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Nurturing the Vibrant Community of Ecologists

Our Society represents a vast community of people who practice, promote and advance the science of ecology, so it is vital that ESA be an inclusive professional home for all ecologists. It is a priority for us to not only expand the ecological community in number and human diversity and support their career paths, but also to work toward fully inclusive participation of all people in our science. This was especially vital in 2020, during which our leadership responded to the structural and institutional inequities infecting society with a deepened commitment to the equitable inclusion of BIPOC ecologists and a plan to address those inequities in our own community.

Building Community and Support

The expansion of virtual content that we employed in 2020 proved valuable to our ability to better connect with members and facilitate networking within our communities. At the Annual Meeting, for instance, each day concluded with section and chapter mixers and themed networking events that allowed nonmembers from around the world to participate. Sections and chapters were also able to hold business meetings entirely virtually and include their full membership, and to hold networking events away from the structure of the Annual Meeting, such as this discussion led by the Natural History Section and this by the Early Career Ecologists Section, and a variety of policy- and education-themed events.

We additionally instituted an emphasis on content that would highlight the scientific contributions of BIPOC ecologists, such as this water cooler chat on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and this session exploring environmental justice in the face of institutional racism.

Professional Recognition

ESA celebrates excellence through our annual awards program. More than 70 members volunteer their time to serve on our awards and fellowships subcommittees. Read more about each of the 2020 award recipients and Fellows of the Society. The awards reception took place over Zoom during the Annual Meeting with a short ceremony and the opportunity for attendees to network with and congratulate their colleagues in breakout discussions.

A collage of ESA's 2020 award winners

Certification and Professional Development

While most of the membership is in academic, research-focused career pathways, we continue to grow among applied scientists, communicators, educators and more, and encourage exploration of career options outside of university settings. Among the most important career-oriented developments of 2020 was the ESA Governing Board’s endorsement of a new model for our certification program that adds continuing education requirements but also dramatically lowers the barrier to entry. It is our goal to grow the program and continuously engage with this community of scientists, most of whom are in the private sector or government, and whose scientific work is second to none.

The Sustaining Biological Infrastructure Training Initiative adapted its flagship course Strategies for Success to a virtual space. Thirty leaders who direct field stations, labs, collections, and digital data resources spent 6 weeks engaging in live, interactive sessions and asynchronous discussions to hone their strategic planning, communication, financial management, and fundraising skills. The virtual environment enabled us to train more participants at a lower fee than previous courses. Check out the SBI website for future virtual training opportunities in 2021!

Career Exploration and Skills Development

We continued to host webinar opportunities for ecologists exploring career options or transitions, and then expanded that content into a series of panel meetings at the Annual Meeting, the focal point of Career Central, that allowed participants to hear from ecologists in several industries all in the same event, and ask for advice in real time. The Annual Meeting also included live resume review and mock interview opportunities, in which member volunteers gave practical advice to those seeking input.

Other virtual events included examining funding for scientific projects, collaborating with interpreters in national parks, communication techniques for discussing climate change, and engaging with local communities.

ESA’s partnership with the National Park Service to manage the Scientists in Parks (SIP) Fellows Program in 2020 was a success despite challenges due to Covid-19. The SIP Fellows program provided 10 paid internships to upper level undergraduate and graduate students to work in a national park for 12 weeks on projects related to natural and cultural resource conservation, park infrastructure, policy development, interpretation and education, and other management challenges arising from global drivers of environmental change.