Field research experience is key to success for many Arts & Science students, and now the Field Research in Ecology and Evolution Diversified (FREED) program, is ensuring those who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of colour have equal opportunities to thrive.
“Field work is extremely expensive, which closes the doors for so many people due to systemic factors or financial issues,” says Mariel Terebiznik, FREED co-founder and recent U of T graduate with a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. She started the program alongside Western University master’s student Aranya Iyer. “I want to make room for people who don't have access to these spaces,” she says.
Celebrating a successful pilot program this past summer, FREED, in association with the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB), funds a week of education, travel and accommodation at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station. Students are immersed in paid and intensive field work environments where they gain crucial experience for future research positions.
Assistant Professor Njal Rollinson from EEB acted as faculty sponsor because he knew how crucial this was for students’ success. “It’s important to get this type of research experience under their belt so they can put it on their resume,” says Rollinson. “And it helps them clarify whether they want to go into field research in the first place. “These are the fundamentally important things that most people like me had the privilege of experiencing early on in my career whereas others haven’t.”