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. This is just one of the reasons why we helped establish the Roger Arliner Young Fellowship Program—a paid fellowship for recent college undergraduates that focuses on increasing opportunities for historically underrepresented communities. We’re honored to be one of many partner organizations, including Pew Charitable Trusts, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The fellowship is currently hosted by the Environmental Leadership Program, who provides support for fellows through mentor matches, lecture series and leadership training.
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Roger Arliner Young was the first African-American woman to achieve a PhD in Zoology. She was a researcher and an activist who fought her entire career to overcome racism, sexism and classism. This fellowship in her honor aims to increase opportunities for people of color in the U.S. conservation sector, which has historically been overwhelmingly white.
We’ve been fortunate to host six classes of RAY Marine Conservation Diversity Fellows who are emerging leaders in the field. Our RAY fellows have delved into 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. After their tenure at Ocean Conservancy, they’ve gone on to work for environmental nonprofits, large media outlets and more.
While we miss our RAY fellows once they have moved on to their next experiences, we are always excited to welcome new fellows to the organization. Together, the current and former RAY Fellows are taking the environmental conservation field by storm.
Now, we’re delighted to introduce Ocean Conservancy’s current fellows, who represent the fifth and sixth cohort of RAY fellows. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish during their time here with us, and beyond.
Zavia Jenkins, Florida Conservation Program
Zavia grew up along the salt marsh in Nassau County, Florida, within the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Growing up surrounded by the Spartina grass and teeming wetlands, Zavia developed a deep interest and love for the marine environment surrounding her, and went on to study aquatic and marine biology at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. After graduating, Zavia worked as an archivist for the Gullah/Geechee Nation and completed the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training, then worked as a Faithful Climate Action Fellow and a Thriving Earth Community Science Fellow. As a RAY Diversity Florida Policy Fellow, Zavia intends to continue drawing on her cultural foundation while amplifying the voices of those communities often left unheard. Zavia will focus on helping the Florida program develop policy positions on issues related to Floridian water quality and abundance, sea level rise, and marine wildlife and habitat.
Olivia Lopez, Confronting Climate Change Program
Olivia is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spent her summers exploring the shores of Lake Michigan. She went on to study Conservation Biology, Environmental Studies and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her studies, rooted in environmentalism and Afro-American history, helped Olivia recognize her passion for environmental justice. She has also engaged in a variety research opportunities, including studying tropical soil ecology in the Marín-Spiotta BiogeoLab, investigating Indigenous community-based tourism in Panama and conducting a project focused on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay with Maryland Sea Grant, an opportunity which further brought out her excitement for marine conservation. Ultimately, she hopes to apply lessons learned from these diverse experiences while working to address the climate crisis. More specifically, Olivia hopes to contribute to solutions that advance climate justice for marginalized coastal populations in the U.S. and abroad.
Alliyah Lusuegro, Fish Conservation Program
Alliyah’s first home is in metro Manila, Philippines. At an early age, she formed a deep attachment to the environment, especially the ocean, every time she visited the Pacific waters and drove along mountainsides on family trips. Alliyah has since then migrated to the United States, where she graduated from Swarthmore College (Lenape territory) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a double minor in Biology and Gender and Sexuality Studies. At Swarthmore, Alliyah co-led the Green Advisors in the Office of Sustainability, a group of students who promote sustainable practices on campus. Alliyah cares deeply about environmental, social and immigrant rights, believing that everyone, particularly Black and Brown folks, has the right to a happy and healthy home. She plans apply her interests in storytelling and policy as a member of the Fish Conservation Program.
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.