“The geosciences were founded on systematic practices of racism, sexism, erasure, and exclusion,” said Pedro M. Monarrez, a postdoctoral fellow in geological sciences. “However, the geosciences are currently experiencing a reckoning and are undergoing a transformation. Much work is left to truly make the geosciences diverse, inclusive, and equitable – but I believe we’ll get there.”
Monarrez has made this mission core to his academic career. He recently published an article revealing how racism and colonialism permeate within his field of paleontology and the geosciences, more broadly.
“I primarily study how the diversity of life has changed through geologic time and just as diversity has been important in the biosphere throughout Earth’s history, it is just as important in our society and our discipline today,” said Monarrez. “I am Mexican-American and as an ‘outsider’ within my discipline, I’ve been emboldened to think outside of the box and try different approaches to address research questions.”
A member of the inaugural cohort of Stanford Earth Postdoctoral Fellows, Monarrez sits at the helm of a new step to diversify the academic pipeline. The program, which was introduced in 2020, supports two outstanding scholars whose research and mentorship will contribute to diversity, equity, inclusion and scientific excellence within the school.
“Among the biggest barriers for people who identify as underrepresented minorities within academic settings is lack of community structure and support,” said Monarrez, who was born and raised in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents. “I struggled for years with feeling that I did not fully belong to the Mexican culture I was brought up in nor the American one that I have primarily worked and lived in.”
For Monarrez, mentorship is an important part of creating community structure and support in academic settings. Since 2020, he has run the Stanford Earth Young Investigators Internship Program for high school students researching biodiversity. He’s also served as a mentor for the On To The Future (OTF) program for the Geological Society of America, as a Stanford Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) mentor, and currently serves on the Paleontological Society Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Education and Outreach Committee.
“Discussing personal identity in our workplaces and disciplines can highlight common ground for people across differing ethnic or other backgrounds, which can foster and strengthen community bonds,” he said. “I know that if we sustain that kind of action, we can promote a culture of inclusivity and ultimately increase all kinds of diversity.”
Pedro Monarrez was honored with a 2022 Postdoc JEDI Champion Award for his efforts to champion initiatives, activities, and efforts that advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at Stanford and beyond.