ORAU joins forces with Ecological Society of America to expand STEM opportunities for HBCU students, faculty

August 7, 2023
For immediate release

Contact: Catherine O’Riordan, gro.asenull@nadroiroc; Pam Bonee, gro.uaronull@eenob.map; Wendy West,

Our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Educational Institutions are often untapped resources abounding in talent, ingenuity, and expertise but often lacking in the material resources necessary for scientific research.

Tapping into HBCU talent resources is why ORAU and the Ecological Society of America officially began a working relationship with the signing of a memorandum of understanding during the ESA’s 108th annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, on Monday, August 7, 2023.



Pictured L to R: Teresa Mourad, director, Education and Diversity Programs for ESA; Catherine O’Riordan, executive director of ESA; Jeff Miller, ORAU senior vice president, Desmond Stubbs, director of Diversity Initiatives

The ESA is an advocate for ecology and a voice for ecologists. ORAU is a recognized leader in connecting the best and most diverse students, recent graduates, faculty and professionals with world-class fellowships, internships, and jobs, whether in national laboratories, research institutions, federal government offices, or private sector research and development departments.

The MOU reflects the intent of both organizations to develop mutually enabling activities specifically focused on advancing ecological research by increasing the access and participation of HBCU students and faculty in world-class research experiences.

“This is a historic day for us,” said Catherine O’Riordan, ESA executive director. “At ESA, we have been redoubling our efforts to challenge and break down inequities to advance the science and practice of ecology. Expanding the in-reach of our 9,000-member organization to ORAU’s Minority Serving Institutions Research Council and beyond has the potential to be life-changing for students at those institutions.”

The spirit of collaboration will be a driving force in ORAU’s relationship with ESA.

“Working with ESA will benefit both of our organizations and directly supports our mission to strengthen the nation’s scientific workforce,” said Jeff Miller, Ph.D., ORAU senior vice president. “By joining forces with an organization of ESA’s caliber, together we will enhance research participation programs and create change in young students’ lives. We can’t do this alone. We’re always seeking like-minded organizations that are in the same pursuit as we are, and working with ESA makes perfect sense.”

Miller added: “In the spirit of our new partnership with ESA and our commitment to advancing ecological sciences among faculty and students at our nation’s HBCUs, ORAU will sponsor ESA student membership fees for 30 students selected from the Atlanta-area HBCUs.”

The MOU outlines a series of steps ORAU and ESA will take together, including holding listening sessions with HBCUs designed to identify opportunities to promote ecological research and education experiences to students and faculty; participating in targeted recruitment activities focused on increasing participation of HBCU students and faculty in ecological research opportunities; and building strategic alliances with agencies and organizations that support HBCUs specifically regarding the need to expand ecological research and education opportunities for students and faculty.

ORAU and ESA have agreed to the MOU for a period of three years.


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at https://www.esa.org.