Group, Inclusivity, and Connection: Reflecting on the 2023 Girls of the Water Convention – Fin Serve

This weblog is a part of a sequence known as AquaCurious, which discusses vital and widespread subjects associated to finfish aquaculture within the U.S. This weblog was written by Florida Sea Grant Aquaculture Fellow, Hayley Lemoine, in collaboration with Knauss Fellow and Virgina Tech Grasp’s pupil, Kaitlyn Theberge. 

The Girls of the Water Steering Committee on the 2023 convention. Picture courtesy of Hayley Lemoine.

On a sunny and humid September morning, the buzzing of excited chatter stuffed a spacious assembly room overlooking Sarasota Bay. Practically 100 people from a dozen completely different states and Washington D.C., gathered collectively for the second Girls of the Water convention in Sarasota, Florida. This three-day occasion introduced collectively professionals from various fields together with scientists, regulators, neighborhood organizers, aquatic farmers, college students, and filmmakers to discover a typical aim: rising variety and inclusion in aquaculture. 

Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms, is probably the most quickly rising sector of the agrifood business, each within the U.S. and globally, with an common development of 6.7% over the past three a long time

Based by Blair Morrison throughout her Gulf Analysis Program science coverage fellowship, Girls of the Water goals to create a supportive neighborhood, promote studying, and supply skilled growth alternatives for marginalized teams in aquaculture. As the primary convention of its form within the U.S., it strives to construct a bigger neighborhood of follow for ladies, non-binary people, gender-expansive folks, and different underrepresented teams in aquaculture nationwide. The inaugural convention in June 2022 at Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida, marked the conclusion of Morrison’s imaginative and prescient with the assistance of her fellowship mentor, Dr. Marcy Cockrell, the present Science Coordinator at NOAA Fisheries Workplace of Aquaculture. Morrison and Dr. Cockrell proceed to co-direct the convention.

This 12 months’s convention hosted 100 members and provided an interesting, participatory format with two keynote shows, analysis talks and posters, small-group workshops, a tour of the Mote Aquaculture Park, conference-wide discussion-based workout routines and alternatives for formal and casual networking.

An addition to this 12 months’s convention was a mentorship program by which attendees of all completely different levels of their careers have been assigned a mentor or mentee. This system included a pre-conference webinar, a meet-and-greet breakfast, and a customized workbook with ideas and guided prompts for each mentors and mentees. The convention provided pupil journey awards and elevated honoraria for invited audio system, made doable by nameless donors and sponsorships from Florida Sea Grant, Virginia Sea Grant through the Aquaculture Info Alternate, and Mote Marine Lab.

Reflecting on this expertise as early profession professionals, and having served on the convention’s steering committee and mentorship sub-committee, we wished to share a few of our key takeaways. As we have a look at what lies forward for each the aquaculture business and our personal careers, we consider there are vital classes in neighborhood, management, inclusivity, and connection from this convention to take with us and share with others. 

Being a Chief Begins with Constructing a Group

Girls of the Water showcased how leaders in aquaculture navigate their careers and the position their skilled neighborhood performs in shaping their work. The convention started with a strong and provoking presentation from Dr. Megan Davis, who shared her expertise as a pioneer within the subject of conch restoration aquaculture. She spoke concerning the challenges she confronted as one of many solely ladies engaged on a distant island within the Caribbean, whereas emphasizing the inventive options she used to advance the science and follow of conch aquaculture. She underscored the significance of collaboration with native residents and the way the muse of her success stemmed from the worldwide community she established. 

The next day, Imani Black gave an invigorating discuss by which she took the viewers by way of the historical past of Black fishers and watermen within the Chesapeake Bay. She mentioned how the painful and surprising realization that shellfish aquaculture within the U.S. employs only a few black ladies motivated her to alter the sphere by beginning Minorities in Aquaculture, a collaboration of organizations and professionals that opens doorways and ensures that girls of shade have the help and assets wanted to reach aquaculture. 

These talks made clear that being a frontrunner doesn’t imply working alone in a silo. To make lasting, constructive change, it’s essential to construct a neighborhood that shares your mission, strengthens your efforts, and ensures the imaginative and prescient is carried on by those that observe in your footsteps. 

Inclusivity is the Basis for Collaboration

How does the method of incorporating variety, fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility (DEIA) practices improve each day life {and professional} actions? Earlier than this convention, neither of us skilled an occasion particularly centered on ladies in aquaculture. Aquaculture and fisheries are recognized for being homogeneously consultant fields and although influential ladies have at all times been part of aquaculture, it’s an all too frequent expertise to be the one girl within the room, making it simple to really feel alone and even extraneous. 

Whereas the convention is geared towards ladies and gender-diverse folks, it was outstanding to learn the way a lot variety exists inside these labels and to see the willingness of attendees to share susceptible elements of who they’re and the way it has impacted their careers. 

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