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July 29, 2004

WOODS HOLE, MA—A Woods Hole Scientific Community Diversity Initiative was signed Tuesday, July 27 by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Laboratory of NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the Sea Education Association (SEA), the United States Geological Survey-Woods Hole (USGS), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Woods Hole Research Center.

Building on the strengths of the scientific and educational institutions in Woods Hole, the initiative commits the institutions to develop diversity as another strength in their community.  “We believe that the issues we explore are global in nature and that a diverse population will give us greater understanding of these environmental and scientific issues,” the memorandum of understanding reads.  “The undersigned institutions believe that, by acting together we can accomplish more than be each of us acting alone.”

The goals of the initiative are to:

Cooperatively undertake recruitment, retention and mentoring programs that will result in a diverse group of students, employees and postdoctoral researchers in ocean sciences, biological sciences, and ocean engineering, marine and environmental policy activities undertaken by the Woods Hole scientific and educational organizations, and to

Provide advice about additional activities that can be undertaken to support these underrepresented groups; and to

Be a resource through sponsored activities and referrals that support underrepresented groups in the scientific communities regardless of their race, religion, color, creed, gender, age, national origin, citizenship status, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, socio-economic status or veteran status.

The signatories acknowledge that they must create “pathways of opportunity” that will attract people from these groups by showing that the Woods Hole scientific and educational community has opportunities beginning with primary education and leading to higher education, post graduate work, research and lifetime careers, both in Woods Hole and in the global scientific community. They also acknowledge that, while significant barriers lie between the institutions and completion of these goals, in signing this initiative they take advantage of a unique group of institutions in Woods Hole that share a common commitment to increase diversity along with their common scientific and educational missions.

John K. Bullard, President of Sea Education Association, said, “When I first came to Woods Hole it struck me that a lack of diversity really reduced the learning that could take place in our community.  President Kennedy said, ‘The sea doesn’t separate us; it connects us.’  We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort.”

The Sea Education Association (SEA) was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit educational institution, which provides challenging multi-disciplinary academic programs ashore and at sea.  Its 12-week SEA Semester program for undergraduates integrates marine science, maritime literature, history and policy and practical seamanship with deep-water oceanographic research.  Since its founding over 6,700 students have participated in its programs. 

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an independent scientific institution, founded in 1888, dedicated to improving the human condition through basic research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. The MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the western hemisphere.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to research and higher education at the frontiers of ocean science. Located in Falmouth, MA, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institution is organized into five departments, interdisciplinary institutes and a marine policy center, and conducts a joint graduate education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.