Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Blog Series #1: The ESA-SEEDS Campus Chapter Program: Engaging the Next Generation of Diverse Environmental Leaders

In honor of Kendra Chan

by Jasjeet Dhanota, SEEDS Co-President with Kendra Chan, UC Davis (2014–2015)


Photo of Kendra Chan standing on rocky shoreline

Kendra Chan

The Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS program (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) is proud to announce a major gift from Ms. Vicki Moore in honor of her daughter, Kendra Chan, to support SEEDS Campus Ecology Chapters, which are active on over 100 campuses nationwide. Kendra Chan died in a tragic SCUBA boat fire of the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, in 2019 at age 26. We grieve with Ms. Moore for this tragic loss and celebrate Kendra’s love for the ESA SEEDS program. 

With Ms. Moore’s generous gift, we are expanding opportunities for students underrepresented in ecology to participate in the SEEDs program. This gift will support Chapter activities through consistent communications via virtual cafés with SEEDS leaders. Among the possibilities we envision are regional conferences for SEEDS students to showcase their science and regional field experiences to encourage local ecological knowledge and connections with local scientists and professionals. The gift will allow us to expand our Chapter grants program and to encourage collaborative projects among Chapters to develop a sense of cohesion among SEEDS chapters. Ms. Moore’s gift also allows ESA to hire a new part-time Diversity Programs Assistant to coordinate these activities.

We are deeply grateful to Ms. Moore for this amazing gift. Kendra’s memory and lasting legacy will be felt in the SEEDS program and by the next generation of diverse environmental leaders ready to participate in the decisions that are being made about our land, air, water, energy and communities.


Three students in green shirts, one facing backwards to show their SEEDS shirt graphic

SEEDS students – Kendra is pictured on the far right.

Kendra Moore Chan was an enthusiastic and driven ecologist. She joined the SEEDS chapter at the University of California, Davis in 2013 while she was an undergraduate studying Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity. Kendra’s determination to increase students’ access to the field of ecology made her a leader, and in 2014–2015 she served as co-president of the Chapter. Kendra had a unique ability to inspire others by sharing her passion for the natural world. She urged her peers to embrace the joy of the outdoors and step a little bit closer to nature by wading in streams and crouching over tidepools, encouraging others to “Flood your boots!”

Kendra recognized the barriers that made ecology difficult to access for many students. To challenge these barriers, she established new connections and opportunities for UC Davis SEEDS students. Her positive attitude inspired first experiences camping and hiking for many students, most of whom continued to pursue their newfound passion for the outdoors through careers and graduate studies in ecology and conservation.

Kendra created multiple undergraduate research opportunities with leading professors in ecology to increase students’ exposure and involvement in ecology. She aided students in the transition from college to career by broadening students’ perspectives with graduate student panels and guest speakers. Kendra and her team arranged for a variety of eco-trips and behind-the-scenes tours of places like the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, Bodega Marine Laboratory, and the Tahoe Environmental Research Center so students could see science in the real world and experience the applications of ecological research.

Kendra Chan presenting a poster at a scientific meeting.

Kendra presenting research results at the ESA Annual Meeting during the poster session.

Kendra applied for grants and funding to offset the cost of field trips and ensure that finances were not a barrier for student involvement. She invited faculty and graduate students to hike alongside undergraduates during hiking trips to the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Stebbins Cold Canyon Natural Reserve, and Mount Diablo State Park. The common thread through all of these experiences was Kendra’s commitment to creating a space that was inclusive and welcoming for all students, regardless of prior experience, cultural background, or undergraduate major.

At the local level, Kendra shared her joy and curiosity for nature with those she knew as she built the student ecology community at UC Davis. As a result of Kendra’s commitment to making the UC Davis SEEDS chapter a safe and inspiring place for students, UC Davis SEEDS was awarded Chapter of the Year in 2014 at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting. Kendra also received ESA SEEDS’s travel grants to attend the ESA Annual Meetings in 2014 and 2015, where she connected with faculty mentors and fellow SEEDS students from across the country. In 2015, she was also awarded a travel grant for the ESA SEEDS Regional Field Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kendra was recognized as one of the top Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity students at UC Davis in her graduating year, and she presented her research on seagrass at the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference and the Ecological Society of America’s 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Group of four students standing in front of an Ecological Society of America 100th Annual Meeting banner

SEEDS students at ESAs 100th Annual Meeting held in Baltimore, MD. Kendra is pictured on the far right.

The friendships and professional relationships Kendra developed while involved with SEEDS shaped her career protecting endangered coastal and freshwater species, including her enthusiasm for ecological restoration projects for the Ventura Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Her first job out of college was as a Marine Educator for the Marine Science Institute located along the San Francisco Bay.

The wonder she felt for ecology cultivated a desire to pursue graduate studies in coastal ecology. To Kendra, SEEDS was community and friendship rooted in shared passion for ecology and sustainability. This fellowship in Kendra’s honor continues her mission by providing an avenue for students to connect with ecology, so that other students may “flood their boots” in the fearless pursuit and protection of nature’s wonders.


For more information about:

SEEDS: www.esa.org/seeds

SEEDS Chapters: https://esa.org/seeds/chapters/

Interested in starting a SEEDS chapter or sponsorship? Contact: Fred Abbott, Diversity Programs Manager fred@nullesa.org

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) Blog Series 

The DEIJ special blog series hopes to promote a love of ecology from diverse perspectives and voices, foster divergent thinking, and encourage innovative solutions. Our goal is to celebrate the true breadth of the ecological community and address barriers to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Topics can include a range of subjects about career development, obstacles that need to be removed, personal experiences of being underrepresented in STEM, creating an inclusive work environment, environmental justice, or any topic related to DEIJ. We welcome all ideas.

Please submit your contribution, with a suggested title and full contact information, to Alison Mize, director of public affairs (alison@nullesa.org).