Discussion Panel on Unpaid Positions in Science

Dear Colleagues,

We all agree that our marine mammal community, and science in general, benefits from increased diversity. We all agree that barriers to diversity and inclusiveness, where they exist, should be dismantled.

In July 2020, the SMM received a petition requesting that the Society no longer post unpaid positions on our job board, as they contribute to inequity. This petition created an opportunity for important dialogue and consideration of the issue to occur. One of the most positive actions we can take is to facilitate this dialog further and include our membership to the greatest extent possible. To that end, we host an online forum with a variety of participants and perspectives on this issue on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST. This will be a moderated online discussion that will be archived for future watching.

Over the past few months, our colleagues in North America, South America, Asia and Europe have gathered insights and information from around the globe regarding the subject of unpaid positions in marine mammal science and how they help and hinder equity in the field. During this 1-hour panel, followed by a Q&A session, our moderators and panelists will share their collective insights and we will continue this discussion in a format designed to be accessible to our diverse global community. Panelists include: Eric Archer, Tara Cox, Auriel Fournier and Diane Gendron

Please join us on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST for this forum. Participation is open to everyone. Registration is required to participate in this event and it is free to attend.

Link to register:

We know that the timing will not work for all of our widespread members and we will be taking steps to address that. The conversation will be recorded and archived so our membership who can’t attend will be able to watch at their convenience. The panel will also respond to follow up questions that come from these delayed viewings. Most importantly, this is not the end of the conversation, merely the next step in our growth as a professional society.

About the Facilitator and Panelists:


  • Eric Archer, PhD is currently head of the Marine Mammal Genetics Program at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA. He is also co-chair of the ad hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Society of Marine Mammalogy. He is interested in paying forward the opportunities he has received and helping to open doors to a wide array of people with a curiosity for marine science.


  • Tara Cox, PhD is a Professor of Marine Sciences at Savannah State University and currently serves as Secretary and co-chair of the ad hoc Committee of Diversity and Inclusion for the Society for Marine Mammalogy. She has had paid and unpaid interns work in her lab.
  • Auriel M.V Fournier, PhD is the Director of Forbes Biological Station and an Assistant Research Scientist, Wetland Bird Ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. In addition to her work as an ornithologist, ecologist she studies and publishes research on how unpaid labor impacts scientific career paths.  
  • Diane Gendron, PhD is a professor and researcher on cetacean ecology with a particular focus on monitoring blue whales in the Gulf of California and promoting conservation of the Northeastern Pacific population. She accepts seasonal unpaid interns to work with her program in Mexico and provides them with partial support during their time in the field. 
  • Cindy Peter, Msc is Coordinator of the Sarawak Dolphin Research Project, based at the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, where she is also a Lecturer. Currently the Member-at-Large for SMM, Cindy ran for the position to contribute as a voice for members from the developing nation and to increase inclusion of Asians in the Society.

While we encourage an open, transparent, respectful discussion above all, for those who prefer to remain anonymous, questions can be asked anonymously via the Q&A feature in the Zoom meeting, and we have also set up an anonymous comment box (here) for you to leave comments or questions prior to or during the forum.

Thank you for being a part of this important conversation.

Eric Archer and Tara Cox
Co-Chairs, Ad hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
Society for Marine Mammalogy

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