ASU center awarded JEDI seed grant to establish biocollections scholars program

The Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center was awarded $10K for a new scholars program

February 12, 2021

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University has awarded a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) seed grant to the School of Life Science’s Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center to launch a summer scholars program available to underrepresented students.

The natural sciences division of The College and representatives of The College’s JEDI framework accepted proposals from students, staff, faculty and administrators from the School of Life Sciences, the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the School of Molecular Sciences, the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the Department of Physics and the Department of Psychology. The grant program is part of The College’s JEDI initiative, which seeks to support significant and sustainable contributions to equity and inclusion across The College’s natural sciences division.  Scholars will complete a six-week summer research training experience, which will include a collaborative, curation-based research project and rotations between the core specialties of botany, entomology, vertebrate zoology and bioinformatics.

The Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center was awarded $10,000 for their proposal, “Biocollections JEDI Research Fellowship: Facilitating Equity and Inclusivity in Human-Nature Connections.”

“The members of the Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center and the ASU Biocollections are thrilled to have been selected to receive a Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion grant,” said Kelsey Yule, project manager for the National Ecological Observatory Network Biorepository at ASU, and the lead contact on the fellowship. 

“As a group, we began conversations this past summer about how we wanted our center to make a meaningful contribution to ASU's growing JEDI efforts. Receiving this grant means that we will be able to start putting some of those ideas into practice,” she said.  

The scholars program will be open to students from ASU, local community colleges and beyond and will engage students with biocollections and Sonoran Desert natural history research, education and outreach. 

Scholars will complete a six-week summer research training experience, which will include a collaborative, curation-based research project; rotations between the core specialties of botany, entomology, vertebrate zoology and bioinformatics; and professional development events. 

“Each of ASU’s units has the potential to contribute something different, so we focused on leveraging (the center's) unique strengths with our proposal,” Yule said. “(The center's) team was already well-positioned to help people of all ages foster their own connections with nature with our passion for experiencing nature in the field, preserving and conducting research on organisms in our collections, and using biodiversity data to make exciting scientific advancements.” 

“I am grateful to everybody for having gotten us this far, and hope that we can succeed with this first cohort of BioKIC JEDI scholars and make the program more expansive and permanent,” said Nico Franz, professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the center. 

The Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center's mission is to increase our knowledge and understanding of life’s diversity and foster direct and virtual learning experiences with biodiversity data and specimens. The center also strives to promote the use of integrative informatics tools and connects a range of genomic, evolutionary and ecological data science labs with the Natural History Collections community.

Focus on individualized and skills-based research training has proven to positively impact long-term persistence and satisfaction for research-based careers. The scholars program will help students gain the skills and confidence they need to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology through collections and field-based research experiences.

“(The center) was established to foster direct and virtual learning experiences through access to collections spaces and activities,” said Kenro Kusumi, director of the School of Life Sciences. “We are excited to see the launch of this new scholar program that is an innovative new direction towards this mission.”

“Our hope is that this program, as well as the other initiatives across ASU, won’t just bring a more diverse set of scientists to the same table we’ve always had,” Yule said. “These initiatives should help us listen to the perspectives of people we have been excluding and transform our scientific communities into ones that are more just and equitable for all of us.” 

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences


ASU professors provide perspectives on the Capitol insurrection

February 12, 2021

Last month, the world watched as the U.S. Capitol was stormed by rioters seeking to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

On Feb. 11, a panel of faculty from Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies met to discuss the causes and consequences of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and the rise of antidemocratic violence in the U.S. ASU professors during the roundtable event "The Rise in Anti-Democratic Violence in the U.S.: Perspectives on the Capitol Insurrection." Download Full Image

The roundtable event was part of a lecture series from the School of Politics and Global Studies exploring antidemocratic violence.

Panelists included Associate Professor Lenka Bustikova, Associate Professor Jennet Kirkpatrick and Assistant Professor Fabian Neuner. Associate Professor Victor Peskin served as moderator.

Bustikova, who studies comparative politics, spoke about the recent rise in far-right parties — a topic that she recently covered in her book "Extreme Reactions: Radical Right Mobilization in Eastern Europe."

Although groups like QAnon are specific to the United States, Bustikova points out that it falls under a global conspiracy theory.

“In the past few years, we have seen the far-right extreme emboldened in both the United States and in Europe,” said Bustikova. “There are many aspects to these movements, but they certainly express anger against the so-called political establishment.”

Kirkpatrick, who is a political theorist, used examples from her book “UnCivil Disobedience: Studies in Violence and Democratic Politics” to provide a historical and theoretical perspective on the insurrection.

“Mob violence has a long history in the United States,” said Kirkpatrick. “Although we might not like it, it is who we are.”

Reactions and statements to Jan. 6 from politicians regarded the events as un-American and antidemocratic. Kirkpatrick explains that this attack did not match the commentors’ ideal version of America and democracy.

“It is essential to understand the role of democratic ideals in mob violence. The mobs’ view of ‘true democracy’ is not the only ideal of democracy out there,” she said. “America has a long and well-established tradition of constitutional democracy — which can be understood as a competing ideal of democracy.”

Neuner, a political psychology expert, notes that we should not view this as an isolated event. He states that it is important to view antidemocratic and antipartisan attitudes together and how those lead to action.

“The big part there is this idea of elite rhetoric,” said Neuner, “and what can trigger these attitudes, not just being latent, but actually leading to potentially violence.”

Although it is important to understand the motivations of politicians, Neuner explains, it is also important to understand the motivations of the people at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which featured groups ranging from antigovernment militias to conspiracy theorists.

“We also have different motivations about why people were sustaining this,” said Neuner. “Was it just because people were upset with losing the election and were trying to rationalize it, or is it part of a bigger political movement where talking about election fraud allows you to enact some antidemocratic reforms?”

The latter half of the event focused on answering questions from the audience, leading to discussions on what is next for democracy in America. Is this a refounding moment? How do we bring people together?

Watch the full event below. The next event in the lecture series from the School of Politics and Global Studies will feature a conversation with former Sen. Jeff Flake, Distinguished Dean Fellow of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, on “Extremism, Antidemocratic Violence, and the Second Impeachment Trial.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies