For her PhD, Lauren Pharr took on a challenge: studying Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, which make their nests high in pine trees. But as a Black woman working as a field biologist in the rural South, Lauren says she faces higher levels of risk than her white colleagues. Lauren co-founded an organization called Field Inclusive that raises awareness about how to promote the safety of people from marginalized backgrounds in the field.
Lauren Pharr on Being a Black Field Biologist
This is BirdNote.
[North Carolina birdsong]
When Lauren Pharr was choosing what to study for her PhD, she wanted to take on a challenge.
Lauren Pharr: I told my advisor, I wanna be out in the field, I picture myself like a wildlife biologist tromping through the forest, like, I'm ready for it, put me out there.
And she found that challenge in studying the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species. Lauren climbs ladders to reach the woodpeckers’ nests high in pine trees, so she can put identifying color bands on the nestlings’ legs.
[Red-cockaded Woodpecker calls]
Lauren Pharr: Going up these ladders, 40-50 feet up in the air, and then, I tell people — if you dare to just look out, it is so beautiful just seeing the forest from that high.
But as a Black woman working as a field biologist in the rural South, Lauren says she faces higher levels of risk than her white colleagues.
Lauren Pharr: People of color, when we're outdoors, we're more likely to get questioned, we're more likely to get the cops called on us.
Lauren co-founded an organization called Field Inclusive that raises awareness about how to promote the safety of people from marginalized backgrounds in the field.
Lauren Pharr: What we're calling social field safety — so interacting with people, you know, like you might have a run in with a landowner or anything like that — that is not really talked about as much. It is gonna be important for us to start at the beginning, to talk about the history of why certain groups of people don't feel welcome in the outdoors. So really bringing that awareness, you know, to the forefront.
This week is Black Birders Week. To learn how to participate, follow the hashtag Black Birders Week on social media and visit BirdNote dot org. I’m Jonese Franklin.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Editor: Jazzi Johnson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Content Director: Jonese Franklin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Red-cockaded Woodpecker ML73890 recorded by Geoffrey A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2023 BirdNote May 2023
Narrator: Jonese Franklin
ID# pharrl-01-2023-05-31 pharrl-01