ESA’s Diversity Program receives NSF Award
For immediate release: May 2, 2013
Contact: Nadine Lymn, gro.asenull@enidaN, 202.833.8773, ext. 205
The Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) long-standing program to diversify the field of ecology recently got another boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The federal research agency awarded ESA a grant of $183,158 to support the Society’s “Diverse People for a Diverse Science” project. Not only will the funding go to key existing program components, such as research fellowships, it will also fund an independent evaluation of SEEDS.
“As a longtime SEEDS supporter and current advisory board member, I’ve always been convinced we could make a real difference for ESA and the field of ecology by doing all we can to promote diversity within our profession,” said Mark Brunson, professor at Utah State University. “So as a researcher, I’m excited that now with this grant we’ll be able to get a scientifically rigorous, expert assessment of what we’re doing so we can increase our momentum toward our diversity goals.”
The professional evaluation will assess SEEDS program activities between 2002 and 2012, documenting outcomes, effectiveness of program components and identifying opportunities to strengthen the program. Among other questions, it will explore to what extent SEEDS has increased participants’ knowledge about ecology, pathways to enter the field and increased engagement within ESA and in community-based activities. Evaluators will also look at the ways in which SEEDS has influenced the many ESA members who have served as student mentors over the years.
The NSF grant will also allow ESA to initiate two new regional field trips to connect students with opportunities and researchers in their own communities.
The mission of SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) is to diversify and advance the ecology profession through opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students to participate, and to lead in ecology. Focused mainly at the undergraduate level—with extension services for communities, high schools, graduate students, and international collaborations—the program envisions wide representation in the ecology field. Key activities include Undergraduate Research Fellowships, leadership development, travel awards to ESA’s Annual Meeting and a national field trip.
Jeramie Strickland, who also serves on the SEEDS Advisory Board, is an alum of the program. Now a wildlife biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Service, Strickland credits SEEDS for helping him on the path to his chosen career. “SEEDS has made significant progress in bringing diversity into ecology by providing professional development and mentoring opportunities for underserved students. Working with SEEDS helped me get my foot in the door for graduate school and with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA) is conducting the SEEDS program evaluation. FERA is a woman-owned firm with experience evaluating NSF-supported and other science education programs focused on engaging underrepresented groups.
The Ecological Society of America is the largest professional organization for ecologists and environmental scientists in the world. The Society’s 10,000 members work to advance our understanding of life on Earth, directly relevant to environmental issues such energy and food production, natural resource management, and emerging diseases. ESA works to broadly share ecological information through activities that include policy and media outreach, education and diversity initiatives and projects that link the ecological research and management communities and help integrate ecological science into decision-making. The Society also organizes scientific conferences and publishes high-impact journals. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.