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CSU SEEDS cultivates diversity in fields of ecology, sustainability

Photo+courtesy+of+Cynthia+Brown
Collegian | Cynthia Brown
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Brown

Interested in ecology and sustainability and looking for a chance to explore the great outdoors? Check out Colorado State University SEEDS, a club dedicated to promoting diversity and representation in the field of ecology.

SEEDS stands for Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability and is a program offered by the Ecological Society of America. The group’s mission is to promote diversity in the field of ecology and increase participation and leadership by underrepresented groups through education and experiences.

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CSU’s chapter of SEEDS was established by graduate student Sara Bombaci in 2017. Bombaci has since become an assistant professor at the university in the department of fish, wildlife and conservation biology.

“The main thing SEEDS does is provide opportunities for students to learn firsthand through their own experiences how cool the science of ecology is and to meet people from different backgrounds who also think ecology is cool,” SEEDS staff adviser Cynthia Brown said.

“What I’ve heard and what SEEDS has done for me has allowed me to sort of understand the importance and the impact of often overlooked areas of ecology from overlooked voices.” -Zachari Winters, SEEDS officer

SEEDS provides students of all backgrounds and identities a space to connect with their peers over ecology outside of classes.

“When I think about when I joined SEEDS as a member, it was a very welcoming environment, and I felt like I could really be myself, and there were a lot of people who were very passionate about things that I was passionate about, so I felt very at home right away,” said Fin Joyce, a SEEDS officer.

SEEDS plans several events for students to attend, get a greater understanding of ecology and gain experience firsthand. The most impactful events tend to be the field trips where members get to spend time in the ecosystem and enjoy the outdoors.

“Honestly, the highest-impact event for the members are the field trips, especially when we get to spend a couple days in an ecosystem, learn about it from people who know it well and enjoy the outdoors together,” Brown said.

From the perspective of SEEDS members, the field trips have given them a great understanding of ecology and sustainability.

“The most impactful (trip), I think, was last spring, where we went out to the short grass depth research center, which is out by Ault, Colorado,” said Zachari Winters, a SEEDS officer.

In addition to field trips, community engagement and involvement at the local level are things SEEDS does to promote ecology education at different levels.

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“SEEDS at CSU has been engaging students with weekly or biweekly meetings in which we host speakers or have ecology- and science-related activities,” Brown said. “In 2019, we held an ecology education event with Polaris Expeditionary Learning School where students learned how to identify and measure plants and aquatic insects. It was a blast.”

SEEDS also engages with different students from all over the nation through ESA-sponsored events and conferences, which provide even more opportunities for members to develop their careers and make connections in the field.

“The national organization also holds an annual leadership conference for SEEDS chapters at different research centers around the country,” Brown said. “These are … great opportunities to engage in professional development activities and learn about careers in ecology.”

So far, SEEDS has been successful in its mission to promote diversity in the field and make sure everybody has a chance to use their voice.

“What I’ve heard and what SEEDS has done for me has allowed me to sort of understand the importance and the impact of often overlooked areas of ecology from overlooked voices,” Winters said.

Not only does CSU SEEDS promote diversity, but it also allows students to bond and grow together as they enrich their education and experiences in ecology.

“For me, the most rewarding part of SEEDS has been meeting new people and making friends,” Winters said. “There are some really amazing members in our SEEDS chapter, and the personal development and the growth that I’ve seen everybody go through has been so rewarding.”

Reach Laila Shekarchian at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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