Essay 5: ...a life-changing experience that opened my mind and heart to the many perspectives of ecology

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My name is Jeramie Strickland, and I am the Student Coordinator for the Strategies for Ecology Education Development and Sustainability (SEEDS) program of the ESA. I attended the 2005 Annual ESA Meeting in Montreal, Canada as an ESA staff member. I will admit that I went to the ESA Annual Meeting feeling nervous, overwhelmed, and without any idea of what to expect as a recent college graduate, ESA staff member, and fairly new to the Ecology profession. Prior to the meeting, I heard so many stories about ESA Annual Meetings, but I wanted to be sure to get the most out of the meeting and have fun as well.

During the meeting, I attended several poster and oral research sessions and SEEDS-specific events which include: SEEDS student, mentor, and alumni orientation; Campus Ecology Chapter Meeting; Advisory Board Meeting; Diversity Mixer; and SEEDS Program Workshop. I also was able to help disseminate education and outreach materials to other meeting participants while exhibiting at the ESA Education booth.

My participation in this particular meeting was quite different than any other meeting because I played sort of a ‘leadership role’ by moderating the SEEDS Campus Ecology Chapter Meeting and leading a workshop entitled SEEDS Program: How ESA Members can get involved. Knowing that I had to lead and moderate a workshop at a professional and science-based meeting, I often felt nervous and overwhelmed because so many events were simultaneously taking place.

My advice to students is to just take on one event at a time and before you know it, the meeting will be over. I would also encourage students to not let the overwhelming feeling get to them because it happens to everyone at some point during the meeting. In addition, ESA Annual Meeting participants are so approachable and down-to-earth. Researchers and ecologists offered advice and insights that can be used forever. When you see thousands of people scrambling to get to and from sessions, just look at it as if you share similar interests with thousands of individuals across the globe. I feel that communication is the key to success and the meeting allows students and researchers to communicate effectively and share their research findings, ideas, and thoughts with a larger audience. I feel that it is imperative for scientists and students to implement approaches to help improve communication with the community.

In closing, the ESA Annual Meeting was a life-changing experience that opened my mind and heart to the many perspectives of ecology and has solidified my decision to attend graduate school for the fall 2006 semester. My experiences with ESA/SEEDS taught me many lessons, but mainly to strive for excellence when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges that may unfold in the pursuit of higher education. I left the meeting feeling confident that I am a better person and ready to pursue advanced degrees in Ecology. Participating in the meeting has helped me advance in academia, execute my professional plans, career goals and research interests. I am so anxious and cannot wait to go to Memphis for the 2006 ESA Annual Meeting!

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