Our goals for this Long-Range Planning Grant were to increasing the size and diversity of our section membership and promoting the awareness and understanding of ecological science among the public.
In the first phase of the grant, we awarded the winner of the Student Section Logo Contest with a free registration to the 2008 ESA meeting in Milwaukee. The winner of the contest was featured on the Student Section website, and the logo is now being used on all Section documents and on the Section website.
In the second phase of the grant, we awarded 11 student travel awards to support students attending the 2008 ESA annual meeting. We received 90 applications for these travel awards, including 7 applications from students outside of the United States. Each applicant wrote a brief essay on his or her research and how he or she planned promote and improve communication, education, diversity and/or policy development in ecology.
In the third phase of the grant, we invited applications to the first annual Outstanding Student Research in Ecology Awards (OSREAs). 31 students were nominated for an outstanding student publication in ecological science – 23 nominations were for graduate student research and 8 nominations were for undergraduate research. Five members of the OSREAs committee, appointed by the Student Section board reviewed the nominations and the winners were announced during the 2008 ESA meeting at the Student Mixer.
In the last phase of the grant, we invited applications to the first annual Best Undergraduate Presentation Awards. Over 170 undergraduate students applied for the awards. The Section will award two cash prizes for the best undergraduate student oral presentation and best undergraduate student poster presentation. Best undergraduate student oral and poster presentations will be awarded based criteria for the Buell and Braun awards by a committee selected by the Student Section. The two $200 cash awards for the 2008 recipients will be presented at the Student Section mixer at the 2009 annual meeting.
We believe that each of these student initiatives provide a significant incentive to join the Student Section. The new Student Section logo represents strength among students and their supportive role in ecological science (as the stalk of the fern), and provides a fresh face for the Section. Travel awards allow students to attend the ESA annual meeting, many of whom may not have been able to attend the meeting without support from these awards. We believe that the students’ essays will contribute to discussions of communication, education, diversity, and policy, particularly among ecology students. Furthermore, the OSREAs and the Best Undergraduate Presentation Awards highlight student achievements in ecological research, which we hope will encourage students to feel confident and motivated in their own research endeavors.
A forum will soon be a new addition to the Chapter’s web site thanks to an ESA Long Range Planning grant awarded to the Chapter in January 2008. This forum will enable communication among members of job opportunities, upcoming meetings, and provide a means of sharing ideas on the ecology of Canadian ecoregions. A database designer has been contracted to develop this forum, and the prototype will be available in October for testing. Membership includes 171 individuals.
Two of the over-arching goals of the Education committee are to increase diversity and also to insure that professional ecologists serve as role models to students coming up through the ranks. To this end, the past two long range planning grants facilitated those aims.
In 2007, we funded a minority female graduate student to attend the ESA meetings. Partnering with WEBS (an NSF program that mentors women graduate students and assists them with the hurdles of entering the professional ecology workforce), we hosted a student selected by WEBS and used the WEBS network to enable this student to find her way through the myriad programs and activities of the annual meeting.
In 2008, our long range planning grant funded two minority ecologists to speak at the Diversity luncheon. This year’s diversity luncheon featured a panel who spoke on “when you get lemons, make lemonade”. Six professional ecologists — representing all walks of life and minorities — spoke about issues including health setbacks, growing up in rural Mexico, juggling career and family, teaching in prisons, finding an ecology role model for K-12 teachers, and women working in male-dominated cultures. Two of our speakers, an Afro-American high school science teacher and a woman ecologist who works in the Tiger Reserves of Western Ghats, India – required financial assistance to attend the meeting. By offering role models to undergraduates, graduate students, and young assistant professors, ESA can better insure a stream of successful ecologists in the next generation.