CEO Corner

Follow our CEO, Manuel Oliva, for insights and inspiration on the direction of conservation science today.

The Beginning of the Journey

When I joined Point Blue in May of 2019 I did so for many reasons, which include but are not limited to: The opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated scientists striving to create innovative and long lasting solutions to climate change; To learn from and be inspired by the next generation of students and early career scientists that partner with us through our impressive educational programs; To build on my passion for nature and help protect critical species and ecosystems that underpin our health and wellbeing. I also joined Point Blue because I wanted to help lead the next step of the commitment already made to authentically incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as justice within the organization and all of our programs.

This commitment is anchored in humility, and built on important strides that people at Point Blue had already made. Years before I contemplated joining Point Blue, and before we had a strategic DEI initiative, trainers in our internship programs began exploring how to increase racial, economic, and other diversity in our intern recruiting, hiring, and retention approaches. Our marine research programs began intentionally recruiting students of color to join as graduate student collaborators. Our education programs, including Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW), were reaching out to new schools that served more racially and economically diverse students and communities. These important pillars of our work led the way, helping to identify the challenges and opportunities. And we have built on these foundations to encompass all of our programs.

Today we have a DEI working group made up of staff members from all levels of the organization and a DEI committee on our Board of Directors, both dedicated to working together to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice across Point Blue and within the broader conservation field. It is the early part of our journey, a slow process committed to listening and learning, and to shifting our culture and work with intention and purpose. We have identified new important partnerships and begun exploring the often-challenging issues of race, gender, and other systemic inequities. Some examples include: our partnership with Center for Diversity and the Environment to support staff increasing their individual and collective understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion; our partnership with Latinos LEAD to help understand how to make our Board of Directors more inclusive; our partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe to develop culturally smart component to the climate smart restoration framework; and our partnership with the RAY Fellowship Program to promote early career positions for people of color. We are taking a fresh look at how we create and apply science considering the experiences and needs of more communities, including the important traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous communities. And we are creating new educational programs that are more culturally relevant and accessible to more racially and culturally diverse students not historically included in the conservation field. These are the first steps that we will learn from and build on.

Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of working in various countries with many different communities. I know firsthand from this experience the power of diversity and inclusion to design the most successful climate change solutions, and the importance of incorporating equity and justice measures to ensure these solutions are truly impactful well into the future. Our mission to advance conservation science through partnership and outreach to meet the critical crises of climate change and biodiversity loss will only succeed by increasing and diversifying the communities we learn from and work with. I am excited and privileged to be leading an organization that is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I am honored to help co-create a more sustainable and just future.