[MARMAM] Society for Marine Mammalogy Update on the Unpaid Internship Discussion

Charles Littnan president at marinemammalscience.org
Tue Jul 21 13:08:09 PDT 2020

Aloha Marine Mammal Science and Conservation Community-

I wanted to share a quick update on behalf of the Society for Marine
Mammalogy Board regarding the petition related to unpaid internships and
the subsequent discussion on MARMAM and beyond.

It is encouraging to see ongoing dialogue and the evolution of various
positions as more voices and perspectives engage on the issue. At the core
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. The challenge we
face is finding agreement on what the ‘right’ course of action should be
and which action should come first. The initial dialogue on internships
quickly moved to two perspectives: one being that unpaid internships were
the barrier that needed addressing, and the other that a focus on
underrepresented groups throughout the marine mammal science career
pipeline was the necessary action.  Thankfully, the discussion has
continued to grow in nuance with greater acknowledgment that the pipeline
is broken in many places and each spot needs focused attention. This is an
issue of “and” not “or” - it is both unpaid internships AND lack of access
in early education (and so much more) that contribute to the struggle to
achieve greater diversity in our field.

The SMM has just received the petition, and it will feed into the Board’s
ongoing deliberations on this important and multifarious issue. The Board
is reviewing the online discussion and available literature, reaching out
to a broader cohort of our community, and looking across other professional
societies to see if and how they have addressed similar concerns. After
this initial process we will work with our membership to find what action
by the SMM is in our purview and could address this issue in a meaningful
and responsible way.

One thing is certain though: one of the most positive actions we can take
is to facilitate this dialog further and include our membership to the
greatest possible extent. To that end, we will soon host an online forum
with a variety of participants and perspectives on this issue. This will be
a moderated online discussion that will be archived for future viewing.
Our intent is for this to happen in mid-August.

While across our community there may not be 100% agreement on the issues
raised in the petition or some of the responses to it, I believe we should
thank those who have started the discussion and those who have stepped up
to respond. This is how our marine mammal society will grow and advance -
by asking hard, often uncomfortable questions, and taking necessary steps
to improve. We best serve our community and the animals we study by being
open to these discussions, self reflective about our roles and
perspectives, and willing to evolve when necessary.

More information, including ideas for specific actions, will be coming
soon. If you have thoughts you would like to share directly with the Board
please feel free to email me at president at marinemammalscience.org or
contact our Diversity and Inclusion Committee at
diversity at marinemammalscience.org. Or visit our website and leave your
thoughts on the subject:

Be safe and well.


Charles Littnan,
President. Society for Marine Mammalogy
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