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I am an Imposter.

I am an Imposter.

My New York Times subscription this past year has leaned hard into social justice, race and other issues. But today! It hit the nail on the head. (OK, so the actual post came a month ago and I just got to cleaning out my emails). Kristen Wong, discussed navigating imposter syndrome.

I read it and I nodded throughout. I still have imposter syndrome, no matter how diverse and interesting My CV may be for my students, I still see/feel/hear disbelief in my abilities from my superiors and supervisors.

Today, I am writing this for all the Bahamian and Caribbean students and researchers who feel their work is not recognized, that they do not have the talent to bring in the research grants etc. But I am also writing for myself. I am writing to confront this and to put into perspective what has fed my imposter syndrome and to point out some of the things I have to revisit to regularly to help me keep my head up.

These are the core tenets of Imposter Syndrome:
I love science. I am an accomplished scientist. However, I do not see other scientists that look like me in science leadership roles and often feel like my work is not good enough to meet the standards of the scientific community.

“The psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term in 1978, describing it as “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” In other words, it’s that sinking sense that you are a fraud in your industry, role or position, regardless of your credibility, authority or accomplishments.” from Kristen Wong’s paper

I remember watching hours of David Attenborough and David Suzuki on TV.  I was fascinated by science. I always wanted to know what a plant or bug or animal was and why it did what it did. I gravitate toward taxonomy hence my Reef fish ID and AGRRA marine organism certifications and my work with Bird monitoring and BirdsCaribbean. I would capture different animals and grow plants with my siblings. But in school, traveling around the world looking at animals was not an option. A black bahamian student with science talent, could possibly be a doctor or a dentist. Maybe a pharmacist.

At the Botanical Gardens, I worked with Miaya Armstrong and another female student on a summer internship. We worked with Dr. Henry Isaacs, we saw the bat caves on New Providence for my first time. We did a pig necropsy I think Dr. Jeffrey Lyn was there as well. We had the opportunity to remove brain stem tissue from stray dogs to investigate rabies prevalence in the Bahamas. (rabies free! doot doot!) For the first time, I worked with scientists that looked like me, spoke like me and came from where I came from. It would be a while before that happened again.

Throughout the rest of high school and my time at COB, I had teachers that delivered the science content, but not that I could see doing the type of research I wanted to.

I met Eric Carey at the Royal Botanical Gardens. He introduced me to Dave Ewert, Joseph Wunderle and the Kirtland’s Warbler Research and training Program. You have to google them to find out all they have done, because they are super modest, but during this project, they not only taught us science, ethics, and conviction, they did it by example. Dave, Joe, Matthew Anderson, Dave Currie were with us in the field. Oh, they are all non-Bahamian white men. I never saw Mr. Carey in the field with us. We were paid a minimum and when the project was over, we kept the books, but not the binoculars. Knowledge, but no tools. The project was amazing, but as we fell out of touch it fell to the back of your toolbox as a summer job that was really cool but is now over. You are not a scientist, you were a technician. A temp worker. A busboy, not the chef. By the way, now you have to find a real job suited to you. I cleaned kennels at the Humane Society, worked at the movie theater, washed cars and was a cashier and receptionist. Hey, Black scientist, you are not alone.

My first trip to the USA alone was to intern at the USFS Huron Manistee National Forest office in Mio, Michigan. I turned 21 during that internship and met some awesome people. I was the only person of color that I saw in town that summer, unless Smokey Bear counts. I was picked up from the airport by Phil Huber, who set the precedent for me always being picked up in the airport by an older white male I did not know, when I come to the USA.

Ancilleno Davis (right) in USFS uniform stands hugging Smokey the Bear. They both have one arm around the other's shoulder and are giving a thumbs up with the other hand.
I met Smokey Bear while interning at the USFS Huron Manistee National Forest in 2002

The next year, I worked on the Abaco Parrot Project in Abaco island. Again, I was the Bahamian student and generally the only person of color/Bahamian, until the following year, when Vashti joined and when we had some latino employees assist in technical matters like installing steps and blinds in pine trees.

The really cool thing from both of these projects, is the leadership recognized that students from the Bahamas, provided an essential opportunity to engage with the community and leverage local knowledge. We took what we learned into classrooms and public spaces, in ways the project leadership could not, and we have not stopped. They let us be scientists, even including us as authors on our first scientific papers.

Cool.

I was beginning my US college career, at the same time. Dr. James Wiley picked me up and he has committed his career to getting more Caribbean and underrepresented scientists into ecology and science. BSC GPA 3.987 and I moved on to do the MSC.

I was struggling in a calculus class and told my advisor “my learning style and his teaching style are not compatible”. (Yes that is what I said.) I dropped the class. I remember what I said, because it came up later that year. I drove undergraduate students to a math conference and the calculus teacher, a white male, offered me a drink, but I opted for a sprite. We sat down with some of the undergrad students and the conversation turned to me dropping his class. Eventually he told me he would get another degree before I got my first degree and that I did not know but his wife was a big-time judge (paraphrased). I told my advisor and the chair and detailed the event, avoided him for the rest of my time, but never forgot how confident he was to say that to me. Ironically he was just one of about 6 white professors I had while at that HBCU, but this is probably the most well remembered interaction of those 3 years.

I felt, I was not competent in calculus, because he has a doctorate and he was the teacher and I could not understand him. I felt that he had the power to take away my opportunity for achievement and that I was powerless to stop him. Fortunately, Dr. Madhumi Mitra, my advisor, is a stand up professor and mentor and she supported me through that.

in 2012, Alma encouraged me to pursue my PhD, but the scholarship I was going for was not for PhD students. Noone had expected a Bahamian student to pursue a PhD in ecology. This came as a real surprise to me that a scholarship could be limited to the Masters level. Eric Carey, Hays Cummins and Casuarina McKinney reached out to Dr. Gerace who made sure I got the scholarship. Knowing that I was the first PhD student in the Bahamas to get this scholarship in pursuit of a PhD, still brings tears to my eyes not in the least because, it showed me that the Gerace Scholarship was really about educating Bahamian scientists. I was also immensely moved by the fact that all these local Bahamian leaders in science could reach out for me to get this opportunity and that I perhaps had opened the door for others.

In 2016, I found out that my scholarship was coming to an end and I had missed the extension deadline. I had also determined that I could not get enough buy in from the marine science community, including funding to complete a PhD project on marine resources at home, so I switched to Birds. I met with the head of my program, in an attempt to find possible support, funding etc. He told me the committee did not see me as successful. At that time, I was still the raisin in the rice as far as my department and program goes. So I thought of all that I had done, to represent the department and graduate students, to support my community on campus and in the Caribbean, and all of my conservation work, education and outreach, professional development and coursework. A group of scientists I had never met (I still do not know who that committee comprises) were deciding that none of what matters to me matters. His words, “We do not see you as being successful” still echo in my mind. Every damn day.

He did not lead with measures or comparisons, it was a “We” and “you” thing. He did not know of any of the difficulties I was going through. Students in our program never had an opportunity to meet all the students or leaders of our program and our program guide was still a google doc in progress. I asked him how my fellow students were doing in comparison and later found out that many of my closest friends in the program felt they were in a similar situation. At this point it felt more and more like a “me” thing. It still does. When I think of it, it distracts me, it holds me down and sucks my productivity out.

I felt, I was not competent , because he has a doctorate and he was the teacher and He did not see me as successful. I felt that he had the power to take away my opportunity for achievement and that I was powerless to stop him. Fortunately, Dr. Hays Cummins, my advisor, is a stand up professor and mentor and he supported me through that, I also got Dr. Jim Oris in my corner. (if this paragraph seems familiar, I cut and pasted it from above) There are ten years of experience, conservation work and success between these two events. But, instantly, I was returned to that same place of feeling like I do not belong and someone else gets to decide.

I am now following a different path as far as my interactions with the department, not volunteering for committees or additional work and using checklists to monitor my progress. Fill a box.

I am an imposter. I am pretending to be concerned with the scientific pursuit, the publications, and academic answers over my personal pursuit of progress and change in my community. But I am playing the part. I need to follow the schedule and submit my forms and make their progress. But when the time comes, I have to remember, I can step off the stage. I can always go back to being the community engaging, capacity building, local scientist/citizen/stakeholder, Bahamian and Person of Color.

If you have ever felt like this, reach out, comment, share.

#ScientistOfColor #BlackAndSTEM

 

For the Cokley et al paper, go to An฀Examination฀of฀the฀Impact฀of฀ Minority฀Status฀Stress฀and฀Impostor฀ Feelings฀on฀the฀Mental฀Health฀of฀ Diverse฀Ethnic฀Minority฀ College฀Students

for Kristen Wong‘s piece click below.

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Failures

So today, I continue to whittle away at the edits to my first article.
I am using MSWord to view and accept edits.
I clicked on a comment in my review pane.
the entire document dissappears and is replaced by text from the comments and some jibberish code.

perhaps I should point out, I started the document and collaboration in google docs, the comments were translated when I downloaded it to share with a collaborator.
and I am using Mendeley to manage my citations.

Miami’s Application catalog does not allow me to update Mendeley or word myself to the newest version on the computer I am using.

so, I had to go back to an earlier version of my document with the accepted edits to that point.

save early and often. and take a break when needed.

Ancilleno Davis, AA; BSc; MSc
PPP: he/him/his/they/them/theirs
Twitter: @ancilleno
Founder/Coordinator – BEINGS
Director At Large – BirdsCaribbean

Every student needs someone who says, simply, "You mean something. You count." -Tony Kushner, playwright (b. 16 Jul 1956)

Teaching evaluations

I am reading through my teaching evaluations from last year.
I have to say, I am truly touched and appreciative of the students I have had.
Needless to say, there are some negatives that I need to work on, but I wanted to share some of the added comments that really touched me and some of my thoughts.

"This class pushed what I thought were my limits of the amount of material I could learn. I was initially intimidated, but I learned that I could handle a lot more than I realized. The instructor did not take it easy on us but lovingly pushed us to learn more than we thought we could, and I have never been more grateful." – With the pedagogical foundation provided by Dr. Russell and his enthusiasm, I think this was easy to do. But, I genuinely want my students to do well, not just in my class, but as citizens of the world.

"-he really seemed to care about helping us in our careers after Miami. I appreciate that he focused on some of the more minor, yet important, skills, such as recording data/writing ebird checklists. I also appreciated that he pushed us not to jump to conclusions in our bird identifications. While it was sometimes frustrating when he had us check our identification of, say a robin, I think in the long-run this is a good skill and it made me think more critically about what the key field characteristics of a robin actually are." – As scientists, it can be easy to overlook the little things when we feel we know the material. I had to keep reminding myself when teaching my students and the best way to do this is to ask clarifying questions.

"TA provided safe/fun/engaging space for learning about birds and life. Leno was always there for us on course material, as a mentor, and as a good person. One of the best." – This one means alot to me, because this past year has been a dark one for some students and knowing that my classroom is "safe" is of the utmost importance.

"This has been my favorite class of my college career." – 🙂 no, seriously 🙂

"Leno was always available for not only class help, but also general career advice and insight from his long career in the sciences. Never had a TA that I thought so highly of." – This I think was the hardest earned comment. As a Graduate student, husband and father, my time is extremely limited, but I feel all teachers, professors and instructors should go into teaching with a strong commitment to be there for their students.

"Leno had a great attitude towards our course work and us students. He was also open to our questions and enjoyed cracking jokes to make the class period fly by." – so, only one student mentioned my jokes… Do I have to make more next time??

"very approachable and enthusiastic about biology. made the class fun and interesting. his course was one of the reasons l am switching my major to biology" – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

I hope you all enjoyed these and I want to remind you to fix the negative and hold on to the positive as you teach with kindness and science hard.

Ancilleno Davis, AA; BSc; MSc
Twitter: @ancilleno
Founder/Coordinator – BEINGS
Director At Large – BirdsCaribbean

Every student needs someone who says, simply, "You mean something. You count." -Tony Kushner, playwright (b. 16 Jul 1956)

Circles

I think all other shapes with radial symmetry are lower resolution circles.

Sent from my iPad

Where did this start? Part 2: A Bird In the Hand

While working with the BREEF www.breef.org ConZoovation Summer camp at Ardastra Gardens www.ardastra.com in 2012 the keepers told me they had a hummingbird that had gotten caught in a spider web. For me, saving Webber (the name I gave him while writing the blog) was important. His wing was actually tied to his little body and several of his tail feathers came out while removing the web. It was pretty sad to see his one wing fluttering and him spin around in the box like a firecracker with a broken stem. We got the web off and he just lay there panting, but Alma Davis the senior keeper at Ardastra brought some sugar water (a trick I learned from Joe Wunderle, Ornithologist extraordinaire). We juiced Webber up and he quickly took off. After landing for a second on the edge of the sugar water bowl and then the rafter in the enrichment room, we caught him again and he was set free.

Webber the hmmingbird in sugar water

Holding a hummingbird was one of my turning points to being an Eco-Warrior. Andros Island Bahamas during bird banding on the Kirtland’s Warbler Research and Training Program, we measured hundreds of native and migrant birds caught in mist nets, but when you hold a hummingbird something changes and you can’t go back. You also never know when you will get the chance to again.

I am hoping this kind of change happens for the kids at the summer camp too. they got to hand feed the Loris and march with the Flamingos.

Where did this start? Part 1…

I often end up speaking to students about where I got my start in environmental science and there are definitely several turning points.

Surely the first step was the Royal Botanical Gardens in Nassau Bahamas. Mommy worked there most of my Primary school days (Yes I still call her “Mommy”, but bahamians pronounce it more like mummy). After school we (Bovair, Nikki and I would sometimes walk around the corner to her work and hang out in the gardens. Sometimes we would be joined by our cousins, Lawrence, Sam, Cheska.
That place is full of adventures for young kids. Swinging on vines, eating the fruits, running from the bees we disturbed while climbing in the huge trees that had half toppled in some forgotten hurricane. Awesomeness.
I am sure that set the roots for me wanting to become an environmental scientist. I just did not know that this was a job.

Next I believe was finding out that my teachers sometimes did not agree with other scientists or what I saw in the world. I remember finding a black spider in my backyard with an hourglass shape on the underside and telling my tenth grade science teacher that I saw a black widow spider. She confidently told me that was not possible because there are no Black Widow Spiders in the Bahamas. Now I know about sample size and effort and reporting biases that may prevent lots of organisms form ever being reported. I did review the Encyclopedia we had and confirmed that it was indeed a black widow or at least a close relative. I was satisfied at that age but I never pressed the issue with my teacher.

I guess that is where I got the research bug…

Books versus serial literature

So, you are a scientist. For many of us that means the drive to publish scientific papers in serial literature such as journals. However, as a naturalist or scientist that blends science with other disciplines, how will you stack up when it comes time to seek tenure (if that is what you are after?)

To be honest, I often feel a public presentation to stakeholders has more impact than fifty publications (if impact is what you are going for).

Yet, as I complete my dissertation work, the core culture of robust science with peer review is indispensable.

Scientists: How do you share your publications and what is your mix of books vs. journal articles? What non-traditional items have you produced? Song, video, sculpture, maps?

Non Scientists: how do you perceive scientists and the journals they publish in?

Here, I would like to share with you journal article about the contributions of James Bond’s books.
https://akademiai.com/doi/pdf/10.1023/B%3ASCIE.0000018536.84255.b1

enjoy.

People can be more than one thing…

Gary: I always took care of my niece, Kayla. She’s had a lot of bad breaks, but I was the one person in her life who always made sure she and her baby had food to eat, a roof over their heads.

Sheila: That’s really nice.

Joel: He assaulted you. He’s a creep.

Gary: People can be more than one thing, Joel.

This is a brief exchange from “The Santa Clarita Diet” on netflix.

unimportant clarification:Gary is a disembodied head that was reanimated after Shiela (a zombie) killed and ate him for assaulting her.

I have been thinking about it alot lately. I watched the episode a few months ago. Since we continue to be surrounded by the crap storm of a) violence against people of color; b) immigration rhetoric and action that describes and or treats human beings and children as animals/ nonentities/ criminals alternatively, and c) global climate change, I need a way to compartmentalize or rationalize the different people I am seeing around me. Especially when two of those people share the same body.

I am studying at a Predominantly White “Public Ivy”. The professors and surrounding community profess mostly liberal views and you can see the “you are welcome here” signs in the front yards and activism is at an all time high. At the same time, laws at the local, state and national level and policies throughout the university are specific to International students in ways that target, isolate and ostracize them or reduce their potential for success.

In one on one conversations, we can see their passion, their commitment to the students and hear the heartbreak in their voices. But in their work, they tell you, “My hands are tied”. They have to choose the hills to die on. And I think I get it. Why push against the system to fight for international students, when you are more likely to be successful fighting for black citizens, latino citizens, LGBTQ+ citizens etc.?

People can be more than one thing.

While the faculty and staff dedicate their on campus lives to the delivery of content equally to all students, which is mandated by law, they have no responsibility to you outside the classroom. Outside the classroom, they do not have to speak to you, break bread with you, etc. At the same time, the most staunch supporters of equal rights and protectors of justice, must also consider the safety of their family, job security etc. so sometimes, they have to be more than one thing.

I can be more than one thing.

I am often one of the oldest students in my classrooms. I have visited more countries than most of my colleagues (and professors). As a matter of fact, even our dog Sokka has visited more countries than many of my students and coworkers. I am always “The Bahamian”. I have worked with Prime Ministers and Princes. I have worked under the sea and on land with endemic, endangered and invasive species. But, noone necessarily sees any of these accomplishments. Perhaps, they just see a student, a foreigner, “a F*$king African American”. 

The problem comes when people are more than one thing and those things do not agree.

Most recently my understanding of this came to a head. I had known a former professor since we came here. We have had meals together on multiple occasions and we met their family, even their dog. We have had enough conversations for me to hear the sound of their voice, clearly in my mind. And, we shared views on global climate change, local and regional policy and its effect on various social classes. This professor was a friend and as with friends in small communities, they were friends with others whom I am still friends with. Others that also shared food and conversation, advice, opinions.

This past week, the news broke that he was arrested while traveling. He had solicited sex with an underage girl via an undercover FBI agent.

He was a completely different thing. That thing consumed all the other things he was. No longer a professor, he has lost his family (and his dog), his future, his colleagues, to that other thing.

As I talk to others affected by this, I also see how much all the memories have been tainted. Words spoken now have different meanings, handshakes, hugs, a look, a joke.

People can be more than one thing.

I am trying to deal with this and part of my dealing is writing. Part of my dealing is helping others. So I want to tell you, just as one person you consider a friend may be another sinister thing on the inside, so too can your worst adversary or the most challenging person carry hope for humanity in them.

That unintentionally racist coworker may be the first to offer you a ride in the rain. That foreign student may hold the most american values at heart. The professor that gave you your first F may be sitting in their office waiting for you to come for help. The guy that thinks babies born in america to foreigners are Anchor Babies, may be have the best difficult import conversation with you if you just take the time to sit down with them.

Yes. You can feel betrayed. Mourn this loss. But I feel we owe it to ourselves to go out and make a new friend today, speak to someone who can fill this gap. reach across the void and open a channel.

Take care of one another.

Leno

 

Network maps from Google Earth Engine, R and GEPHI

We can’t just go protecting habitat and sites willy-Nilly. this thing goes with sense, so I am using GEE to create habitat maps.

​Then I look at which species are using the habitat using R and GEPHI to create network maps.
Maybe you are interested in species that use the Detroit River Valley and also the Bahamas?

​or maybe species that are endemic or resident to the Bahamas?

And you know what? These maps and network maps can be generated for free, with a computer and an internet connection plus a working knowledge of the environment.

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