The Ecological Society of America (ESA) has selected Erika Zavaleta, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, to receive its 2021 pledge for human diversity in ecology.
The award recognizes long-standing contributions to increasing the diversity of future environmentalists through mentoring, teaching or outreach.
ESA’s announcement of the award noted that “Zavaleta’s development of innovative and accessible field experiences has enhanced the scientific skills, confidence and leadership potential of many under-represented conservation science students, who are now pursuing or achieving their environmental and sharing career goals. its vision of diversifying today’s environmental workforce.
Zavaleta has launched and led three Diversity Ecology programs at UCSC over the past five years, and these programs have impacted several hundred students by supporting them throughout their career paths.
Since 2015, she has been leading the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship Program, which annually recruits a diverse cohort of students for experiential training in field research and conservation leadership. As a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Zavaleta initiated the Center to Advance Mentored, Inquiry-Based Opportunities (CAMINO) for students of ecology and conservation programs and has developed a training program to prevent sexual harassment in field biology activities. Student testimonials attest to the success of its programs and its ability to share its commitment to human diversity in ecology.
Zavaleta’s science communication skills also had an impact, as shown in his 29 field films on California’s ecology and conservation and in his award-winning book, California ecosystems, co-edited with Hal Mooney.
Her scholarship also focused on developing inclusive field experiences for students from diverse backgrounds and elevating the human dimension in her research on the impacts of climate change on ecosystem function and services. A member of the Ecological Society of America and the California Academy of Sciences, Zavaleta has received several awards for his innovative work, including the 2006 ESA Sustainability Science Award. She was appointed HHMI professor in 2018.
ESA will present the 2021 awards in a ceremony at the Society’s next virtual annual meeting, which will take place in August.
“This year’s winners have demonstrated remarkable leadership and creativity,” said ESA President Kathleen Weathers. “On behalf of the Ecological Society of America, I congratulate the award recipients and thank them for their significant contribution to building ecological knowledge and the environmental community.