Unique Scientist: Kelbi Delaune

Say hi to Kelbi Delaune (She/her)! Kelbi is an aquatic ecologist at Texas Tech University who focuses on understanding how global change drivers influence biodiversity!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am an aquatic ecologist working to understand how global change drivers such as invasive species and habitat loss influence biodiversity. Currently, I am working within the Pecos River in Texas investigating the influence of tributaries, life-history traits of a non-native fish species, and environmental DNA techniques to detect species of concern.

What made you want to become a scientist?
While nearing the end of my undergraduate journey studying theatre, I became interested in aquatic environments as a result of earning a Scuba diving certification. This desire led me to a volunteer opportunity within an aquatic ecology lab where I joined on a field trip to document endangered species in some desert-springs in west Texas. My love for playing in the water (even if it is in the desert), conservation, and ecological inquiries have solidified my choice in pursuing science as a career.

“As a woman, wife, and mother pursuing a PhD, there are few role models that I feel represent my journey.”

Kelbi Delaune

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Switching from the performance stage to science has been both rewarding and challenging (hi there impostor syndrome). As a woman, wife, and mother pursuing a PhD, there are few role models that I feel represent my journey. My hope is that my story as a #UniqueScientist will further illuminate the diversity that exists in science!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
Like most nature-loving folks, I enjoy experiencing new ecosystems, foods, and people (especially through the lens of my three-year-old). I also try to keep art as a part of my life, whether it be creating cosplay characters, seeing a play, or catching some live music. I live life as a generalist, fulfilling the “jack of all trades, master of none” philosophy.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
The pressure on female-identifying scientists to adhere to some unrealistic expectation that their personal choices outside of science are metrics for their commitment to science. I believe this ideology has created a space in which women are less likely to dress, act, and conduct science in a way that empowers them. For example, I have had challenges as a femme-presenting female in a historically masculine field.

“The pressure on female-identifying scientists to adhere to some unrealistic expectation that their personal choices outside of science are metrics for their commitment to science.”

Kelbi Delaune

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
The moment that sparked my interest in biology actually developed after watching a National Geographic special that followed a female scientist and her research. This explorer lived in a field station/hut in South Africa, tracking rays and investigating their migrations. This changed my perception of who scientists are and what they do. A decade later, my path has been cultivated by so many great educators, mentors, and friends.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I have recently begun writing the second chapter of my dissertation as well as hit some personal fitness and health goals!

#WomenInSTEM

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