At the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, we are creating diverse and inclusive programs that more fully represent the communities that we serve. Incorporating more diverse voices broadens our knowledge and perspective and ultimately makes our work better. To support this vision, we are making changes in how we work in order to increase the diversity of the people, places, and programs we work with. Here are a few of our initiatives.
Expanding Our Summer Internship Program
Through the C-StREAM program with Chesapeake Research Consortium, we offer internships for students who identify as people of color and/or first-generation college students. This approach helps to create a more equitable workforce. We recruit, advise, and mentor college students from populations that have been underrepresented in environmental research and management professions. The C-StREAM interns bring a wealth of experience and diverse perspectives to complement the work of other interns.
Emphasizing Equity in Grant Opportunities
We provide grants to support the work of organizations outside of NOAA. We want to make sure that the organizations we fund represent, include, and serve a broad spectrum of communities.
Chesapeake Bay Fisheries Research Program
When we invited applicants for the most recent Chesapeake Bay Fisheries Research Program grant opportunity, we focused on expanding our applicant pool. We actively encouraged applications from historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and institutions that work in communities that had not been supported through these grants in previous years. In addition, we selected research projects that will employ and educate undergraduate or graduate students from groups underrepresented in marine science careers, including minority students. Encouraging institutions to support these students as they develop their career paths can benefit all of us as we work toward a more representative workforce.
Chesapeake Bay-Watershed Education and Training Grants
NOAA’s Bay-Watershed Education and Training program provides grants that support place-based environmental education experiences for K-12 students and teachers. NOAA B-WET is a primary way that we engage with youth. We are committed to include diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice considerations into all projects. We connect organizations that are considering applying for a Chesapeake B-WET grant with key data and information related to equity. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Justice and Equity Dashboard helps organizations identify school districts that have higher numbers of underrepresented students and fewer opportunities to experience environmental literacy programs. Potential grant applicants can then partner with one or more of those districts to develop programs. We also encourage new community partners, especially those who live and work in underserved communities, to get involved in our education work. This can help programs be more relevant to students’ lives.
Helping Diverse Communities Adapt to Climate Change
With assistance from NOAA, the Envision the Choptank partnership is helping with climate resiliency projects in underserved communities. These are communities that have not been included in environmental projects in the past. We are assisting partners with projects to engage historically Black communities and Spanish-speaking communities in designing projects to alleviate flooding. These projects are also designed with the community to provide additional benefits like increased green space and opportunities for recreation. We are also helping to highlight the MyCoast app. It is an easy tool residents can use to document their flooding issues and pursue resources to increase the resilience of their homes and neighborhoods.
Growing a Culture of Inclusion, Understanding, and Empathy
We want the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office to be a workplace that is open, welcoming, and appreciative of all perspectives. To foster this, we have created opportunities to learn, reflect, and share experiences with each other in a relaxed and informal setting. We have held voluntary meetings that included discussions about articles or videos that described different themes related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and considered the ways we could bring those values into the way we work. We also regularly revisit this learning in our staff meetings.