In continuing the goal of increasing minority representation in marine research and aquarium sciences, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is proud to announce the appointment of Amanda Felix to the position of Diversity and Inclusion Advisor to the President & CEO. This newly established position builds upon Mote’s national leadership initiatives to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in marine research and aquarium science. In accepting this appointment, Felix will also be able to continue her research as a Mote Aquarium Biologist III while she coordinates and collaborates with Mote’s ongoing National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation: Marine Science Laboratory Alliance Center of Excellence (MarSci-LACE) and related programs. Amanda will coordinate and lead meetings with key stakeholders in the Aquarium Sciences REU program and other Mote diversity and inclusion-related programs, as well as participate in national meetings, workshops, and conferences with the goal of furthering Mote diversity and inclusion programs.

Felix was a Mote intern herself in 2014, eventually becoming a full-time staff member the following year. “As a former Mote Aquarium intern, I’m excited for the opportunity to improve the intern experience and support for future students, to help address diversity and inclusion barriers, and to support Mote’s institutional development and growth,” said Felix.

Amanda will report directly to the Mote President & CEO and serve as a liaison for the President & CEO with Mote’s Internship Programs along with other related diversity and inclusion programming whether internal or external to Mote. As Special Advisor to the President & CEO, Amanda will also be responsible for developing, managing, recruiting for, and expansion of such programs with the goal of increasing underrepresented minority participation in the Aquarium population of undergraduate interns, staff and volunteers through experiential learning and training opportunities.

“Amanda is the ideal person for this newly established position since she has so much experience being not only a dedicated Mote staff member, guiding and overseeing interns, but was also an intern herself,” said President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “She has a clear passion for furthering Mote diversity in our current programs while also upholding Mote’s institutional development and growth. As Mote continues into our next phase of growth with the new Mote Science Education Aquarium, we’re ensuring that our ‘Ocean for All’ commitment to increased access to marine science and technology for everyone in our communities, is infused at all levels of our organization. I am so pleased that Amanda was willing to accept this appointment of significant responsibility in leading that role for Mote Aquarium interns and beyond.”

“One of my missions with this role is to increase underrepresented minority participation and retention at Mote Aquarium, based on the very successful Mote NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and MarSci-LACE models,” said Felix. Many existing barriers, including financial barriers, can hinder the potential for racial and socioeconomic diversity in the marine science field. By securing more continuous and substantial funding for the Aquarium Sciences REU program, Mote will provide more resources such as intensive mentorship, skill workshops and financial support to participants along with expanding the program as a whole.

According to Felix, being able to continue her current role as an aquarium husbandry scientist is incredibly appealing, “I’m absolutely thrilled to serve Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in this new role, and side by side with my ongoing commitment and passion as a Mote animal care scientist.” Along with her care of several fish and invertebrate aquarium exhibits, Amanda oversees the Aquarium Conservation Laboratory, Mote’s multi-species aquaculture laboratory where she breeds a variety of fish and crustaceans. Felix has considerable aquaculture experience, including managing Mote Aquarium’s Seahorse Conservation Laboratory for over two years, where she was breeding local species and sharing those offspring with other zoos and aquariums.

Along with this, she will also continue to actively communicate with and be involved in professional associations, such as Minorities in Aquarium and Zoo Sciences (MIAZS), the Association of Minority Zoo and Aquarium Professionals (AMZAP), and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) where she is an active contributor and member of the AZA Diversity Committee. Felix will also work collaboratively with other Mote staff to prepare grant proposals for funding support of the Aquarium Sciences REU program.

AZA has recently emphasized diversity and inclusion as a priority in organizational and institutional development. “Over time, I hope to see an industry-wide transition toward more paid zoo and aquarium internship opportunities, and greater representation and retention of diverse voices at the staff and leadership level of these institutions,” said Felix. She looks forward to contributing to Mote’s own diversity and inclusion programming as well as seeing Mote contribute positively toward an industry-wide shift.