Our ocean faces a diverse range of threats, and it takes a diverse community of advocates to protect it. We cannot talk about conservation efforts without discussing how diversity, inclusion and equity fit into the mix.
Ocean Conservancy is committed to being open, inclusive, fair and representative of all the people who love and rely on the ocean. That is why we helped establish the Roger Arliner Young Fellowship Program—a year-long, paid fellowship for recent college undergraduates that focuses on increasing opportunities for historically underrepresented communities.
We’ve been fortunate to host three classes of RAY Marine Conservation Diversity Fellows who are emerging leaders in the field. Our RAY fellows have tackled an incredible range of ocean issues, including researching microplastics in Vietnam, interviewing oyster farmers about the importance of NOAA research and sharing stories of women of color working to restore the Gulf of Mexico.
And those are just from Fellows we’ve hosted at Ocean Conservancy. There are RAY fellows in member organizations all over the country, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Rare, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and more. In addition to the year-long fellowship, participants receive funds for professional development and are connected with mentors in their field. And they join a peer network of other RAY fellows that will last long after the fellowship ends. Together, the current and former RAY Fellows are taking the environmental conservation field by storm.
We are always sad to see our RAY fellows move on when they are finished with their fellowship, but at the same time we are always excited to welcome in a new round of fellows to the organization.
Now, we’re thrilled to introduce Ocean Conservancy’s 2019-2020 class of fellows. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish during their time here with us, and beyond.
“The RAY Fellowship aligns my passion for environmental justice with community building. Through storytelling, I aim to utilize this platform to amplify drowned out voices of those from underrepresented communities and to highlight their resilience in the fight to protect our ocean.”RAY Fellow
Zoya Goodwin: Zoya grew up on the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. After graduating from high school, she moved to Texas where she attended Southwestern University to study Environmental Studies and Economics. As the first Micronesian to attend Southwestern, Zoya led conversations on campus about climate change and environmental justice in her community. This captured a professor’s interest and Zoya spent a semester conducting independent research that took a multidisciplinary approach to culture, education and the Anthropocene for the Micronesian Islands. She developed a newfound appreciation for her home island and its diversity, and a heightened sense of urgency for climate change initiatives and the importance of education.
After graduating in May 2018, Zoya interned with the OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates OCA and Environmental Defense Fund, which allowed her to advocate on behalf of the underrepresented Pacific Islander community on the frontlines of climate change. During her fellowship with Ocean Conservancy, Zoya will focus on environmental justice and community-based conservation storytelling, carrying forward the work of our other RAY Fellows Emily Okikawa, Ki’Amber Thompson and Cindy Nguyen.
“The ocean has always been a comforting constant presence in my life—the one thing that helped me adapt to change. It has always given me a sense of home, a place where I belonged. I grew up not knowing any Filipino American working in marine conservation. I thought it wasn’t an option for me until the RAY Fellowship. Today, I am beginning to realize that I have a role to play in protecting our ocean.”RAY Fellow
Rozette De Castro: Rozette was born and raised in the Philippines but calls the Bay Area, CA home. Growing up in coastal cities is what sparked her love for the ocean. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Political Science and a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. At UC Berkeley, Rozette was heavily involved in creating programs that increase access to higher education for underserved communities. These programs inspired her to pursue similar opportunities after graduation, including her current role as a Roger Arliner Young Conservation Diversity Fellow. Throughout the fellowship, Rozette will work with the Trash Free Seas Program to help emphasize the power of diversity and uplift the voices of underserved communities.
“No longer can we ignore the link between climate change and our ocean. Over the next year, I am excited to explore the impacts a changing climate has on the ocean, the ecosystems and communities as well as the role of the ocean in being part of climate solutions.”RAY Fellow
Kalina Browne: Kalina grew up on the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. She attended the University of Buffalo, where she earned a B.S. in Environmental Geoscience. After graduating in 2017, she interned with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center in Belize, performing statistical regression analyses on photovoltaic systems in several countries in the Caribbean. She subsequently shifted her focus to indigenous issues and became an event planner at The Garifuna Heritage Foundation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where she learned more about her culture and helped educate others. For the last half year, she has been procurement intern for the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Kalina will be working with the Climate Team on our science and policy engagements bringing together ocean and climate issues. Kalina is looking forward to gaining experience in the policy process on a local to international scale and integrating her technical and nonprofit skills.
Join us in welcoming our three new fellows! And watch this space, as our fellows take to the Ocean Conservancy blog to share what they are working on this year.