Climate Change, Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge and STEM Diversity Among Key Issues to be Addressed at 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference

HONOLULU – Climate change science, indigenous knowledge, science communications and the need for true diversity in STEM are among the key issues to be addressed at 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference, which will converge on the Hawai’i Convention Center from October 31 to November 2, 2019.

The event hosted by SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science)– a broadly inclusive organization with a 46-year history of fostering and promoting success for underrepresented minorities in STEM– is a training ground for the next generation of diverse STEM professionals. The event aims to level the playing field for first-generation college students of color by offering critical tools for success in STEM such as mentorship, professional development, and networking opportunities.

This year’s featured tracks will be led by scientists of color and Native Hawaiian and indigenous scientists across STEM disciplines and include sessions on the effects of climate change on Pacific islands and their indigenous peoples, resources and culture; the consequences of rising temperatures, ice melt, drought and hurricanes on aquatic invertebrate island communities in Hawaii, Antarctica, Pacific Northwest and Puerto Rico, as well as how Indigenous and western sciences woven together adds significant value to the understanding of STEM subjects.

“Without a doubt, climate change is our biggest shared global challenge; the impacts of which are disproportionately felt by communities with the least amount of resources. By hosting the conference in Hawai’i, a community at the forefront of the climate crisis, we not only humanize the toll our combined behaviors are having on our planet, but we are able to learn about the traditional knowledge that serves as a solution to this greatest of challenges,” said SACNAS President Dr. Sonia Zárate.

In addition, this year’s keynote address will be delivered by the Republic of the Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine. Dr. Heine– the first head of state to address the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference– will issue a call to stand united and take climate action that particularly addresses the challenges of those first and worst impacted by climate change such as atoll nations.

Following is a complete list of featured tracks, sessions, and symposia at the 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference. Members of the press can register for credentials and coordinate interviews by contacting Yamila Pino at or 202-440-1432 / 202-660-1433.


Effects of Climate Change on Pacific Islands and their Indigenous Peoples and Resources.
This session features panelists that will discuss how climate change effects are impacting Pacific Islands, the people/culture, and resources. It will feature cutting edge scientific and cultural research, as well as NGO partnerships that are preparing Pacific Islands for future climate related events.

Climate Change: Response of aquatic invertebrates living in four aquatic Island communities
This session will highlight research on the consequences of rising temperatures, ice melt, drought and hurricanes on aquatic invertebrate island communities in Hawaii, Antarctica, Pacific Northwest and Puerto Rico. As a result of this session students will become aware of these threats and ways to mitigate them in unique island communities.

Multidisciplinary Assessment of Climate Change in Arctic and Antarctic Regions
In a changing world, many polar regions are warming faster than others and are susceptible to ecosystem change. This session explores the impacts of climate change in polar regions from scientific (biology, geochemistry, modeling, physical), and cultural perspectives.

Development of Organisms in a Changing Climate
The biology of developmental processes in wildlife is threatened by environmental changes operating at many different physiological levels. Current and anticipated impacts of climate change on the origins, differentiation, growth and plasticity of organisms is increasingly becoming a research focus in the scientific community including our four featured scientists.

Climate Smart Islands: Adapting Island Agriculture and Communities to Climate Change
Climate change has heavily affected the agricultural sector, particularly in islands and tropical ecosystems. This session will discuss the effects of climate change on tropical agroecosystems and will provide examples of efforts by island communities to adapt to climate change while ensuring food security and economic profitability.

Unmanned Systems Technology: Connecting Science and Engineering to Address Climate Change in the Pacific Islands and U.S. Pacific Coast
Unmanned systems (e.g. drones) play an important role in ocean and atmospheric sciences. We will showcase the innovative use of unmanned systems, with specific focus on the Pacific region, to measure the environment and conduct research to address climate change impacts.


The Alaskan Arctic: Integrating Iñupiat Knowledge and Culture with Western Science Education and Research Practices
Indigenous and western sciences woven together adds significant value to the understanding of STEM subjects. Students are engaged in: Iñupiat base 20 number system, sea-ice and permafrost formations through Iñupiat knowledge of ice, discovering antibacterial properties of local medicinal plants; and, including their culture and knowledge into course research papers.

Water in the Native World: The intersection of traditional knowledge and hydrology
Water plays a pivotal and sacred role in indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. Hydrology can greatly benefit from indigenous perspectives on water, as these perspectives bring deep, place-based understanding to the study of complex natural and human systems, while promoting sustainable solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.

Our Genomes, Our Communities, Our Ways: Incorporating Traditional Knowledge and Community Engagement in Genetic Research
This session will provide an overview of ethical and cultural concerns of genomic research with American Indian and Alaska Native communities. We will then present examples of community engaged genomic research projects conducted in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Maunakea Culture, Community & Astronomy: Collaborating with Integrity
Collaboration with integrity between Indigenous and Western scientific perspectives is essential when recognizing the historical and cultural tensions over the scientific use of indigenous lands. In this symposium, we bring together practitioners that are building collaborations around the sacred mountain Maunakea: A Hua He Inoa, Envision Maunakea, and Maunakea Scholars.

Protection of Indigenous Peoples and Lands through the Recognition and Implementation of Traditional Ways of Knowing
Indigenous ways of knowing have served our communities since time immemorial, fostering our understanding of our homelands. However, as NoDAPL, MMIW, & Mauna Kea movements illustrate, western science and western legal systems often work in tandem to undermine our rights to self-determination. Presenters will discuss all three movements.

Indigenous Scientists: Navigating from the Past into the Future
Indigenous scientists have unique powerful voices within STEM fields, but the number of us in STEM fields is still relatively small. This session will feature Hawaiian scholars and provide a platform to share the unique knowledge that Hawaiians have when navigating astrophysics, physics, and other STEM fields.


If not now, then when? Strategies for effective scicomm in a changing climate
This session will inspire you to think differently about how to bridge climate science and society. Our aim is to lift the lid on your thinking by sharing a broad spectrum of ways that others are stepping up, finding their voices, and meaningfully engaging diverse audiences around climate change.

Science Communication Strategies for Science Advocacy
Communicating science effectively is essential to advocate for evidence-based policies. This session will provide an overview of how science communication strategies can be applied to science advocacy, focusing on how participants can bring their identities, culture and experiences and use them to inform their advocacy activities.

Utilizing Multimedia Platforms to Communicate Science
Effectively utilizing media platforms have become important for communicating science to diverse audiences. In this session facilitators will share how they initiated programs that involve sharing their science through podcasts, video, animation, etc. We will engage and guide the session attendees in using these platforms and share known resources.

Science Communication to Bring Your Whole Self and Your Communities Into STEM Spaces
Unfortunately, STEM is not always inclusive or welcoming to people from marginalized groups. During this panel discussion, scientists from underrepresented groups will share their experiences and how they have used science communication to celebrate and affirm their identities and bring their whole selves and their communities into STEM.

To Know Science to Love It… Or Is It? Research and Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Science Communication
We expect that if people know more facts, their views about science are, accordingly, more accurate. However, opinions are shaped by more than knowledge. This panel will share science communication research and practice examples that participants can use to engage in more effective conversations about science with different audiences.

Being Yourself Onstage – Personal Storytelling As Part of Your Science Communication Skillset
For most people, the hardest science communication skill is public speaking. It’s not only intimidating, it can be a risk. The Story Collider team and past storytellers will share our experience, advice, and support for telling your own personal science story. Our goal is for you to be confident bringing your whole self to any stage you stand on.


Identifying and Managing Microaggressions in the Academic Setting
Microaggressions communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages that target individuals based on their marginalized group membership. Working in small groups, we will share instances of microaggressions, examine how to identify microaggressions in our actions and in those of others, and brainstorm how we can mitigate these microaggressions.

Come One, Come All: Embracing and Fostering Diversity in STEM
We have all heard that diversity, equity and inclusion are important when it comes to STEM participation. How do we operationalize this? How do we truly and fairly embrace difference and cultivate an atmosphere that brings out the best in everyone? This session will provide tangible action steps for moving your STEM diversity plan forward.

Our Stories: A Conversation about Challenges Faced, and Advice for Insuring the Inclusion of Underrepresented Women in Science
Women will gather to celebrate their lives and address issues related to their experiences. This conversation will include the sharing of challenges, as well as tips for successful navigation in professional settings. The dialog will provide opportunities for attendees to seek advice and share ideas about overcoming obstacles they have encountered.

Bringing your authentic self to work
Bring your authentic self to work and create a more inclusive, welcoming and safe environment. Learn from the experiences of a diverse panel on how they bring their authentic selves to combat imposter syndrome and other impediments to be more productive and improve overall well-being.

The largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference serves to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM. From October 31 to November 2, 2019, college-level through professional attendees are immersed in cutting-edge scientific research and professional development sessions, motivational keynote speakers, a Graduate School & Career Expo Hall, multicultural celebrations, and an inclusive and welcoming community of peers, mentors, and role models. The conference is a training ground for the next generation of diverse STEM professionals, aiming to level the playing field for first-generation college students of color through mentorship, professional development, and networking opportunities. For more information or to register, visit

For over 46 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

Today, the organization serves a growing community of over 20,000 supporters, 6,000+ members, and 115+ student and professional chapters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences the STEM diversity movement through STEM outreach & advocacy, promotion of STEM leaders, and The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. Learn more about SACNAS at, Facebook, or Twitter.


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