Mentors and awards can really make a difference. That’s one lesson from a new paper by Dr. Danielle N. Lee (Southern Illinois University) that looks at the history of diversity within the Animal Behavior Society. Another finding is of the important contributions made by under-represented minorities to the field of animal behavior.
Amongst early contributions highlighted in the paper are those of Charles Henry Turner (1867–1923) who, in 1907, was the first African American to get a Ph.D. (in Zoology) from the University of Chicago. After graduation, and despite many scientific publications, he was unable to find work at a university and instead taught at a high school for Black children in St. Louis, MO. Nonetheless, he continued to do research in his spare time. Among many other ground-breaking discoveries about insects (and the methods used to study them), he found that when ants are returning to their nests, they move in a circle pattern that French colleagues named after him: ‘tournoiement de Turner’, or Turner circling. Turner was also involved in the early civil rights movement of the time.