For Black History Month 2023, the British Ecological Society (BES) journals are celebrating the work of Black ecologists from around the world and sharing their stories. In this blog, Adaoyibo shares her story and journey in academia.
Name: Adaoyibo Denise Okpala
Affiliation: University College London/Economic Community of West African States
Ecology interests: Marine, Biodiversity, Sustainability
Links: You can find Adaoyibo on LinkedIn here.
Your story – How did you get into ecology?
I have always been passionate about the environment and learning about plants and animals…nature generally. When I was very little, I used to be fascinated by wildlife documentaries and nature shows on television. I particularly enjoyed watching Captain Planet back then (smiles). In secondary school, after classes I would spend ages at the school aquarium. So, when I set out to study Marine Biology at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, it didn’t come as a surprise to people who knew me.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently carrying out a Doctorate degree at University College London, where my research is on Advancing Environmental Health for sustainable development.
What do you enjoy most about working in ecology?
I enjoy the learning experience; the adventure and I enjoy the fact that there are many other like-minded professionals like me whom I can share my experience with and learn from too.
Are there any aspects of your journey that you wish to share?
During the course of my career, I have come to appreciate the importance of having a mentor, someone you can look up to and someone you can learn from. This not only improves ones learning journey, it also improves in some way your ability to share your experiences and knowledge with others as well.
Are there any ongoing issues in the ecological landscape that you would like to highlight?
I was watching a documentary the other day where there was a discussion about the endangered status of vultures. This got me wondering because back in the 90s there used to be loads of them on trees in our villages in Nigeria. It was discovered that certain local practices could be responsible for their current endangered status.
If you could see one change in academia to positively impact Black ecologists, what would that be?
I would like to see more Black ecologists actually practicing Ecology and being proud of this. This can be achieved by building awareness, capacity building and workshops to equip young Black Ecologists with skills they require to succeed.
Shout out your peers! Are there any Black ecologists who are doing work you admire?
A big shout out to my colleague and friend Blessing Allen Adebayo, who was my classmate at the University of Lagos, and she will be presenting her Doctoral Research with the British Ecological Society at Belfast this December. I am rooting for her all the way from Nigeria.
Discover more Black ecologists like Adaoyibo on our Black History Month page on the British Ecological Society website.