Greetings from the DDCSP Collaborative -
The past year has been a tough year for everyone and we look forward to this new, hopefully better, year. Like everyone, the DDCSP Collaborative has adapted to rapidly changing conditions throughout the year and we're excited by the promise and possibility of returning to core program activities in 2021.
This year, the DDCP Collaborative is entering our 8th year as a program and will welcome our 8th cohort of Conservation Scholars, our "Class of 2021." In the meantime, here is a brief update on how we managed to survive and thrive in a year like no other.
In 2020, the DDCSP Collaborative completed our first year with Multiplier, a nonprofit umbrella organization that accelerates impact for initiatives that protect and foster a healthy, sustainable, resilient and equitable world. We have also welcomed the University of Massachusetts Amherst into the Collaborative. Dr. Curt Griffin, Head of the Department of Environmental Conservation, and Prof. Lena Fletcher, Chief Advisor and Program Manager of the Natural Resources Conservation Program, are leading the Program there. The program at Cornell will be wrapping up this year as our 2019 cohort completes their second year in the program.
Program activities were very different from normal this year due to restrictions related to Covid-19. Normally, entering students would attend a conservation leadership retreat at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia and spend the rest of their summers working onsite in the field on conservation-related research. Unfortunately, students had to conduct nearly all program activities online. While some field research projects were able to proceed, other students worked with their mentors on research projects using existing datasets. Either way, students were able to learn how to conduct conservation research.
Under normal circumstances, students in their second year in the Program would have completed in-person internships with agencies, tribes, or non-profits. This year, Scholars chose between deferring their internship for a year or participating in remote internships with their host organizations. Despite the limitations inherent in remote work, Scholars embraced their internships whole-heartedly and grew their conservation skills as well.
ESA Annual Meeting & SEEDS
The 105th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) took place virtually this year. Since 2015, Scholars entering their second year in the DDCSP Collaborative have attended that summer's Annual Meeting as part of their SEEDS Program and presented posters on the research they conducted the previous summer. This year, instead of presenting posters of their independent research projects in Salt Lake City as we had planned, Scholars had to adapt their presentations for the remote format and take part in SEEDS activities remotely. The SEEDS program provides intensive mentoring and network-building activities throughout the meeting for selected students. This year SEEDS' Diversity Programs Manager Fred Abbott rose to the challenge of providing meaningful interactions for students with individual mentors and each other despite the limitations of the format.
Planning for 2021
As we plan for the coming year, it's difficult to know what to expect. Covid-19 is still ravaging the U.S., yet widespread vaccine availability is on the horizon. Ideally we'll be able to provide our traditional summer activities for our Scholars, with onsite field research projects and in-person internships. We also hope we'll be able to conduct our Conservation Leadership Retreat in June and that Scholars will be able to attend the 2021 ESA Annual Meeting in Long Beach, CA in August. This year will be our 7th year of collaboration with the SEEDS program and we hope Scholars will be able to participate in person.
At the DDCSP Collaborative we're looking forward to this new year with much excitement and hope for a return to our usual Program activities. We also look forward to easier times ahead for us all as we recover from the difficulties and losses of the pandemic.
We wish everyone safety, health, and happiness in the upcoming year and that 2021 brings better times!
Dr. Rena Borkhataria, Ph.D.
DDCSP Collaborative Program Director
The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program Collaborative, is a collaboration between University of Florida, University of Arizona, University of Idaho, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. Scholars in the DDCSP Collaborative complete a two-year experiential conservation training program to prepare them for careers in conservation. Through the Program, Scholars take part in applied field research projects, professional internships, mentoring, and form strong professional networks. They also participate in activities designed to prepare them to confront and help dismantle systemic racism and to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field.