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    LGBTQ+ Intersectional Identities in STEMM: Kunal Palawat, Soil Scientist (they/them)

    (This series of profiles from the California Academy of Sciences New Science exhibit tells first-person stories of LGBTQ+ women and gender minorities of color working in STEMM—science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine—professions.)

    I was taught to compartmentalize my identities, to hate myself, and to ruminate on trauma. But I strive to relate to myself, communities, ecologies, and spirits in ways centered on joy. And the Earth, specifically soil, has taught me the most about centering joy.

    Complex relationships to the environment guide my career in STEMM. I am not separate from nature; I am an extension of the environments that raised me—of the grandparents and air in New York City, the yards and allergies in Jersey, the vegetables and isolation in Vermont, the data and dust in Arizona. I am often misunderstood by the dominant paradigms, which do not connect to my sad, brown, queer, earthy, trans self, but I’ve always found solace in the soil.

    I now analyze soil, rainwater, kale, and cactus for metals as part of Project Harvest ( https://projectharvest.arizona.edu/ )—a co-created, community-based research project that integrates sense of place, environmental monitoring, and health literacy to address injustice. I finally feel like my relationship to soil and queerness are valued and important to my work.

    https://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/new-science-exhibit

    Published on December 2, 2021