The Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) Program is now celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Since its inception in 1996 by leaders from the Ecological Society of America, the Institute of Ecosystems Study and the United Negro College Fund designed the SEEDS program with the goal of increasing African American undergraduate students in ecology. The programs first 6 years (1996-2002) focused on increasing ecology courses and degrees available at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and expose students to fields related to ecology. After the first 6 years SEEDS was involved with 10 HBCUs across the United States.
In 2002, Ecological Society of America assumed management of SEEDS and the program has continuously evolved to include ALL minority groups including veterans, low income and first generation college students. The current mission of SEEDS is to engage undergraduate minority students and diversify the field of ecology through mentoring and peer support for successful ecology careers. The success of the SEEDS program has been to continuously change and develop tailored, engaging and fun trips and opportunities for students to explore the many fields of ecology and develop their professional careers and network. There are now five key components to the program: SEEDS Campus Ecology Chapters, SEEDS Field Trips, SEEDS Research Fellowships, SEEDS Leadership Meetings and a SEEDS group at each ESA Annual Meeting.
Since the SEEDS program started tracking student participants, the program has organized over 62 unique trips, events and meetings (33 SEEDS Field Trips since 2001; 19 ESA Annual Meetings since 1997; and 12 SEEDS Leadership Meetings since 2006) and 11 years of our SEEDS Research Fellowship program. Since 2002, the program has directly sponsored over 700 individual students through these engaging opportunities. Our SEEDS Campus Ecology Chapter program has also grown tremendously in the last 20 years. It started at three HBCUs in 1997 to over 95 academic institutions all across the US in 2016. Engaging minority groups had changed a lot over the past 20 years and SEEDS had been fortunate enough to stay ahead of the curve and continue to design opportunities to involve minority students in ecology. In 2013, the SEEDS program conducted an independent evaluation survey on students that had participated at SEEDS events and 89% of students are currently involved or working in ecology related fields and 33% of surveyed students had received or were enrolled in a MS or PhD program.