The SEEDS program of ESA launched SEEDSNet on November 2, 2009 as a means of connecting outstanding young ecologists with revolutionary ideas that advance the ecology profession. We are using Ning, a free, member based platform, and can be found here www.esaseeds.ning.com. SEEDSNet was established to connect SEEDS students and Chapters to: (1) realize the potential of a network of young ecologists to make great change in ecology and the world, (2) provide a venue to host collaborative SEEDS projects, (3) provide a venue for SEEDS students to either seek or communicate ecology information and opportunities, and (4) help advance SEEDS student careers. The major activities of SEEDSNet include: bi-monthly ecology themes, virtual career fairs, a groups feature to connect students in the name of a common purpose, resources pages dedicated to “must know ecology info.” and “student opportunities”, and supporting activities that are fun and engaging such as: blogs, personal profile pages, photo sharing, an essay contest, etc.
Results indicate that SEEDS students are joining, participating, and leading on SEEDSNet. Membership on SEEDSNet has grown steadily to 265 members as of this writing in February 2010 (61 in pre launch, 137 in Nov. and Dec. 2009, and 67 as of February 2010). We use on-line meetings, or webinars, with professional ecologists and student leaders to highlight our bi-monthly ecology themes. Webinars draw between 12 – 20 students who engage during the meeting most often through live chat, and following the meeting through follow-up forum discussions and blog posts. The first virtual career fair was held the first week of December 2009 and drew three exhibitors and 20 students. Exhibitors scheduled SEEDSNet chat room times for students to join and ask questions, in addition to posting on a dedicated web page. SEEDSNet is enabling the program to serve a greater number of students, and in a way that provides them with a centralized platform for advancing common projects.