Doctoral candidate secures seat at the table for Spanish speakers at ocean conservation conference

Healthy oceans begin with us. But how can everyone get involved if they don’t speak English?

David Riera

David Riera, a doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction at FIU and a Florida Education Fund McKnight Doctoral fellow is on his way to changing ocean conservation and ensuring access for Spanish speakers.

A first-generation college student, he has bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and marine biology and a master’s degree in agroecology, all from FIU. He uses his knowledge, experience and voice to tackle environmental and social justice issues.

He will represent the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and FIU as part of the advisory council for this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), a gathering of people from around the world focused on sustaining the health of our ocean and the Great Lakes.

“I have a foot in the door I’m trying to dismantle so anyone of us can walk in here,” Riera said.

Riera – the only student on the council – is organizing the conference’s Spanish access component, increasing participation from the Latin, Chicano and Hispanic communities. He’s ensuring materials, presentations, roundtables and panel discussions are translated into Spanish. This will aid in creating an adaptive operating procedure that offers a safe space where diversity, inclusion, equity and justice are at the forefront of the discussion leading marine conservation in the U.S., its territories and the Great Lakes. Riera had a hand in creating the selection criteria for guests and speakers, allowing high representation and inclusion of Spanish speakers.

Within HAF, Riera is a member of the Oceans Advisory Committee. Together, they will host a flash breakout session during CHOW. The session concentrates on Hispanic youth voices.

“We are going to start seeing this space transform,” Riera said. “When we come together, we are stronger.”

CHOW runs June 8-10 and is free and open to the public.