Minorities in Science Thrive In The Kristin Grimes Lab at UVI
The passion that Kristin Wilson Grimes, Ph.D. holds for supporting underrepresented minority (URM) students in science is bearing fruit.
As previously reported, a contingent of female researchers from the Kristin Grimes Lab at The University of the Virgin Islands participated in the 24th Biennial Meeting of the Coastal & Research Federation (CERF). The team presented six talks based on their current research in the US Virgin Islands.
At CERF, MMES student Amelie Jensen and Grimes participated in CERF’s new Rising TIDES (Towards an Inclusive and Diverse Society) Program, an NSF-sponsored mentorship program funded through the Geosciences Directorate. Jensen was selected as one of eleven students from across the nation to participate in the program.
At a time when the NSF has broadened their definition of “underrepresented minority” in order to be more inclusive, Dr. Grimes’ work is auspicious. She is personally interested in how the sciences are enhanced by diversity and actively creates educational opportunities for URM students. She couples this with the mentorship and support structures necessary to ensure success. She is also deeply committed to place-based work, understanding that community-driven science and outreach projects make science better and more relevant. Dr. Grimes’ NSF INCLUDES, and the SEAS Your Tomorrow grants go to the heart of these values.
In addition to coordinating her student’s and professional staff participation in CERF, Dr. Grimes is also one of the moving forces that brought three students to participate in the Bridge to the PhD Program. In its inaugural year, this program is an unprecedented partnership between the University of the Virgin Islands and Pennsylvania State University, funded by NSF INCLUDES. The students participated in one summer of graduate study with Penn State faculty. During that time, they were trained on molecular techniques applied to coral reef ecology and other professional development training.
Dr. Grimes carefully creates opportunities for her (mostly stateside) masters students to engage with the Virgin Islands community through education and outreach projects that simultaneously build professional development skills. One example is the seven Marine Debris Community Transfer Projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program that students in the 2016 cohort participated in. With territorial educators, students co-developed proposals and implemented outreach projects with teachers, students, and the community. Through the Community Transfer Projects, MMES students gained essential professional skills: how to write a grant proposal, create and balance a budget, manage a project, communicate science to the general public through hands-on, outreach activities, and report on grant outcomes. Some students elected to use these projects as internship credits at UVI. MMES student Katharine Egan who worked with fellow graduate student Amelie Jensen and Charlotte Amalie High School Marine Biology teacher, Vernon Callwood and his students, said about the experience, “The most valuable aspect of the internship experience for me personally was the entire process. I gained valuable experience in writing grants, conducting outreach/education, exploring a topic in which I had no prior knowledge, working with my fellow graduate students and the USVI community, conducting data analysis, and writing reports. I feel as though these skills and experiences are not something I can gain with my thesis project alone….I value community-based work more now than I did prior. Conducting this project in the US Virgin Islands made me realize the importance of community-based work because this is a small island region, and these students can have a significant impact on their community through their project. Small-scale, community-based projects have effects that you can see almost immediately, and I value this type of work more because of that.”
Dr Grimes, grew up in Yarmouth Port, MA and has worked to expand opportunities for women in the geosciences throughout her career. As one of seven women who lead a state water institute, the U.S. Geological Survey-supported, Virgin Islands Water Resources Research Institute, she recognizes the important role that diversity brings to innovation and creativity. She is deeply committed to increasing environmental and marine science literacy in the Virgin Islands community. Success for her is realized when more VI families talk about ocean and environmental science at the dinner table. These discussions would mean that someone in that household had engaged with science during their day. While it may be rather impossible to measure this, that conversation is the definition of successful community engagement.