Assessment of FREED Student Experiences for Accessible Experiential Learning

On November 23rd 2023, co-founders Mariel Terebiznik and Aranya Iyer presented recent research from FREED, Field Research in Ecology and Evolution Diversified. FREED is an organization dedicated to increasing access to field work for Indigenous, Black, and/or Racialized (BIPOC) individuals who are underrepresented in EEB and related fields.  FREED addresses these barriers by creating a field-based curriculum that is led by majority BIPOC graduate students and early-career professionals for BIPOC undergraduate students. In their presentation, Mariel and Aranya discussed how their team assessed the impact of accessible, experiential learning experiences for BIPOC undergraduate students in field work and ecology and evolutionary biology. By conducting surveys during the 2023 event that assessed student experiences before and after participating in FREED, they measured how student perceptions of their own skills and confidence in field work, sense of community in conservation and ecology sectors, and likelihood of pursuing a conservation-based career changed after participating in FREED.  Preliminary results demonstrate an increase in all three areas, suggesting a positive benefit of experiential learning to FREED participants. FREED co-founders also discussed future plans to organize more FREED events within and beyond the University of Toronto community.  

Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into Ecological Research

On January 22nd, 2024, Jaime Grimm (PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto EEB department) and Reta Meng (PhD Candidate at McMaster University Department of Biology) shared their knowledge and experiences with knowledge co-production. Drawing on their own experiences working with Indigenous communities, Reta and Jaime described their respective processes in co-producing knowledge, highlighting the various ways that this approach builds more inclusive projects and capacity within and outside of the community. They also reflected on the individual and system-level challenges associated with co-producing knowledge including the typical academic process, research timelines, and the necessity of sharing control and intellectual ownership with the communities they work with. Thank you Reta and Jaime for an amazing talk!