Capps Lab Culture

“As we see today, science requires constantly challenging our own assumptions. And that must be true not only for the discoveries and breakthroughs but also for the people who are encouraged to make them.”

 —— Sharon Shattuck, co-director of Picture a Scientist, 2020

We work actively to cultivate a sense of belonging for all members of our research group. Although we don’t expect that all members become friends, we seek out individuals who value companionship in their scientific endeavors free of competitiveness with peers. We work to make ourselves available to offer each other intellectual and emotional support, while also respecting the time that others must dedicate to their own work schedules. We strive to be open with one another on all matters related to our membership in this research group. We recognize open communication as an exercise of mutual respect, and it is our goal that everyone feels empowered and comfortable enough to express themselves in this way.

We celebrate difference. For us, this translates to an active curiosity about one another, valuing each other’s personal backgrounds and stories. We acknowledge and value all identities and the intersections of race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, nationality and national origin, and religion/spirituality. Included in this is an awareness and acknowledgement that each member of our research group overcame obstacles of different shapes and magnitudes in order to be here, and that this continues to be true in our current efforts. We realize that working towards equity in our research group means being attuned to the different experiences of individuals and working to transform the power relations that lead to unevenness in opportunities and resources. We will work to address this unevenness and work towards equity by listening for and identifying moments of bias, oppression, and other subconscious, identity-based assumptions and ideas during fieldwork, in our offices, and within our research group as a whole. We will lift each other up and work to break down barriers to each other’s success.

We recognize racism, particularly anti-Blackness, has been at the foundation of the scientific enterprise. As a research group, we work in communities of color, and take seriously the subject matter that we study, our positions as settlers on lands taken from the Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek), and S’atsoyaha (Yuchi) tribes, and the troubling colonial history of our scholarly fields (e.g., fisheries, conservation ecology) in the US and abroad. As a lab, we are committed to doing the work to make our learning environments and research community more supportive of Black people and non-Black people of color. We will use our privilege to bolster minoritized voices in our communities and speak against acts of racism. We will advocate for and support anti-racist initiatives within our department, university, and scientific community. We will encourage, incentivize, and recognize learning and training around systemic racism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression, and will use time in our lab meetings each semester to discuss and reflect upon racism and antiracism in STEM. We embrace that this will be an uncomfortable process as we navigate, challenge, and reflect upon the structures of oppression that many of us admittedly benefit from, making mistakes along the way, and holding ourselves and each other accountable. We will do our best to be self-reflective and patient with ourselves and with others through this process, understanding that our community is engaging in something difficult, but essential.

Our research group is intentionally multidisciplinary. It is our belief that multiple perspectives and diversity in both person and practice make for more effective solutions to research problems. It is our hope that our research group members will benefit from the various types of expertise present within our group. We expect that the default is to offer help when a fellow member presents a work-related problem, while acknowledging that personal deadlines may require that we suggest alternatives. Last, much of the research work we do is international. Part of collaboration as we have defined it is being culturally aware and excited about developing cultural knowledge from others whose experiences differ from our own, thus enabling more effective and equitable collaboration.

Engaged and responsible citizenship is vital to success in academia. We realize that we are active members of a collaborative research community, and we respect the fact that much of our work is part of larger collaborations that extend outside the university. We will contribute to the general running of our lab, and we will adhere to the deadlines we establish for our professional commitments. We will be active and contributory members to the communities of which we are a part. We will regularly attend lab meetings and Ecology-related activities (e.g., seminars, recruitment events, etc.), missing only those for which we have hard personal or professional conflicts. We will also actively participate in the larger, scientific community by presenting our work at regional, national, and international meetings and engaging in service for our professional societies. We will broaden the impact of our research by participating in outreach and educational activities.

Our collaborative nature demands that we are diligent in contributing to group projects and acknowledging the contributions of others in our work. When working in a shared system, we will contribute to shared tasks that support that shared research programs. We will be responsive, respectful, and responsible team members. Acknowledgement of both formal (e.g., in published materials) and more casual interactions (e.g., in conversation with others) of the time and effort an individual dedicated to a certain task or body of work is important. We will adhere to the formalized procedures for using data and for determining authorship within our research group, which we have identified as a group.

We acknowledge that at times we will fall short of the goals we set forth in this statement. When this happens, we encourage victims and perpetrators of any failures, or simply anyone experiencing a conflict, to follow the guidelines for conflict resolution, which we have identified as a group. We ensure that there will be no retribution for engaging in the conflict resolution process.

The content of this statement includes material that was originally presented, modified from information prepared by, or inspired by authors and organizations included in the list below. I acknowledge that I have heavily borrowed text and ideas from these authors to develop this statement, and I appreciate their willingness to share their ideas and support the development of manuals and statements of lab culture for other labs. The content has also been informed by comments from the members of the Capps Lab and by colleagues at Odum, SREL, and the Jones Center. 

  • A Crowdsourced Effort to Develop a Lab Manual Template
  • Aly Lab Manual at Columbia University
  • American Psychological Association
  • Branchaw, Buts, and Smith, 2020: Entering Research: A curriculum to support undergraduate and graduate research trainees
  • Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR)
  • Department of Psychology, Miami University of Ohio
  • Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Humphries Lab at the University of Rhode Island Code of Conduct
  • Humphries Lab Manual at the University of Nottingham
  • McMahon Mentor-Graduate Trainee Agreement from UW Madison
  • Peelle Lab Manual at Washington University in Saint Louis
  • Vitousek Lab Guidelines and Expectations (Cornell University)