see them anywhere. And it's a very additionally, it's important for conservation in that if you lose them here, we lose them everywhere. So that I think is my favorite and one of my favorite dive experiences being wrapped in the kelp forest with these sharks. Another one I spent all the time in Bermuda and the shipwreck diving in Bermuda is amazing and that for me was very, very fun. Even we have even go diving here in Nova Scotia. But I'll say South Africa and Bermuda are my top experiences in terms of diving so far.
Isaac: [00:27:01] Be cold here.
Cyn: [00:27:02] Too.
Aaron: [00:27:03] I went diving last weekend for some kelp fieldwork and it actually wasn't terrible. I was in a dry suit, so thankfully I was dry. Well, at least. But I was dry the entire time, mostly so that that helped with the cold.
Isaac: [00:27:18] So, Alexa, what about you? Favorite favorite dive location or experience?
Alexa: [00:27:24] That's hard. That's hard to choose. Favorite dive location. Most of my dives have been in the Caribbean. I'm really fortunate to have been able to travel quite frequently there. But one of my favorite stories that I tell people probably too many times. This was when I finished my master's degree. I ended up going on a trip with my dad. He has had a few bucket list trips, but he really wanted to go to Freeport to visit Exuma Sound. But anyways, we had really rough weather the first two days our dive trips got canceled so our spirits were a little bit down. But then we were finally able to get out the next day and we were super stoked. And I usually dive with a GoPro. But for some reason when I jumped in the water, the GoPro froze and it froze emitting Bluetooth signal. But it was on it was emitting Bluetooth, but I couldn't record anyway. As we're going about our business, we're diving on the reef and two folks jumped in the water. They're dive masters, but they were kind of spearfishing, not with the group at a reef roughly 40 feet deeper. So they jumped in 10 minutes before us and the whole dive, I kind of felt like something was watching me.
Alexa: [00:28:45] I don't know if you've ever gotten that feeling, Erin, where something just doesn't feel right and go about our go about our dive. We're kind of circling back along the reef, getting ready to go back to the boat. And I noticed a piece of fishing line that was caught up in a reef. And my master's research focused on ghost gear, commonly called abandoned loss and discarded fishing gear. So I was right in my element and I flagged my dad and the dive master over and we were working together to remove this fishing line from from the reef. And just as we're kind of falling it all up and the dive master was shoving it into his BCD, which is the, the vest that helps you control your buoyancy and attaches your air supply to it. I kind of look back and all of a sudden there are six reef sharks circling us. And I've seen sharks on dives before and I have no problem with them. But usually they're kind of just like cruising past you. They're doing their thing. But these sharks were hungry and they were I was nervous. I kind of had a little bit of a like, Oh, no.
Isaac: [00:29:54] Are they big? Are they big or small?
Alexa: [00:29:56] Like how reef sharks can get pretty big, but they're on the smaller side for sharks. The largest one I think that we saw was maybe five or six feet.
Isaac: [00:30:05] Which was like six of them.
Alexa: [00:30:06] Yeah. So my dad runs out of air and he is doing his ascent back to the surface. And at this point I was going to wait down a little bit longer. And so I'm watching my dad go back to the boat as the sharks are circling us and see my dad kind of getting closer. And I still have my GoPro. And I think that because it was stuck with the Bluetooth transmitter on, it was confusing the sharks. And I'm really bummed that it was off because one of them was making a beeline straight for me and. I kept my cool and I use the GoPro and I kind of just pushed the shark away and it kind of swam off and that was it. Anyways, after we surfaced, we realized that the sharks were hungry from the spear fisherman or this boat spearfishing 40 feet below. And they were curious about the lionfish, which is an invasive species that they were that they were targeting. And obviously they did not give up their lionfish. So then they came to us thinking that maybe we had food or that we were food. But needless to say, everyone got back aboard the boat. We were all safe. And that's a story I'll never forget. And I do still wish that my GoPro would have been working because that would have been super cool. And terrifying. Could you.
Cyn: [00:31:23] Imagine? Oh, my goodness. I'm sitting.
Isaac: [00:31:26] Here.
Cyn: [00:31:26] Know. And I love learning about ocean animals, but oh, my goodness. I have such like very irrational fear of, like, deep water. And I could not imagine. I couldn't I. I'd be being so.
Isaac: [00:31:37] So were you both Aaron and Alex, were you both at Dell for all of your degrees, or did you go to other universities and experience inclusive or not inclusive environments in other particular academic situations across Canada?
Alexa: [00:31:57] I did my undergraduate degree and master's degree at Dalhousie, so I did a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Sustainability and then a masters of Marine management. But my work has always been very focused, or at least my research was focused very heavily on the commercial fishing industry. So I spent a lot of time in remote fishing communities across Atlantic Canada. And those communities are definitely not as queer as others. But even the types of conferences and events that I have been invited to facilitate panel discussions or sit on a panel. One thing I've learned over time is that if I don't feel that, if I don't see the diversity that I'm that I think is necessary and I don't feel like I will be safe or be heard or be able to be myself. Sometimes it's it's okay to say no. I've had to turn down some opportunities because I felt as if the narrative that was being shared with the audience wasn't as holistic as it could be. I've also just straight up asked, What's what's your stance on equity, diversity and inclusion? How are you trying to make this event accessible? Have you considered this, this and this? Have you spoke to this person? I think they would be a great addition to your panel, and I think that is really important too, in terms of being an inclusive leader is kind of along the lines of see something, say something. But there's definitely a delicate line of being able to provide that advice in a way that will protect yourself, but also help everyone learn and grow.
Isaac: [00:33:37] Absolutely. Erin.
Aaron: [00:33:39] I can't agree more with all that you said, Alexa. Those experiences are ones that in some cases I also share. I did my full degree at Dalhousie. I'm still finishing up my undergrad, but I also did a few visitations to other institutions in Bermuda. And also I was at an institution at Louisiana University's Marine Consortium in Deep South Louisiana. So New Orleans hour to Houma. Then even further south on the bayou. And Lum is an extremely accepting and inclusive institution. But of course, being there and engaging with being around the local community outside of the institution, that's when I had to be aware that I had to be careful in some cases. But overall, I've had pretty good experiences. I definitely I feel like what you mentioned about saying no to opportunities, I think that that's so important. You don't want to be in a place that doesn't support diversity. And I'm thankful that many opportunities that I've had both places are supportive. I also feel like there is a bit of pressure for young queer scientists in terms of you want to make a place in your career and you want to get opportunities and for queer scientist and also people of color to say no to a possibly an amazing opportunity. I feel like also pressures a lot of people to hide themselves, to try and pass by so they can get that opportunity to also compete with other students who may not have these same the same oppressive structures that don't permit their actually retention in academia or in STEM. So I feel like that's also important to realize is I'm guessing a lot of queer and bipoc students and other other minorities have had to actively say yes to opportunity to try and further themselves if they aren't in a place, especially those power dynamics, that they aren't in a place to say no. And that concerns me.
Alexa: [00:35:30] I'm just going to say it's concerning because folks end up putting themselves in situations where they're continually facing microaggressions and it is affecting them their well being. And it's unfortunate. And I think I hope that this trend is changing. But I think a lot of diverse folks, whether that be in terms of race, gender orientation, sexual orientation, end up leaving the ocean sector and STEM in terms of actual employment because it is very hard to, for lack of better words, get ahead as someone who doesn't fit the norm in this industry. And I do think it is changing, but there are definitely still struggles. And what Aaron said know, when you when you turn down an opportunity, sometimes it does leave a sour taste in folk's mouth and it might not necessarily be anything directly about that organization or that other whatever the situation be, but definitely a fine line sometimes and an added pressure that comes along with being queer.
Isaac: [00:36:33] Well, when you take on an event or an opportunity to, you want to be able to experience it fully and not have to be educating everybody when you're there as well, right? You just want to be there. And I think that's probably hard as well if it's put back on you to also say, okay, well, this is this is what a safe space looks like. It can take away from actually being present in the moment.
Cyn: [00:36:56] Yeah. And I know as a queer person myself, I. You know I have seen multiple times folks be. I wouldn't say the word belittle, but at least dismissed to some degree for declining an offer because that individual is like, oh, well, I'm, you know, coming to you as a marginalized community, you should just be taking any offer that you can get. You should be proud that people are seeing your work and acknowledging the work that you've done. But the individual, the queer or marginalized person needs to then look at themselves and be like, Is this actually worth my time? Is this worth my safety? Is it worth my security? Is there's so many factors at play that, you know, non marginalized individuals don't think about and don't have to think about because they haven't had to think about it. And I find that comes up so much more in academia than any other spaces, because we're just trained to just be like, take every opportunity you can get and then run with it. But that can't always be the case, especially for bipoc and queer and disabled people.
Aaron: [00:37:57] I feel like now that I'm applying to graduate schools, every supervisor I've talked to, I've actively asked the question like, Where do you stand on diversity? Do your lab meetings talk about diversity? What is the student community like? How your relationships with local indigenous communities like these are questions that I have to actively ask and be like, Where do you stand? Where does the department stand? If I talk about my work and equity diversity, how does that fair for my application? How do people react? How will your admissions process and in some cases a lot of universities, people who admit and sometimes the professors you're deciding things are very cis, old white men, you know, and that is very unfortunate. So I think it's become part of my interview process for professors and future supervisors in where do you even stand and where does your lab stand and are you discussing these things?
Isaac: [00:38:50] I was just wondering, Aaron, if and I know Alex, you want to jump in there, too, but have you ever had like when you asked those questions, like have you had a negative response or perhaps a tonal change in the conversation?
Aaron: [00:39:01] No, surprisingly, it seems that like I have always been met with and I would talk to the supervisor, always also back these up with the grad students as well. Where does the department stand? Where does the supervisor? And from what I've seen from everybody, it's actually quite amazing, of course, that everyone prefaces that we have a long way to go. These these are some systemic issues that still need to be solved and these are some things to be concerned about and things we're working on. But I feel like now in 2022, especially post the BLM protests, post a lot of the other major, major equity diverse events. Or tragedies we have seen around the world. I feel like universities and institutions and especially the younger professors are taking notice that we need to be an equity supporting institution. We need to support our students because people from diverse backgrounds make it better and they realize it. And I feel like there is no room anymore to be not inclusive and there's no room anymore or no kind of excuse to have, for example, an all white, all male department anymore. That is that is no longer a thing that should be excusable at all. And I think everyone has that now.
Isaac: [00:40:18] You're absolutely right. And I think it's like 54% of Gen Zers know someone who who uses gender neutral or neo pronouns like gender neutral pronouns, binary pronouns. And so there's no space left for that kind of behavior. Alexa, Sorry, you're going to jump in there.
Alexa: [00:40:35] Yeah, and I was just going to say, I'm really glad, Erin, that you've incorporated that into your interview process. Being someone who's an early career ocean professional and I'm part of Canada, so I'd encourage anyone who's listening who is an early career ocean professional, that means you're within ten years of your career to to join E Corp Canada. But to ask like future employers, what are your what are your stances or what is your definition of equity, diversity and inclusion? What does that look like in practice? Asking those questions and then, you know, doing a little bit of investigation. I think folks who are with with it and you're able to tell when something is performative versus when something is true allyship. And that is that is really important as well. It's not just about it's about making sure that you're putting yourself in in safe spaces and making those choices strategically.
Aaron: [00:41:36] I like that, Yeah. At the end of the day, if you are applying something or going to a job or position, this is benefiting you and your life and your future. What you want has to be a safe space for you. So it is important to actually test the waters and see is it going to be a safe space because you don't want to be miserable in a place that's not supportive or not accepting because that is a horrible and isolating experience. And I feel like we all need to. Unfortunately, it's annoying that some of the work falls to us as these communities, but in some cases we have to be careful about ourselves and protect ourselves from possibility of of those types of things.
Cyn: [00:42:14] As you both have been saying, normalize in the interview process, not the interviewer interviewing the interviewee, but the interviewee interviewing the interviewer. That is going to be a tongue twister someday. But it's so like whenever I go or have the opportunity to meet with someone, I'm like, ask me questions. I'll ask you questions like, Let's go back and forth. Let's understand where our common ground is and what you want out of this relationship, what I want out of this relationship, and find that that space. Because so often, you know, you go you're stiff in an interview, you know, no matter if it's for a job or any opportunity in life, you want to make sure you're coming to the table and being like, this is what this these are this is what I need to be successful in my career and this is what is important to me. Let's make sure that we're on the same ground, because then if not, then to your point, Aaron, exactly. We're going to be wasting time. So, Alexa, I'm going to look at you first. So tell us everything about Ghost Gear in 2 minutes or less.
Alexa: [00:43:13] Oh, my gosh. Everything about Ghost Gear. I've done so many projects on this, I could write a whole thesis. In fact, I have go scared, abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, sometimes called end of life fishing gear, which is a little bit different. So first it's called Ghost Gear because after the gear is lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded and ends up in the ocean, it could keep fishing like a ghost. So this gear ends up lost, abandoned and discarded for a variety of reasons. They usually act in combination with one another, but the most frequent reasons for loss are environmental conditions. The ocean is an incredibly dynamic environment, and it's quite easy for gear to accidentally break loose in Atlantic Canada. The lobster industry is one of the most dominant fisheries and they use a lot of gear to support their practices. So in some areas where there's a lot of fishing activity, sometimes gear can accidentally be set on top of one another and that can cause gear loss if a shipping vessel or a recreational boat accidentally goes over one of the buoy lines at low tide, it could cut the rope and then the fish harvester might not be able to relocate the gear if it then maybe got swept away with tides or currents. And the impacts are pretty evident. I mean, I think most folks are pretty aware of the significant entanglement issues that it can pose to marine mammals as well as seabirds and other marine life. But it also causes habitat damage.
Alexa: [00:44:56] And there's economic implications of it, too. This some of this loss gear can keep fishing indiscriminately, meaning it no longer is able to control what species it's targeting and can potentially trap not only commercially valuable species like lobster, but other endangered species like whale, fish and tusk. So I do know that in recent years, especially in Canada, government efforts have been incredibly helpful in encouraging organizations and fishing associations to not only go out and retrieve this gear, but innovate new gear designs that help reduce loss as well as one of the biggest areas of opportunity is in not necessarily just repurposing, but recycling some of this gear, especially the metal for the wire traps as well as nylon that is used for a lot of netting and rope. The end of life fishing gear is, I mean, especially in the commercial lobster industry, the amount of rope that's used and changed annually is just beyond what anyone can imagine. There's a picture that I have in mind that maybe I'll send you after of a fisherman on a massive pile of rope out in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. And at first you can't even tell that there's someone in the pile of rope because it's that large and soon rope will no longer be accepted in landfills. So we really need a solution. And there are a few companies that are up and coming in terms of being able to recycle that fishing rope. So that's everything about ghost Gear in a nutshell.
Isaac: [00:46:31] We have we have a few minutes left for this episode. And Wood Falls was something we wanted to ask about.
Aaron: [00:46:41] Yeah, on Wood Falls, this these projects are led by an amazing and very, very diverse team in Louisiana from when I got to volunteer and assist on these projects, both in Louisiana and in the Gulf of Mexico. On a research cruise led by the McLane Deep Sea Lab and a really diverse, amazing team from all over the place. So it's a really, really great group and I was lucky to be with them in 2018. And then in 2020, wood falls, basically tree falls somewhere in the forest, flows down the river, ends up in the ocean, somehow sinks down to the bottom. The deep sea is incredibly nutrient poor in terms of the food that's available. So when anything sinks down to the deep ocean, it's a feast for everything. Because everyone wants food, everyone needs food. And most of the food that comes the deep sea is from the from above things sinking down. There are things that produce food, obviously, in the deep sea. There are places where you have chemo synthesis. So instead of photosynthesis in the light, you have chemicals producing energy animals that harness the chemicals to produce energy and food for other organisms. But what falls are kind of the thing that falls in the surface and what hits the bottom. And there is a whole community of organisms like wood, boring bivalves, so clams that exist totally just to feed and live in the wood. There are crabs that can digest cellulose. There are species that actively are adapted to eat wood and other plant matter like kelp on the ocean floor. So these ecosystems are weird pulses of energy that come down, and it's all this carbon and nutrient availability. So many species on the deep ocean floor have adapted to feed on falling wood, and that is some of the stuff that the amazing people at Lum Conn and all over some of the other other institutions are looking at. And I myself, I'm now doing some deep sea research that uses some other wood fall data, which I'm really excited to get back into.
Isaac: [00:48:30] That's cool. So that would be like then a lot like where there's the river systems flowing out to the ocean. So that's where you're speaking about being in the bayou and that in New Orleans.
Aaron: [00:48:38] So in terms of the rivers like our work in the Gulf of Mexico, as I was volunteering with them and assisting with them, of course, the Gulf of Mexico receives major river output from the Mississippi, right? So we have a lot of plant matter coming from there. So we have a lot of windfalls there, too. So that is really important. We get deep sea would fall. We also have shallow water would falls and we still have so much to learn about how would actually there are organisms at the bottom of the ocean, 2000 meters down that feed on wood, and there's a lot to learn from that.
Isaac: [00:49:08] That's super cool. You tube, your science in mind. Thank you so much.
Aaron: [00:49:13] Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate.
Alexa: [00:49:15] This. I do want to plug that Neil Parr's annual network meeting is coming up towards the end of November. So there are lots of sessions that I think will really speak to folks in the STEM realm. But we're also hosting a workshop with Simply Good Form on Beyond the Binary Bias. So I'm really looking forward to that and. Urge anyone listening to tune in you can find more info at.
Cyn: [00:49:46] But I just want to appreciate you taking your time out of your day today, Alexa, to to join us. And you too as well, Aaron. And we will definitely have you both on together again in in the next coming months.
Isaac: [00:50:00] Thank you. That's all the time we have today, folks. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Hey, Cis!.
Cyn: [00:50:06] The conversation doesn't have to stop here, though. If you would like to get in touch with us to ask us a question or share your story on a future episode, you can email us at Connect at Simply Good Form dot com, or visit us on our website at Hey, Cis!.