A young woman named Aliyah Griffith has made history as the first black woman to earn a graduate degree in Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina in the United States.
Aliyah Griffith, a student-athlete made history by becoming the first-ever Black woman to earn a graduate degree in Marine Sciences at University of North Carolina, United States.
She said she developed interest in marine sciences when she was just 5 years old during a trip to SeaWorld with her family. Aliyah said when she was 7, she approached a dolphin trainer at the Baltimore Aquarium to figure out exactly what their job title was.
Aliyah said immediately she discovered that was when she decided her career path. “By age seven or eight, I was running around like, ‘I’m going to be a marine biologist. And people were like, ‘why do you know what that is?’,” she recalled.
Aliyah said she held on to her dream and went to bag her bachelors degree in Marine Science at Hampton University. Upon graduation, she proceeded to pursue a graduate degree in marine sciences at University of North Carolina.
While at the University, Aliyah worked in the school’s Castillo Lab, focusing on the impact of global change on the ocean’s coral reefs. She also became a staunch advocate for diversity in marine sciences, working to create opportunities for other students of color.
She also founded Mahogany Mermaids in 2016, an organization focused on empowering children of color in the aquatic sciences. The organisation has provided aquatic science programs for youth and hopes to expand their offerings soon.
Aliyah also works to support graduate students through professional development and other professional opportunities as a member of the university Initiative for Minority Excellence and Black Graduate and Professional Student Association.
“I know of a lot of people doing amazing work and have been able to work or be a part of multiple organizations that are not only looking at it from a Black perspective of marine science, but also just a scientific or research perspective,” she said.
She mentioned that she is preparing to bag her doctorate degree in marine sciences at the same university, and she is currently focusing on coral conservation efforts in Barbados.
Aliyah said the work is particularly personal for her since that’s where her family is originally from. She added that she hopes to support conservation by shifting the methodology used to monitor and assess coral reef.
“Being able to give back to the community in the island that my ancestors are from and be a part of keeping history, as well as helping the future of the island, is something that you feel like you can’t really know, unless it’s that close to home,” she Aliyah said.