Pride Month is almost over, and to round off this year’s wonderful Rainbow Research blog series we are pleased to host this post from Lewis Bartlett announcing the launch of the ALDER Network: the British Ecological Society’s relaunched LGBTQIA+ Network.

Hello readers! Welcome to my second year in a row getting to write a Rainbow Research blog post for the BES, and this Pride month has been a wild ride. Right now, I’m writing to y’all from a motel in Salt Lake City, Utah, eating ice cream from a Dinosaur-themed petrol station, rounding out a 5500 mile road trip between the coasts of the US and back. There’s much to reflect on – marching through local Prides and National Parks, friends old and new revisited. Quite the journey, including bumps in the road and odd unexpected dead ends (wildfire season starts early).

We’ve also turned a new corner in the long, and at times winding, journey of BES LGBTQ+ advocacy and representation. For those of you who likely don’t know me, I’ve been involved with BES Rainbow Representation for more years than I’d care to admit. I recall when Iain Stott helped get the first LGBTQ+ mixers in the annual meeting schedules, which started out with single-figure attendance and grew exponentially to have hundreds of folk glad to come mix and chat. I’m proud that we have beat turnout expectations so thoroughly every year that we burst out of rooms too small for us and have to request emergency extra bottles of libation.

At the same time as covering miles at the annual meetings, some of our side-trips didn’t go to plan, and that’s expected. Those of us volunteering behind the scenes at the BES tried for a long time to arrange a mentoring network for LGBTQ+ ecologists, but too many roadblocks meant we never got off the ground. It was a challenge beyond a couple of volunteers to reach ecologists most in need of queer mentoring help when, by definition, they are the ones most difficult to find. But as the BES launches its new, catch-all mentoring system, we’re baking LGBTQ+ mentoring into it from the heart. There’s always a route around, even if the diversion takes some extra time.

With dedicated staff support and a tenacity from BES leadership we’ve mapped out paths even with the infrequent u-turn or high-altitude incline making progress slow. Our once-active LGBTQ+ Network lost momentum as social media use shifted and conferences switched online, but counter balancing that we saw the launch of The Niche (formerly the BES Bulletin) proudly featuring LGBTQIA+ articles every issue. When queer ecologist profiles stagnated and were better done by broader STEM initiatives (shoutout to 500QS!) we pitched over to these Rainbow Research posts. And now, galvanized by the trailblazing of the REED (Racial & Ethnic Equality & Diversity) Network, we’re glad to announce BES have taken that successful framework to launch ALDER – Advancing LGBTQIA+ Diversity, Equality & Representation.

We’ve already had a productive few months soliciting priorities from BES LGBTQIA+ members. Over the next couple of years we’ll be focusing on: integrating with new BES mentoring schemes; assembling resource banks for queer ecologists, supervisors, mentors, and teachers including how to priorities gender-diverse safety in the field and accommodation at conferences; setting up a community communication forum; and ensuring there is a core basis of briefing and training for anyone speaking at BES or representing the society.

We hope to have goodies to be snatched with shiny new branding at our launch party (get hyped) at the upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting in Edinburgh.

In the meantime, we’re still recruiting committee members to help shape Policy and International priorities in the ALDER Network, as well as expanding the mailing list to keep you abreast of what’s going on and where. Contact Indy, to be put on the mailing list and forwarded on to the ALDER Committee Chairs if you fancy a go at committee service.

The road goes on and ever on, and there’s seats left in my car from Utah onwards. Hop aboard folks we have miles more progress to make.

Blowing y’all glittery kisses-

Lewis (ALDER Network Committee Co-Chair – any pronouns)