Why Hypugaea?

 Athene cunicularia hypugaea. Public domain image, courtesy of Pixnio.

Athene cunicularia hypugaea. Public domain image, courtesy of Pixnio.



"Hypugaea" is the subspecies name of protected burrowing owls that inhabited the baylands in beautiful East Palo Alto, California, where I spent a lot of time growing up.  The Latin name of these tiny owls can be interpreted as, "wise underground burrower," which is how I hope to describe my research career and those of my students: digging beneath the surface with care and the wisdom to see and listen to the wider world. 

Hypugaea also represents who I am and where I come from, and celebrates the parts of me that are often overlooked as a scientist: my non-traditional path to academia, my mixed heritage, my gender-nonconformity and LGBTQIA+ identity, and my upbringing stretched between severe poverty and the opulent wealth across the freeway.  Burrowing owls are a protected species, but many of us are in even more danger and have less protection than the Athene cunicularia hypugaea.  If you are an aspiring scientist who sees yourself in that list or is otherwise surviving in the face of institutionalized marginalization, micro- or macro-aggressions, and/or the settler colonial structures around us, know that there are those of us in STEM who see you and feel you, who care about interrogating those structures, fighting against the harm they do, and providing some sanctuary.  I am committed to creating spaces that support students and colleagues who do not fit into narrow definitions of who we are and what we care about.  You and your lives matter, above- and below-ground.

In solidarity and toward deeper dives into what lies beneath,

Dr. Pribram-Jones