Pride and Earth Science

By Rebecca Williams

Thumbnail of the infographic that can be downloaded

Today we launch an infographic on LGBTQIA+ Earth Scientists timed for the end of Pride Month. This infographic celebrates some well known and lesser known Earth Scientists – put it on your wall, in your corridors, in your classrooms to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in Earth Science.

But we want this infographic to be more than that. Representation is important. Celebrating diversity is important. But taking action is more important. Equity, diversity and inclusivity is not just about tokenism and posts for Pride. Its about making space, creating safe environments, being anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and taking action.

Decolonising isn’t EDI either. But colonization by western countries such as the UK, brought homophobia and transphobia to cultures that didn’t have it. Criminalised LGBTQIA+ identities. Others have written on this topic at length, both in scholarly literature and easy to access blogs (some suggestions at the end of this blog). So, as part of this project, we see it as important to address ways in which we can make the Earth Science community a safer place for the LGBTQIA+ community.

How is Earth Science not a safe space?

Downen and Olcott (2022) raise many of the ways that LGBTQIA+ folk face unique challenges in the Earth/geosciences. There has historically been a lack of a LGBTQIA+ community in our field, with a lack of representation at different career levels. A culture that is willing to call out homophobic behaviour, uses inclusive language including pronouns, or including LGBTQIA+ themes has been slow to develop. A number of the resources linked to below are personal accounts of lived experience that explore these issues.

55% of respondents indicated that they had been in an area where they did not feel safe because of their identity, expression, or presentation

Olcott and Downen, 2020

Field courses can be particularly problematic for members of the LGBTQIA+ community (Olcott and Downen, 2020). Residential trips raise challenges when participants are expected to share rooms and bathroom facilities which may not be gender inclusive, may force participants to out themselves when they’d rather not and may put participants at risk from homophobic and transphobic behavior.  International field courses may be organised in countries where LGBTQIA+ communities may not be protected and may even be criminalized (for example see the ILGA travel maps Olcott and Downen (2022) surveyed geoscientists and found that 55% of respondents had traveled to areas in which they did not feel safe and one third had refused fieldwork due to safety concerns.

How can we create safe spaces?

There is a wealth of resources that have been collated to support and create inclusive spaces in STEM for LGBTQIA+ folk – take a look at the resources list at the end of this blog. A special shout out to Pride in Stem who are creating community, making action and have curated an array of resources. Downen and Olcott (2022) incorporate some generic actions with those specific to geoscience including designing inclusive class room practices, use of pronouns, incorporating LGBTQ+ themes, confronting homophobia and transphobia, signalling allyship, knowing and signposting to local support systems, celebrating the achievements of LGBTQIA+ students and faculty, bespoke EDI training and considering how intersexuality exacerbates many of the challenges faced.

An important approach is to consider safety for the LGBTQIA+ community. Jackson writes on how Imperial University changed the destination of a fieldcourse following a campaign where it was highlighted that the existing course destination wasn’t safe (Jackson, nd). Consulting online resources such as the ILGA maps can be an important first step. But as Downen and Olcott (2022) note, local attitudes can vary even within countries considered to be LGBTQIA+ friendly, and this can change through time. Considering all genders is crucial when assigning rooms, and allowing students to self-select roommates or offering single rooms can be more inclusive that traditional m/f room allocations. A good starting point would be to include EDI in risk assessments for travel and fieldwork – Prior-Jones et al (2020) have published an inclusive risk assessment tool for travel and fieldwork that is a great basis for this.

Be an ally. But also be an activist.

Listen to the experiences of others, and learn from them. There’s plenty of material already in the literature and online to dig into – don’t demand this labour from those in the LGBTQIA+ community around you unless they are volunteering this information to you. Get informed on the issues and barriers faced. Be prepared to challenge homophobic and transphobic language and behaviour in your own institutions and to question practices that are exclusionary and hostile. Take action to make your own work inclusive and create safe spaces. Be prepared to stand up.


Downen, M. R., & Olcott, A. N. (2022). Supporting LGBTQ+ geoscientists, in and out of the classroom. Journal of Geoscience Education, 71(3), 301–306.

Jackson, nd. Safe and inclusive fieldwork

Olcott, A. N., & Downen, M. R. (2020, August 28). The Challenges of Fieldwork for LGBTQ+. Geoscientists.

Prior-Jones, M., Pinnion, J., Millet, M.-A., Bagshaw, E., Fagereng, A., & Ballinger, R. (2020, Mar 23). An inclusive risk assessment tool for travel and fieldwork. Tool available here: EGU2020-7678_presentation.pdf (

Some great resources:

On LBGTQIA+ and decolonization