For Black History Month, the British Ecological Society (BES) journals are celebrating the work of Black ecologists from around the world and sharing their stories. The theme for UK Black History Month this year is Time for Change: Action Not Words. Yoseph Araya—a researcher at The Open University—joins us again, following his 2020 blogpost, to share his story and recent journey.
How did you get into ecology?
My name is Yoseph Araya and my main research interests are Plant ecology, Ecohydrology, and Ecosystem services. Initially, I had an interest in life sciences but, at a professional level, I would say that I am more of an accidental ecologist. I started out with agriculture with limited focus in my undergraduate years, before learning and broadening my horizons about the benefits of other plants (not calling them weeds anymore!) and people’s use of nature (not only aimed at producing food!).
What are you researching/working on right now?
Whenever I can, I try to do research that addresses a broad range of issues, largely focusing on how to manage our environment for both people and nature. Some of the ecosystems I have worked in include grasslands and agroforestry systems in Africa and Europe. Meanwhile, I am passionate about engaging citizens in environmental research, as well as working to widen participation of under-represented groups in nature-based learning/activities. My most recent projects have involved working with community groups such as Dadima’s Countryside Walks and Talks in the Chilterns. The thing I most enjoy about ecology is the opportunity to always learn something new about the natural world, while at the same time keeping physically and emotionally active in those environments.
I am looking to meet other ecologists and learn from the diverse and creative methods that they employ to combine ecological work with any other leisure/hobby/social activities (whether it is art, music, storytelling, any culture etc).
Who are your role models—within ecology and beyond?
With regards to black ecologists who inspire me, I find the late Wangari Maathai—an academic and activist—to be a personal inspiration. She has spent a life-time dedicated to tackling societal prejudice, political challenges, and even personal challenges to share her stand for environmental protection in Kenya and Africa. Later she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace prize in 2004.
Lastly, I would like to share my admiration for local initiatives and groups that work on topics they hold dear to themselves to effect change. It reminds me of the saying “many little drops make the flood” and I hope that together as a society we are able to find our own space and work to make a difference.
Enjoyed the blogpost and want to reach out to Yoseph? Contact him via Email and Twitter?