Lauren Esposito’s scientific curiosity was piqued early. As a kid, Esposito frequently overturned rocks in her yard to uncover insects and brought them into her house, collecting them in repurposed peanut butter jars. Now Esposito has an office and lab in the California Academy of Sciences packed with dozens of preserved scorpion and spider specimens. The academy’s curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology told Spotswood and Alta Live that research outside her office often takes place at night, when—armed with a black light—she studies the scorpions that have called California their home for millions of years. “Before there was such a thing as a redwood forest, there was a scorpion living in that place,” Esposito said.
But Esposito caught Alta Journal’s attention as a trailblazer not just for her research on scorpions but also for her involvement with the visibility campaign 500 Queer Scientists. “It really started as a way for people to share their identity of being an LGBTQ person alongside their identity of being a scientist,” Esposito explained. “We’ve been told through the culture of science that we should keep our identity private and hidden, that when you come into the lab, you take off your rainbow hat or whatever, and you put on your white lab coat, and you enter the lab as this identity-less person who just focuses on science, and how that is somehow beneficial for science. But it’s not.” Esposito became aware of feeling isolated at work, and statistics showed that queer scientists were leaving STEM fields at high rates. Five hundred members was the organization’s original aspirational goal; today, 500 Queer Scientists boasts over 1,700 members, many of them new to the industry. “Bringing that identity to work helps you be better at your job,” Esposito said. “You get greater diversity of ideas when you get greater diversity of people.”
Check out these links to some of the topics Esposito and Spotswood brought up.
- Read “Trailblazer: Lauren Esposito,” by Jessica Klein, from Alta’s Winter 2022 issue.
- Find out more about 500 Queer Scientists, including how to contribute your story.
- Read more about Esposito’s work at the California Academy of Sciences.
- Learn about local scorpions with this Cal Academy video of Esposito.
- View New Science, an exhibit at Cal Academy focused on queer and intersectional identities in STEM.
- Follow 500 Queer Scientists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.•