Group, Inclusivity, and Connection: Reflecting on the 2023 Ladies of the Water Convention – Nexus Vista

This weblog is a part of a sequence referred to as AquaCurious, which discusses necessary 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 scholar, Kaitlyn Theberge. 

The Ladies 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. Almost 100 people from a dozen totally different states and Washington D.C., gathered collectively for the second Ladies 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 purpose: rising variety and inclusion in aquaculture. 

Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms, is essentially the most quickly rising sector of the agrifood trade, each within the U.S. and globally, with an common progress of 6.7% over the past three many years

Based by Blair Morrison throughout her Gulf Analysis Program science coverage fellowship, Ladies 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 supplied an attractive, participatory format with two keynote shows, analysis talks and posters, small-group workshops, a tour of the Mote Aquaculture Park, conference-wide discussion-based workouts and alternatives for formal and casual networking.

An addition to this 12 months’s convention was a mentorship program by which attendees of all totally different phases of their careers had 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 supplied scholar journey awards and elevated honoraria for invited audio system, made potential by nameless donors and sponsorships from Florida Sea Grant, Virginia Sea Grant by way of 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 take a look at what lies forward for each the aquaculture trade and our personal careers, we imagine there are necessary 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

Ladies 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 robust and provoking presentation from Dr. Megan Davis, who shared her expertise as a pioneer within the subject of conch restoration aquaculture. She spoke in regards to the challenges she confronted as one of many solely ladies engaged on a distant island within the Caribbean, whereas emphasizing the artistic 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 inspiration of her success stemmed from the worldwide community she established. 

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

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

Inclusivity is the Basis for Collaboration

How does the method of incorporating variety, fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility (DEIA) practices improve day by 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 all the time been part of aquaculture, it’s an all too widespread expertise to be the one girl within the room, making it straightforward to really feel alone and even extraneous. 

Whereas the convention is geared towards ladies and gender-diverse folks, it was outstanding to find out how 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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