Safe Fieldwork While Black with Alex Troutman

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Alex Troutman about safe fieldwork while Black.

Science Highlight: ⁠Remaining safe conducting Field work While Black (FWB), and Tips for PIs, Universities, and Employers of Black Individuals⁠

Links Mentioned in the Episode: 

⁠Critters of Michigan⁠

⁠Critters of Georgia ⁠

⁠Critters of Minnesota⁠

⁠Been Outside Book ⁠

Where to find Al: ⁠Instagram ⁠| ⁠X⁠ | ⁠Website ⁠ 

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at ⁠⁠

⁠K9 Conservationists Website⁠ | ⁠Course Waitlist⁠⁠Merch⁠ | ⁠Support Our Work⁠ | ⁠Facebook⁠ | ⁠Instagram⁠ | ⁠TikTok⁠

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt  00:09

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every week to discuss detection, training, welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies, and NGOs. Today, I’m super excited to be speaking to Al Troutman all about safe field work while being Black as part of our ongoing effort to talk more directly about how field work and potentially entering the conservation field or conservation dog field is going to be different for people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations.

Kayla Fratt  00:51

So, Al Troutman, Alex Troutman, if you haven’t heard of him yet, is a fish and wildlife biologist and environmental educator with a passion for sharing and immersing the younger generation into nature. He has a Bachelor’s of Biology and a Master’s degree with a focus in conservation biology and wetland sciences, from Georgia Southern University. Knowing how it feels to not see anybody who looks like you, in your dream career, Alex made it a point to be representation for the younger generation of strives to make sure that nature is accessible to all. And that includes not only having access to areas, but ensuring the access is equitable, where all can not only work in and visit nature, but have the same relaxing nature to visit areas to forage fish and hunting in areas that provide recreation and relaxation. And I love that goal so much. It’s something we think about a lot here, is you know, getting outside and we say being a K9Conservationist, in however suits your passions and skill set, like having that privilege. So, welcome to the podcast.

Alex Troutman  01:48

Hey, thank you for having me so much.

Kayla Fratt  01:51

Yeah, we’re what’s been like, like a lot of the interviews this summer and into the fall, we’ve had a lot of scheduling conflicts going back and forth. So I’m really excited we’re squeezing this in. So I, I basically went through your paper that will link to in the show notes that is all about safety and inclusion, for field work. And I just have a bunch of questions, that your paper basically answers, but then this way people can get it while they’re driving or running with their dogs or whatever. So why don’t we start out with where that paper starts, which is kind of a definition of fieldwork, because I think sometimes we have maybe a very specific image in our head that could be broadened.

Alex Troutman  02:36

Yeah, so field work is everything you think it is, and some of the things you think that is not. So a lot of people, when they think of field work, they think of people going outside, trudging through rainforests, the jungle, collecting data. While that in itself is field work, it’s also so much more than that. You don’t necessarily have to be in a jungle, in a rainforest, or desert, you can be going through a neighborhood talking to people, and that’s considered fieldwork. So fieldwork is the process of observing and collecting data about people, cultures, and the natural environment. And that’s what field work is, so if you’re doing going through with pamphlets, or doing questionnaires and your neighborhood that is considered field work. It doesn’t, doesn’t always have to be you getting bitten by mosquitoes or sinking in mud, getting covered with ticks, and being in tall grasses.

Kayla Fratt  03:38

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It doesn’t always involve like, knee high boots and machetes. All right. So I think then one of the other big places that your paper started out with is talking about the issue of representation. And I don’t think I don’t think anyone, at least from our North American audiences are going to be surprised that we’re gonna go ahead and say that conservation biology, it’s pretty skewed in its representation of the population. So why is that we you know, what do we see as far as representation in conservation biology?

Alex Troutman  04:16

Yeah, so the conservation field is, I’ll give you a metaphor. I like food metaphors. I like to say it’s a bowl of grass with a few specks of pepper in it. Um, so it’s heavily white, it’s not really diversified. While there are some people of color and in the conservation field, it’s not truly a representation of what the United States look like. Black individuals in the conservation field make up less than 4% of the workforce. In the conservation field, which is totally different from what we make up in the general population. So it’s definitely a huge lack of diversity and a need for efforts to help to fill in that gap are a representation of Black and other people of color and Indigenous individuals as well.

Kayla Fratt  05:26

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it looks like I just did a quick Google because I wasn’t quite sure what the numbers were. But you know, Black people make up about 12% of the population in the US and only 4% of our field biologists. So definitely massively underrepresented. I know, this is, you know, I know, parts of this are kind of systemic pipeline issues where Black kids are getting closed out of natural spaces due to redlining and all sorts of things. And then there’s educational barriers. And then I know one of the things that we think about a lot in here at K9Conservationists is trying to figure out how to talk about the finances of conservation and the reality that this is not a field that is going to help any anyone build any generational wealth generally. And that is a really valid reason to potentially stay away, especially if you’ve, you know, you’ve experienced generational wage theft, I guess, would be one way to put it.

Alex Troutman  06:29

Yeah, yes, yes. This field is definitely a passion-driven field, it’s not something that’s going to break a bank, so to speak. And that is one of the huge barriers when it comes to like getting into the field, but also getting experience. So many times, Black people and people of color and other individuals that are coming from a lower economic status have to choose between doing field work and getting experiences that may pay a little bit or many times doesn’t pay at all, because it’s kind of a guilt trip, “whoa, oh, you get to work with these cool animals,” let’s say, like dolphins or some other charismatic animal. So you get your, your pay, so to speak, experience that you’re getting, and it’s highly competitive. So you’re like, well, you should be lucky that you’re getting experience. But many times I says BIPOC individuals are people who also come from lower economic status, it’s that can be between getting experience or we have to work a job to make money to pay for our schooling, or to pay for some of the equipment we need, especially if we’re not getting grants or anything.

Alex Troutman  07:57

And also, it’s not a lot of times, it’s not just us paying for like ourselves, but sometimes we have to help with bills back  home. So we don’t have the luxury of saying oh, I’m gonna take off three months and go get experience, I’m making little, or sometimes you’d be having to pay for that experience, to get that experience having to pay for and when we really have to work need to focus on paying bills. So it’s, it’s definitely a huge barrier. Where people might be able to get in the field or can prolong it. And also, it can just change their narrative not wanting to go into this field because it’s another gate that they have to pass through. Not only the gate of being one of a few people of color in the field or the only one sometimes, but also now the burden of financial life, financially having to give up pay, or throw extra money that you don’t have a to get the experience just to work with a species that that you care about that, you want to see is definitely a huge problem that center conservation and feel with gatekeeping.

Kayla Fratt  09:32

Yeah, yeah. And it seems like it just hits in so many different ways. And no, none of us like being underpaid. But yeah, if you don’t have parents who can help out, or you are actively needing to help out your family, and then you know, and then that has a cumulative effect, because then years down the line when you’re submitting your resume, you know, they’re gonna say why did you spend the summers bussing tables or, you know, working as, I don’t know, I had a good friend in college who worked as like a garbage man for a couple of summers because it was really good money. And then, you know, it was really hard for them to figure out how to spin that, to make themselves competitive against all these people who had done all of these unpaid internships. It’s a really broken system. So I think the next place that the paper went is kind of defining safety and pointing out that safety might not necessarily be a universal truth for everyone that has the same definition at all times. And I, I really enjoyed that discussion. So can we dive into that a little bit and explore that?

Alex Troutman  10:38

Yeah, so I guess our like, what is what exactly is safe. So, Merrell Dictionary defines safe as being free from harm or risk, unhurt, secure from any threat or danger and or harm or loss and then affording safety or security from danger, risk or difficulty. And it just made sure that mainly what I take it as is returning home to your office in the same state that you left it in. So coming back with all your fingers, limbs, but also mentally as well, not enduring any things that are unsafe mentally, gaslighting, racism, any threats or harassment, all of those are considered safe. So safety and being safe is both a mental and also a physical component.

Alex Troutman  11:40

And safe is, is not a endpoint, it’s not, it’s never constant, it’s ever changing. Kind of like how water has many different phases it can be it can be a gas, it can be a solid, it can be a liquid. Safe can be many different ideas or constants. So for me, right now, as I’m using the paper is, it was at one time safe for me to go conduct bird banding and go do nest checks during the season, but I eventually I broke my ankle. And while I did that task, going, checking that many times while my ankle wasn’t broken, now that my ankle was broken, and I’m in the boot, it’s no longer safe for me to do that even though I have years of experience. There is something that has changed, where I can no longer do it safely.

Alex Troutman  12:41

And it’s kind of same along the same lines of, I know how to cook. But I wouldn’t to give my little cousin who’s like two, by like, tell him, “Go and make me a pizza.” I want to expect that it’ll be safe for him to do that. So what’s safe for me is not always safe for other people, even if they come from similar backgrounds, they might not have the same experience, or  they don’t have the training that I do. So what’s safe for one person is not always safe for everyone. That even goes with equipment; me wearing 2x waders, and then give them to somebody else who wears a small um, that’s not safe they’re gonna be swallowed in those, it’s gonna restrict their, their movement.

Kayla Fratt  13:49

Yeah, yeah, definitely no, field gear is not universally tradeable. And, yeah, I mean, knowing how to use your equipment, there’s so much training, there’s so much you know, with the weather and the temperature and how different people will respond to that, and you know, their physical fitness. I know, the first time I ever got heatstroke while the first and only time I’ve ever gotten heatstroke at a job. I was the only woman on a construction crew. And I was being told that I needed to keep up with like number of wheelbarrows per hour with everyone else because I wasn’t going to get special treatment because I was a woman. And ultimately, that day I ended up getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke and needing to go to the hospital. And you know, the same rate of work was not consistently safe for everyone on the crew. And maybe they could have, I don’t know, I was gonna say maybe they could have considered that before were hired. They hired me but I guess then I’m advocating for them to not hire me because I’m a woman and that’s not really a platform I want either. But yeah, no, that makes good sense. So whose responsibility is safety in the field, you know, is this just a personal responsibility thing? I don’t think so. Right? Yeah,

Alex Troutman  15:06

I’s definitely not just a personal responsibility. It’s the responsibility of me, but also the organization I’m going out for. So if there’s my university, my university’s my employer, but also, anyone who’s going out with me, or who may be in a field, with me, is the responsibility for everybody who’s going on the field, but also the people who are sending us all; it’s not just my responsibility to keep myself safe. But it’s our responsibility to keep myself safe, the person who’s going off with me, and I also expect the individuals or people who hire me to keep me safe as well. And it’s when you’re out with a group of people or even want another person, one person’s safety can be prioritized over the other. If you’re feeling sick, and you’re not letting the person you’re working with know, because let’s say you are suffering from heat exhaustion, and you’re not saying anything, and you happen to be doing a two man job where like, you’re holding something, or you’re carrying something together, and then that person passes out because they didn’t tell you they’re feeling sick or they weren’t drinking enough water. So now, they pass out, you drop whatever you’re carrying on top of yourself, because they fell behind you and like pull you down. So now you’re, maybe you’re in the marsh and you’re in the channel, and you were carrying stuff. So now you’re maybe just above the waterline.

You May Also Enjoy:  Finding Lost GPS Trackers Using Dogs with Sho Rapley

Alex Troutman  16:54

So safety is definitely everybody’s responsibility. Especially everyone who’s in the field, but also those people who are sending you out, when they’re sending you out, it’s really their responsibility to make sure they’re providing the proper gear, they’re providing emergency access, and they’re providing equipment that lets people know that they’re the organization that is sending you out. And they it’s not just your responsibility, like, um, it is your responsibility to make sure your self is safe, but it’s also added weight on the individuals who are sending you out. Because let’s say you you are keeping yourself safe, but other things go awry. Like there’s a severe thunderstorm that comes out of nowhere, or they send you out in a university sponsored kayak, and it has a hole in it. So who’s at fault there? I mean, obviously, you should check it before.

Alex Troutman  18:02

But if it’s University sponsored and, like we checked it, and maybe there it was, like, it was fine when you went out, but it was something that unbeknownst to you, like it was put together incorrectly. And something happens, even though like you checked it on, it’s still like, unknown dangers that are unseen. So some of the stuff that you expect, say, if you went through all your precautions, I’m checking it, and externally, it looks good, but internally, there’s something wrong with it. And so that’s why, like, it’s not only your job to make sure you’re safe, but it’s also the people who’s responsible for sending you out. And they need to make sure like that they know when you’re coming back in, or how long you’re supposed to be out, and where you’re going. They can’t just like, Okay, we’re paying you to send you out there. But we don’t really care where, where you’re going or when you’re going to come back. Because ultimately, if something does happen, people come looking for you. They go to your job or your university that sent you out, say, “Okay, where’s Alex? Where was he supposed to be? When the last time you heard from him?” And as I don’t know, is just ridiculous. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  19:29

Right. Well, and so much of that comes back to you know, like your kayak example. If you haven’t trained your staff or your field team or whoever how to do those inspections, then, you know, it still is you, as the employer’s responsibility to, you know, to either train them and make sure that they understand that that is part of their responsibility and that protocol, and, or if you don’t do that, like then it’s done. It’s on you.

Kayla Fratt  19:54

And I know you know, there are some situations in which we like when we were on the wind farm. Um, for example, the wind farm that I worked on, it was, there was probably 40 or 50 Different landowners that each had like a lease for a turbine on their property. And if we weren’t told ahead of time that oh, hey, the guy who owns turbines A, B, C, he can be a little a little ornery if you don’t close the gates 100% correctly 100% of the time, and like, he’s really on that, you know, you could end up in a really unsafe situation with a landowner. Because there was no way that you could have had that information ahead of time. And I’m not saying that we’re leaving gates open anyway. But you know, some landowners are certainly more particular than others or have particular things that they’re very concerned about.

Alex Troutman  20:44

Right, right. Yeah, that is definitely one thing that could happen. I guess. It also goes back to, another form of safety is having situational awareness. And knowing what, again, what’s safe for one person, one group, is not always safe. Something similar to that happened to me. Last year, I went out with an individual who is not a person of color, he went to his land many times before. But for me going out there with like, I want like, acknowledgement, like, Okay, this land, it’s okay for me to go out there.

Alex Troutman  21:29

But we went out to his land and kind of just showed up and the gates were locked. So we call around, finally found one of the land owner’s son, and he’s like, yeah, just if you find a gate that’s open, go, just go ahead and go in. So we finally found a gate that was open, we went in, we stopped by one of the houses where  the housekeeper was and was like, Hey, we’re here to do this. And the housekeeper was like, oh, yeah, go in. And then I was going in, like, we’re driving by and like, there’s like people looking at us and we didn’t stop, and when we went and saw the project site and was coming back out, like a truck just literally like came in front of us and blocked our exit. And it was like, was basically like, Chris is who it was. And he was like, once he got out of the car, he was like, Oh, I see who you guys are now. He like, saw our company badge, like, being on my uniform. And thankfully, I had that.

Alex Troutman  22:35

But it was it was kind of it wasn’t the best situation to be in, because like I said, me, like, I would’ve got confirmation to go that go on that land before I got there. But the individual I was with was like, Oh, I’ve been on this land many times before, like, just like no, like, that’s not the case for everyone. And for me, it was like, he didn’t realize like the, like danger, like we could have been in because the individual like, was impeding our exit from the property, who’s blocking us in, and he came across hostile until he recognized like, what badge we had on. And then like, he was talking to us, but that time, like it was already high stress level. And like, if this was just me, by myself, a person og color on this land in South Alabama, like would it be the same situation now that I’m confronted by, not even the landowner, someone who just happened to be on the property?

Kayla Fratt  23:41

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, really appointed themselves there and really presumed the worst until, I mean, yeah, good thing, you guys had the badges and the uniforms and good thing, he recognized them and then was able to admit, you know, calm himself down, and kind of tacitly admit he was, he was crying wolf. But yeah, you know, those sorts of things are so important. And it’s, you know, it’s really important for the, you know, everyone on the team to try to be aware of, just because I’ve been here a bunch of times doesn’t mean that, you know, they’re automatically going to recognize my truck or that they’re, you know, it’s always going to be the same people here or just, you know, I’ve got someone new with me, that’s going to change the situation. And yet, particularly if you’ve got co-workers who are not, you know, cis-presenting white people in particular.

Kayla Fratt  24:36

So, we’re going to take a quick break to hear a little bit about some of the offerings that canine conservationist has for continuing education, and then we’re going to come right back and continue talking about barriers to field work for Black and Indigenous people of color.

Heather Nootbaar  24:49

Are you ready to learn more about training and handling conservation detection dogs? I’m Heather, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists. Starting in January 2024, I’ll be leading a live session of our online conservation dog handler course with the help of Kayla and Rachel. The course includes 18 sections of material covering topics like dog selection, alert training, sensitivity and specificity, odor dynamics, field safety, finding work, and more. Students in the live session will also have weekly zoom meetings to discuss the learning and go over homework. All students gain lifetime access to the course material and our online community of learners through WhatsApp and Facebook. For those looking to earn CEUs. The course is approved by CPDT, IAABC, and KPA. We can’t wait to join you on your journey; sign up for the waitlist today, linked in the show notes.

Kayla Fratt  25:41

All right, we are back. So now I actually screenshotted the entirety of figure two from your paper because I think it was really helpful. And we’ll put that in the show notes, along with the link to this entire paper. But what are some of the specific barriers to field work for Black and Indigenous peoples and people of color?

Alex Troutman  26:06

Yeah, so there, I’m gonna, I guess I’ll start with this. These are some of the barriers, these aren’t all the barriers. But some of the ones that I deem, I guess the most problematic, some of the things that I feel are problematic, and the ones that I havebeen influenced by, in my life, or written ones that I have pinned in my paper. So to go through them, the first one is some systemic racism. The second one is micro aggression. And third is implicit bias. And the next one is lack of situational awareness. Third is lack of financial support,  next one is lack of opportunities, burnout, then gaslighting, the silver sneaker pass, and traditions. And I’ll just go through a couple of these.

Alex Troutman  27:12

So I guess one that I, that I kind of feel like is one of the most important to bring up is systemic racism. And that is basically, it was the system that’s in place now is one that was built and has continued to not only profit off Black and people of color, but also it has been something that has, that was built to kind of keep us down. And there’s one instance of that is, Black individuals, we make up between 12 and 15% of the general population. But we account for over 35% of the people that are in prison in the United States. And that’s due to, so many of the laws and rules that were in place, or they’re still in place and how they are enforced or carried out, and due to many different reasons. Some are definitely racial profiling.

Alex Troutman  28:23

And it’s funny like we the grad students get the grant money we spend our our time writing, writing these grants, looking for the grants and then the university. If there’s a grant, it’s not written directly to you, the university is responsible for the money. And on top of that, they get the keyboard equipment that you have gotten had that your purchase from the minute from the grant you received is just a huge struggle. So now you either get these rents and hopefully your university pays you back right away or many times what happens is you get the grass and you use your credit card or your funds to pay for it. And then finally, months, hopefully months later, sometimes it’s more than a couple months later your university or I finally reimburse you, or, or they’ll reimburse you, or sometimes they’ll make you jump through more hoops like, Oh, you didn’t, you didn’t send in this receipt correctly, or oh, it was, it was only could be used for this. And the purchases you made, then qualify for it. Or they’ll say, you have to wait till it’s a holiday break. So you have to wait until we’ve come back in January. And sometimes it’s hard to get your, your university finances people on the phone. But it’s like, it’s a huge burden burning to be able to conduct on fieldwork, due to a lot of ease. reimbursement, I don’t know, for me, I feel like if you’re getting a new grant, the money should be going directly. You shouldn’t have to go fund through your university, and especially like the equipment, by issue your equipment, since you worked too hard to find those grants. But I know it most of the time. It’s once you’re done, you have to leave that university and what does it do it usually so sit there collecting does not being used, but just because it’s you know, university property, since the money came from Bill even though it was your Grant who funded the project, right.

Alex Troutman  28:23

Another one that I feel is lack of financial support, we kind of talked about a little bit, but it’s a huge problem, being underpaid and over-worked. And a lot of times, especially someone who’s new and to get a new ANSYS fee, or even in college, whether it be undergrad or grad school, we don’t we don’t have the financial support to care it is so are to well, Bitcoin is where you own the reimbursements from universities.

Alex Troutman  31:23

And then some other ones, I kind of put these two together, traditions, always having to have been something been done the same way. Always, like, we always, who always cannot fieldwork on Thursdays or we, we always only take one truck into the field. But for safety reasons might be best to take two or this one, it’s the silver sneaker pass. And basically that is someone who has had a long history with the organization or agencies, they usually get a pass because because of their seniority or because they history with the organization. So they make a inappropriate comment, or do an inappropriate behavior. Since they’ve been there for a long time, they may just get a slap on the wrist, or I started talking to and so that being fired or let go, I went and so I who’s new to the organization or a person who may maybe a buyer pocket and visual makes it come in and they are immediately let go. Which obviously should be your case, if you’re creating a hostile environment or on shouldn’t be let go but people who are how history with the company gets that that past that super thinker pass. Or they also this case, sometimes if they’re older individual on they get a pass or that, oh, they’re old, or they grew up in a different time, a different timeframe, where things like that was okay to say or date or understand the way the world is now. No, like, if they can learn to use an iPhone use technology, they can learn to change their behavior on action and get the those passes and those there can be barriers to individuals who wants to work in an office where you know, you’re gonna have to listen to inappropriate language, those locker room talk comments who wants to be in those office so that definitely can be a barrier to someone wanting to get into the field or Senate field. You only can listen to that and be around those so much before you want to leave.

You May Also Enjoy:  Bats and Wind Farms with Dr. Merlin Tuttle

Kayla Fratt  33:52

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, so many of these. Yeah, these particular risks are so stressful for anyone across the spectrum but then adding on top of that, you know, all of these, you know, the systemic racism, and just how much worse all of these things are for black indigenous people of color trying to enter these fields. And really being aware of you know, who are you protecting when you’re trying to make this like silver sneaker argument or something like that and why. So, what uh, what specific tips would you suggest to people if they to get the care that they need after field work?

Alex Troutman  34:39

Yes. So the first one is definitely advocating for yourself. You know your body, you know what your pain tolerance is, good as know what something hurt on whether it’s go ahead and advocate for yourself. And the other one is carry around documentation to say like, especially if you’re working in the field, and natural areas, carry documentations that say you’re you’re working outside environments where you may be exposed to different illnesses like tick borne illnesses and mosquitoes, and even different plants and rashes, that CarIos to let healthcare personnel know like, this is something that you can be exposed, you can be exposed to, kind of will not only advocate for himself, but also could help you get the care that you need a lot faster, especially when it comes to wildlife, wildlife or take on a law related illnesses. Yeah, and those are going to be like, also knowing like the way that different rashes and bug bites present on yourself. So have my own homie, and may present a little different than what so a lot of times and the mic, first aid, pamphlets or even some of the books from that university used to train doctors, and medical personnel. Those bites definitely present themselves differently and on people who have more tan or melanated skin and people who have less melanin in their skin. A red rash doesn’t look as red on brown skin as it does white skin. So definitely knowing those more than what your skin looks like when you are exposed to these irritations. And, again, knowing what bug bites look like you’re you’re always advocating for yourself, if one doctor says it says something that you don’t like or agree with, go and get a second opinion or a third opinion, and definitely don’t want to talk down to you.

Alex Troutman  37:15

Another one is, like, again, going back to your pain tolerance. Sadly, there is definitely a misconception. One is that some black people have a higher pain tolerance as as other individual. It’s not true, that there’s no other ones, like people of color, we have more increased chance of using pain pills. So definitely advocating for yourself, you know, so some doctors try to avoid giving until especially if they see your say you’re a person of color and the visuals and visual. So if you feel like in Node, you’re in pain, definitely advocate for yourself and see, see her at all. Sometimes application is not. It may not be come from you but seek out other other individuals who can help advocate for yourself, especially when it comes to these wildlife related illnesses. And pathogens.

Kayla Fratt  38:26

Yeah, definitely, no, I loved the idea of the cards that you had, you know, I feel like there are times where I’ve done something like that for my dogs. You know what I’m going at my dog had a case of Oh, tick borne illness that caused some paralysis and you know, talking to the vets it felt like I wish that I had a list of like, here’s all the places we’ve been, here’s all the things you’ve been exposed to like, this is probably not the most straightforward possible case that you’re gonna be seeing right now. And like, I think, for people in my field, at least, it’s easier for us to be that proactive about our dogs, because we know that they can’t explain things, but I love the idea of doing that for ourselves. And, you know, that just seems like good best practice for everyone. i Yeah, especially for you know, things like rabies exposure, you know, talk so, you know, tick borne illnesses, there’s so many weird things that we get exposed to in this line of work, that I can see doctors choosing to believe that you’re a hypochondriac, or you’ve been spending too much time on WebMD rather than understanding that no, you actually are a field biologist, and you actually could be exposed to these things.

Alex Troutman  39:36

Exactly. Yeah. It’s it’s definitely something that is so overlooked when it comes to conservation workers. Like not only are we smart, but if we we know like what was going on and we are we can try to advocate for us And doctors on definitely try to overlook or don’t take us here Essers if you don’t say, Oh, if you don’t have documentation that says like, these are there as you’ve been to, or Yes, like, Look, I am a biologist like, here’s, like, here’s my work Id like this. Yeah, this isn’t something I’m making up like, no. I see the rash. And I know what a tick fight look like. Yeah, so yeah,

Kayla Fratt  40:33

Yeah, yeah, that’s, I mean, medical gaslighting just feels like a particular just brand of misery to have to go through. Okay, so then next, going through the paper, there was 10 tips for what PI’s, so principal investigators, can do to support their, their Black field workers. Do we want to pull out just a couple of those maybe to go through, or we can read out all of them and then do the same thing where we explore a couple more in depth?

Alex Troutman  41:07

Yeah, so yeah, so let’s read all of them and then I’ll pick a couple to go through. Okay. So, the first one is respect boundaries. The next one is be for the be there for them, and believe in them. The third is provide proper safety gear. The fourth is provide proper documentation. The fifth is issue organization identifying equipment and gear. The sixth is be honest. Number seven, be sure that you actually know the town that they’ll be working in and be a part of that town. And the eighth is, don’t downplay any racialized experiences by individuals, and support inclusion and diversity in your office and 10, show representation.

Alex Troutman  42:06

So a couple that I would like to go through. Definitely provide, combine these two together, provide proper documentation and issue, organization of equipment and gear. So this can definitely be a game changer. And maybe even a lifesaver is providing documentation with your organization’s name and logo on it that say that, that this individual does belong to the organization and they are conducting research for the organization. They’re also providing that that organization like identifying gear and equipment, I’ll give them a shirt with your logo on it, give them magnets that they can either stick on their car or foreigners are you like, organization like vehicles and this like can help. Like, if you have those equipment, and documentation, especially as a person of color, it’s not really and like, if you encounter police, or a nosy neighbor, is when you are especially dealing with the police, there’s a higher chance you’re gonna have a police call on you for being in the area. Um, so make sure that makes sure that they have those are those organization identifying documents and gear. So when the police do come up to them, they can already say, Here’s my research permit. Here’s information on what I’m doing. I am wearing a company issued clothes, and there’s a higher chance of easily de-escalating the situation before it even starts. And then also, um, can make things a little bit safer for you. And if it was a person called on you look, they’ll kind of look crazy like, dude, they’re just out here conducting research, like why are you saying suspicious?

Alex Troutman  44:36

I guess two more is is number six and seven, to be honest. And number seven is be sure that you actually know the town that they’ll be working in. So when an individual from a different background that you’re on that from you have come to you especially a BIPOC individual, when they’re a show Who is less anxious and joining your lab, in your company, your organization, go ahead and like be honest, explain the culture of the organization, and the town that they’ll be working or living, and alert them to any problems that have occurred in the area. Because many times, like, especially undergrad students and grad students, we’re moving from an area that we’re familiar with coming into a new area, I’m feeling University, and we don’t know the area, but you have lived there for years, you know, they’re, you know, what’s going on, you know, if it’s safe to go three miles outside of the university, versus 10 and 20 miles, you know, what they’re gonna encounter. So go ahead and be honest with them, if you know that, there’s got to be a high chance that they encounter a racisms, or there’s a Sons of the Confederacy, Memorial and flag right outside the hallway, while you’re leaving the university going to be let them know that there’s a chance that they’re gonna see that and people who believe and I’m trying to uphold those values of that flag in that culture.

Alex Troutman  46:27

And then also try to get to know any, any parts of the town that they’ll be conducting researching, go to some of the restaurants, if they’re going to be having to count that count for, say, local hotels, I’ll check all those hotels, make sure that there’s a chance that they’re not going to encounter any racial or homophobic ideals or people on them go make sure the area is safe and welcoming for him. There’s, I’m not gonna say there’s no chance that those things happen. But by you been there, there’s probably a lesser chance of them. Those things happening.

Kayla Fratt  47:14

Do your due diligence, right? At least try.

Alex Troutman  47:17

Yes. Yes, that’s a big deal. It doesn’t, it doesn’t hurt anything to try. If you go there and go see anything, but good, but at least definitely do your due diligence and try to make an effort that says send them to an area that is blind. And the same thing, like number eight goes along, and six, seven, as well as don’t downplay any racialized experiences, or even along along the same lines, that is not like, covering up for someone who has been racist by saying, Oh, they didn’t mean like that, or trying to give them that silver sneaker pass. They’ve been here for so long, they never said anything. Well, maybe they never say anything, because this is the first individuals that they have encountered that has been different than them or this is fresh and visual that they feel like would be intimidated by them. So they can say and not expecting any recourse.

Kayla Fratt  48:22

Right. Or maybe they’ve been saying it all along, but you just didn’t think twice about it. Until someone actually called every call it out.

Alex Troutman  48:32

Yeah, exactly.

Kayla Fratt  48:34

Yeah, you covered all the ones that I had picked out that I was like, Oh, I’d like to dive into those more. So thank you. Thank you for reading my mind. So I think the last thing that I wanted to close on because I really I had not heard this metaphor before before and like you, I really like food metaphors and cookies are also my favorite food group. So tell us that little metaphor at the end of diversity versus inclusion as far as how cookies go?

Alex Troutman  49:02

Yes, yes. So the diversity cookie metaphor. So when we look at cookies, or looking at diversity and inclusion, where diversity is one of those soft, frosted cookies with sprinkles on their sprinkles, a lot of different colors. Very good, but it shows how diverse you are. The bad thing is with those cookies, you can shake them and rub them off and pretty much it’s gonna lose all the sprinkles, you’re gonna lose that diversity that is there that’s just sitting on top of the organization or the cookie. But with inclusion, it’s a chocolate chip cookie with chocolate chips like the chocolate. The chips are actually like mix then they’re baked in and they become a part of the organization.

Alex Troutman  50:00

My conclusion like inclusion, it’s fully like, ingrained and mixed into the organization. And in order to take the inclusion out, or the chocolate chip out, you have to like, destroy the cookie and pluck it out, baby. And once you pluck the chocolate chip out, there’s still going to be leftover chocolate chip, there’s going to be evidence of the chocolate, the inclusion that’s left in your organization. So you’re going to, even though you’re trying to take it out, you’re still gonna have to dismantle your organization. And yet, you will still have leftover inclusion in your organization, from the, from the inclusive from the chocolate chill, while trying to take out the inclusion, you’re pretty much just short your organization.

You May Also Enjoy:  Jessie's Legacy with Esther Matthews & Marisa Steynberg

Alex Troutman  50:50

And there’s still going to be evidence as well, for us with the diversity is something that can be easily changed, you can just wipe those off, maybe you need to hire a couple people to meet a quota for your diversity statement to get those photo ops. So you hired them. And then after a couple of months by All right, we can go back to normal, so you find a way to get rid of them, that would enclose your, that’s gonna be a whole lot harder to do. And then even if you see and get rid of those people there mark their experience, and it’s gonna be love for your organization to rub off on other individuals.

Kayla Fratt  51:39

Yeah, definitely. I love that metaphor. And it’s yeah, it’s like just the idea of diversity, being sprinkles that you can take off is very evocative. And I think we’ve all kind of seen examples of that. And I know, you know, I’ve got friends who have been that token higher or felt that they were that token higher, and it is so damaging and frustrating to be told that you are being brought in to help diversify and move towards these lofty goals. And then as soon as you actually start calling out behaviors or actions or policies or language that is harmful, you know, which is what they’ve asked you to do, then you start getting sanctioned, or silenced or put on probation or fired. I just I feel like I’ve seen that with so many people. Yeah, it’s a real bummer of a power.

Alex Troutman  52:36

Yeah, it’s definitely unfortunate. And a lot of times, like you said, as soon as you start shaking, shaking your ground is when they decide that you’re doing your job a little too well. Yeah, I won’t want to get rid of you. Or if they can’t get rid of you pay you and other areas where you can’t make as much wage. So they give a little pitching, no wake zone.

Kayla Fratt  53:04

Yeah, yeah. Or, you know, then, you know, on the flip side, I would imagine, you know, one of the things that I’ve struggled with, as we’re kind of working on this, this series, is trying to find people like you who are writing papers on this sort of thing, a really kind of putting yourself out there is someone who’s willing to talk about this, because the last thing I would want to do, and I think this happens a lot on organizational levels is like, Oh, we’ve got one Black person in the applicant in the applicant pool. Great. Let’s hire them. And then they can be our DEI educator. And like, that’s, you know, if you’re a conservation biologist, or a dog handler, or you know, whatever, that you’re not inherently, a DEI educator on. Its, you know, it, it just seems like people get screwed either way. Like, either they’re asked to do it. And then when they do it, people get upset at them, or they’re asked to do it, and they don’t want to because that’s not actually, you know, that’s not what they’re here to do. And that’s not actually their expertise.

Alex Troutman  54:01

Exactly. It’s almost as if you’re doing a double duty, like you hired me to be a biologist, but also I want me to be the lead of the DEI working group. And a lot of people don’t understand that is like, that is a job in itself. Like, I’m sharing your lived experience and your personal life and story. It’s so much more. It’s not something like just like, Oh, where are you from? But you actually, it means when you are sharing your story or trying to do DEI initiatives. A lot of times it’s like, you have to relive those experience, what happened to you and it’s not something that you can do so lightly. So it’s definitely it takes a lot of effort and a lot of individual economies they don’t um, I realize that when they are asked me to be a DEI spokesperson, like, if you’re gonna hire someone to be a DEI spokesperson, you need to go ahead and let them know that before you hire them as a biologist. And so we’re also we’re going to throw down tasks on you, because it’s a whole nother workflow. And second, why companies need to be willing to pay for people to do DEI work. So, like you said, it’s a lot of –

Kayla Fratt  55:38

It’s a ton of emotional labor. And it’s not a skill that is universal, like, Yeah, I’ve been and this is, yeah, I’ve been in situations where yeah, I’m feeling like, because of my background, or whatever I’m supposed to, or feel compelled to speak up. And if that’s not something you’re really well trained for, it’s really stressful. And it’s easy to trip over yourself. And then, you know, and then you end up getting dismissed because you get emotional or, you know, whatever. And it’s just it’s such a messy situation to throw people into. And I’m so glad you said that. Also. Yeah, people should be getting paid if they’re expected to also be your DEI person. Yeah. So okay, I would actually love to close out with a little bit of just what are you working on research wise in the conservation biology world right now? I’d love to just talk conservation for a couple of minutes.

Alex Troutman  56:33

Yeah, so right now I’m actually working a freshwater policy fellowship with the Fish and Wildlife Service. So hopefully, I’ll have a policy with my name, and somewhere hidden in there somewhere down the list coming out in the next couple of months. That mainly, that’s why I’m working on this as a fellow working with their freshwater, their fish and aquatic conservation division of Fish and Wildlife Service and creating good trouble and trying to make sure that the Fish and Wildlife Service is becoming more diverse and upholding the values that it has in place to be a more diversified place. So it’s definitely shaking, shaking the waters. Well, they’ll probably hear it anyways. But yeah. China’s take the waters and I, in the process of revamping a pocket filled guy series for kids and new new people to nature, called critters, which is encouraging people to get out door and see we make sure that is around them.

Alex Troutman  57:59

So I have two books that are already out for Michigan, Minnesota, and coming in this fall, Georgia and Florida will be out. I’m really looking forward to them being out because obviously I’m from Georgia, and but it’s definitely something that it’s encouraging to see coming out. And I hope it’s an encouragement to not only like Black and brown kids being able to see Black scientists on the field guide on but also kids who come from a lower economic status as myself for who are no diversion, and also how learning disabilities as well, is that it may take a lot of work, but you to accomplish some of the things that’s going on. So those are some of the things that we’re in foreign. Just make sure that nature is fair, everyone, and we all have equal odds trying to utilize it.

Kayla Fratt  59:06

Yeah, definitely. No, I’m really excited about these little field guides. They look, they look great. They look like the sort of thing I would have eaten up as a kid. And yeah, I mean, it’s cool to just continue seeing more and more of this representation and inclusion actually happening in the conservation world. You know, I’ve been talking a little bit with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. We did some research with her and you know, seeing her coming out for a mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and like, that was a show that got me so excited about ecology and conservation. I was a little kid and imagining, you know, a woman on it and a Black woman that is just like that would have blown my mind as a little kid. And yeah, really, really excited to see that because I had parents who are constantly, my dad’s a conservation biologist, so he got me books like girls who looked under rocks to like show me all of the female conservation biologists out there. But to my knowledge, there’s not a book like that for people of color yet that’s geared towards little kids. So maybe that’s one of your next projects. Yes. It changed my life, you know?

Alex Troutman  1:00:17

Yes, yes, definitely. Yeah, definitely excited about Rae’s show coming, coming out, the revamp, like I was into it as well, like, that. definitely helped me. So one of the wildlife biologists as well. So I’m excited about that. And there’s there is one, it’s for older individuals, book about Black woman and science. I can’t think of a name right now. But, yeah.

Kayla Fratt  1:00:54

Just typed that into my search bar, so I can find it later. Yeah, well, we’ll definitely link that in the show notes. And, yeah, again, if you ever need more projects, it sounds like you’ve got 47 states to go for critters. So you’ve got plenty on your plate. But well, is there anything else that you wanted to bring up or circle back to our expand on that we didn’t get enough time to before we wrap wrap up here?

Alex Troutman  1:01:17

Yeah, I guess we can quickly talk about the conservation table. Yeah, so the conservation table that we have now is a table that is a tiny table. So it’s a table that has been built on the like, oppression and blood of BIPOC individuals that is now, has been so so clean. And it’s a table that we are all welcome at but the table is still dirty, it just has a tablecloth over. But we need to definitely move away. Now you’re gonna say move away from that table, we need to destroy that table, and get rid of it and create a new table where we all can contribute to equally without it still been. This is our table, so to speak as the old conservation table where you can submit ideas and information to but it’s, this is our work, instead of, like the whole aspect of our work. I mean, it’s kind of confusing, but this is a work that we all have done some work that one group people have done and is present it as to work for themselves wearing a lot of people has contributed to it. But we need a table that is contribute to a equally one that is no longer one that has been serving a image of conservation that schools a lot of different ideals that couldn’t better help conservation. So one that actually acknowledges local and visualise ecological knowledge and use it as a truly conservation science instead of Western science as the old the old and behold. So the way of science.

Kayla Fratt  1:03:37

Yeah, definitely. I’m yeah, I’m glad we ended that are there exactly. Yeah, that was a question that I ended up dropping over on to the next page. But I was my last question was supposed to be How is conservation a tainted concept? So thank you, again, for reading my mind and saving the notes. Yeah, which is something I think it’s been we’ve been kind of circling around it and touching on it a lot in recent episodes for the show. And it’s something that like, I’m still learning about, and it’s one of those things that it’s, it’s harder for me to look at and like learn the like, colonialist and racist history with conservation than it is with other things because it’s my career and it’s something I love so it hurts to learn all of the ugly history around it and, and present as well. But I think that’s also why it’s so important. So thank you for remembering to to bring that up for us even though I forgot.

Alex Troutman  1:04:36

Yeah, oh, no problem, it’s definitely something that is definitely a hurtful pass, but it’s something that we definitely needs to talk about, where you can only sweep so much stuff up under the rug before you trip over it. And I think right now America is at a point of tripping over a lot of the stuff that we have up on the road. And the conservation table is one of those things.

Kayla Fratt  1:05:11

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, so I did find, there’s a Black women’s science book that will link in the show notes. I’m not seeing anything that’s conservation specific yet. But we’ll link to some of those potential readings in the show notes. Definitely, as this episode will probably be coming out in like mid to late October. So people may or may not be starting to think about things to get their nieces and nephews and kids for the holidays. So out where can people find you on the internet, if they’re interested in keeping up with all of the work that you do and seeing more of those critters books coming out? Especially?

Alex Troutman  1:05:51

Yeah, so you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at n8ture_al. And then my website is being revamped right now. And then you can purchase the “Critters of…” books through AdventureKeen, but they also can be found on Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Noble, as well.

Kayla Fratt  1:06:24 Excellent. And we’ll make sure to link all of that in the show notes as always, so for everyone at home or in the car on a hike, hopefully with ear buds in if you’re hiking. We hope that this episode, you learned a lot, and you feel inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in a way that suits your passions and your skillset. As we said, you can find the show notes with all of those links, you can sign up for our course our patreon, you can buy a bento box if you need with our dog’s faces on it. All of that is at We’ll be back next week.