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ESA honored at White House ceremony

President Bush announced on November 16 that the Ecological Society of America (ESA) is one of the recipients of the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). ESA is the only organization to receive the 2006 PAESMEM award; the other awardees are all individuals. The award, the highest of its kind in the United States, is supported and administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work.

ESAs program, Strategies for Ecology Education, Development and Sustainability (SEEDS), garnered the presidential award. Made possible by generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Society established the program in 1996 to anchor its diversity initiatives.

We view the ESA SEEDS Program as the jewel in our crown, said ESA President Norman Christensen. It is truly one of the initiatives of which we are most proud and todays award underscores its tremendous value.

Over the years, ESA has partnered on SEEDS with the United Negro College Fund, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and others. With the goal of diversifying and advancing the profession of ecology, the SEEDS program provides a full spectrum of mentoring and learning opportunities to underrepresented undergraduate students.

Managed by ESAs Office of Education and Diversity Programs, these include SEEDS ecology clubs and chapters, research fellowships, group field trips, and travel to the ESA Annual Meeting where students are assigned a mentor for the duration of the meeting. SEEDS directly serves over 200 students and its chapters serve nearly 2,000 students. These students credit SEEDS with enabling them to pursue a career in ecological science and to forge lasting relationships with both peers and mentors that help support their academic pursuits.

SEEDS has reached beyond ethnic minority students to include an ever-expanding pool of ESA members involved in mentoring students and learning much from them. Over 200 ESA members have volunteered to serve either as a mentor at the Annual Meeting, as a mentor for a Fellowship student, or to assist with a field trip. Another facet to the program is ESAs web series, Focus on Ecologists: What do Ecologists Do" that profiles a diversity of people trained in ecological science and offers their advice to students. (

We recognized the need to increase the diversity of our membership early on, says ESA Executive Director Katherine McCarter. The Society took a number of steps towards this goal in which the SEEDS program has figured prominently.

McCarter notes that the ultimate measure of success has been in the great strides ESA has made in membership numbers of underrepresented populations.

In 1992, underrepresented minorities represented 5.7 percent of the Societys membership. In 2006, that number had grown to 11 percent. The number of American Indian/Alaska Native members more than doubled and that of African American members nearly tripled.

Its imperative that we draw from the talent of the broad spectrum of the U.S. population who will bring the range of creativity, skills, and approaches needed to address ecological challenges, says ESA President Christensen.

The Society has made a long-term commitment to continue the mentoring opportunities for students and members alike, particularly those organized and supported at the Societys annual meetings. It plans to dedicate the presidential award to supporting travel for underrepresented students to continue to attend the annual scientific conference and to participate in the mentoring activities sponsored at these yearly events.


Contact: Nadine Lymn
Ecological Society of America

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