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Checo Colón-Gaud receives inaugural Leadership Award from Society for Freshwater Science

Biology professor Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D., stands and poses with his students in a river.
Biology professor Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D., poses with his students.

Biology professor and Associate Dean of the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D., has received the inaugural Leadership Award from the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) for his commitment and ongoing work to improve and expand diversity, equity and inclusion within the SFS community. 

Colón-Gaud has been a faculty member at Georgia Southern since 2010 and considers this one of his proudest achievements in his time here.

“This was an incredible honor,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the SFS for close to 20 years — since I was a graduate student — and the Society has played an important role in my development as a scientist and an academic. My involvement in different aspects of the SFS has always been a natural part of my work, of maintaining my network of collaborators and a mechanism for recruiting new students into my lab at GS. The SFS has been my home for the majority of my time in this field of study and I look forward to continuing my involvement with it and to developing my students through this important network.”

In 2011, Colón-Gaud led a grassroots effort within SFS to start Instars, a mentoring program that provides opportunities for networking among graduate students, faculty and professionals hoping to encourage diversity in the freshwater discipline. In the ten years since its initiation, the Instars Program has become an official and celebrated part of the annual SFS meeting program, and Colón-Gaud’s mentorship has created a true love for the SFS community among former Instars Fellows and mentors. 

“My goal with this work is to not only open the doors to more underrepresented minorities in freshwater science including undergraduate and graduate students but also early career professionals,” Colón-Gaud said. “In addition, once they come through these doors, I also want to make sure they can see themselves in the profession by filling the room with other Society members who look like them and have similar experiences.”

Colón-Gaud’s ability to enthusiastically engage, patiently train, and see and appreciate the work and energy of young scientists is seen as a pivotal role in leading SFS toward a more inclusive scientific society. The Instars program, which also received a National Science Foundation award, continues to grow under the direction of Colón-Gaud and other members, and has expanded to “Emerge,” which is SFS’s official mentoring program for undergraduate students from under-represented groups interested in freshwater science.

“Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in any field, but particularly in science, is important for the overall growth and advancement of the field itself and for the continued development of innovative ideas,” he said. “In general, diversity is such an important aspect of my work as an ecologist and we value the importance of diversity in the overall functioning of ecosystems. However, we have a way to go in embracing that same interest and enthusiasm for the value of diversity in our profession and our workforce. 

“Furthermore, being an underrepresented minority in any field of STEM can be challenging and often isolating when there are few minorities in the profession and particularly in leadership roles,” he continued. “The SFS allowed me this very important platform to increase and promote diversity initiatives in our professional society and our science in general. More importantly, they gave me all the resources I needed to succeed in this endeavor.”

The SFS Leadership Award recognizes early or mid-career SFS members for extraordinary work on behalf of the society. The SFS considers nominees who have had a positive and demonstrable impact on some aspect of SFS and further its mission, especially by expanding the impact of our scientific society and of freshwater science.  For more information about the award, click here


Posted in Awards and Recognition