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Young scientists working to diversify marine biology field

Minorities in Shark Sciences, or MISS, aims to diversify STEAM fields by providing opportunities to learn about marine biology.
Posted at 10:22 AM, Mar 08, 2023

Jasmin Graham loves the ocean. An unexplored world underneath the surface led her to become a marine biologist at a young age, but she quickly discovered the field is lacking diversity.

An estimated 71% of marine biologists are White. Ten percent are Asian, and about 8% are Hispanic or Latino. Only 3% in the marine biology field are Black.

During the pandemic, Graham and a group of other Black shark researchers founded Minorities In Shark Sciences, or MISS. The organization's goal is to diversify STEAM fields.

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To understand the reasons behind some disparities, Graham says you must look below the surface. An estimated 64% of Black children can't swim. Compare that to 40% percent of White children who can't swim.

Graham knows firsthand that access to water can also be discriminatory."My dad grew up two blocks away from the ocean but wasn't allowed to go to it because that was the 'White beach,'" she said. "They had to drive 45 minutes to go to the 'Black beach.'"

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The mission of MISS is to provide mentors and internship opportunities to kids from diverse backgrounds. The organization helps people get scuba certified and assists Black students in college with publishing articles. The group also provides on-the-water workshops during school breaks.

MISS serves people of all ages who want to get into marine biology.

"All programs are free and include transportation. That's a big issue, 'Can you actually get to the ocean,'" she added.

Graham's hope is to someday help set the sun on the status quo while opening the eyes of a new generation to the field she loves.