UW’s Bethann Garramon Merkle Elected as ESA Early Career Fellow

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Bethann Garramon Merkle

Bethann Garramon Merkle, a University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology assistant professor of practice, is among 10 faculty members nationwide elected as Early Career Fellows by the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

The society’s fellowship program recognizes the way its members contribute to ecological research, communication, education, management and policy. Garramon Merkle, along with the other Fellows, will be recognized at the annual ESA meeting Aug. 4-9 in Long Beach, Calif.

According to ESA, Garramon Merkle was elected a Fellow for her pioneering work in science communication and her research focused on institutional-level social change. She also was recognized for her use of mixed-method tools to study approaches to training in “self-efficacy and collective action in order to empower scientists and science students to change institutions, with the goal of making the world more just.”

Early Career Fellows are ESA members within eight years of completing their doctoral training -- or other terminal degrees -- who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years.

Garramon Merkle, a first-generation college student originally from Montana, is a nontenure-track professor of practice who was elected for her unique contributions to ESA. In particular, she co-founded and led a major science communication capacity-building effort at ESA for most of the past decade.

Her nominators said, “Bethann is a visionary and natural leader, and her leadership has been instrumental in driving the current professional development framework used by ESA” and “Her intellectual contributions, found in extensive, transdisciplinary publications and scholarly products, demonstrate exceptional advancement of our discipline.”

At UW, Garramon Merkle co-founded and leads UW’s Science Communication Initiative -- a capacity-building program to help scientists and science students secure funding and support to share science in usable ways in Wyoming and beyond.

“The work that I do is collaborative and transdisciplinary, and I primarily use communication, strategic planning or arts and humanities skill sets to enhance the way we do, teach and share science -- and the way we train people to become leaders in and beyond UW,” Garramon Merkle says.

She credits this significant professional accomplishment to her leadership roles in ESA, starting with co-founding and leading the Communication and Engagement Section in 2014.

“It is a huge deal for me to be elected an Early Career Fellow in ESA. It is not an honorary award,” she says. “The rest of my elected cohort this year are almost certainly all professional scientists, likely primarily tenure-track professors with typical-seeming academic careers who are being recognized for being impactful scientists.”

She says that ESA electing her as a Fellow is an affirmation of the value of her science communication capacity building and scholarship.

“It is extremely rare to see this kind of award offered to someone who is not even a ‘formal ecologist,’” she adds. “This award signals that ESA sees my work as equally valuable to their society, my fellow ESA members and the field of ecology. They are recognizing me and my work as equivalently impactful to their esteemed scientist members.”

Her past ESA work has helped provide a model for her leadership of UW’s Science Communication Initiative and other support programs, including the graduate student scholarly writing practices program she created with Rick Fisher, a UW English senior lecturer and director of communication across the curriculum.

“This honor matters both as affirmation of the importance of this work in ESA and also as a nod to the importance of what I am still trying to build at and for UW,” Garramon Merkle says.

Her nominators agree, saying, “She knows what works, what doesn’t, what’s most impactful and what’s potentially harmful. Her science communication training, scholarship and practice are evidence-based, and she has directly empowered thousands of scientists to embrace evidence-based communication tools to share their work with the world.”

Nomination letters for Garramon Merkle’s award came from colleagues at UW, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Denver and the University of North Dakota.

To view the profiles of ESA’s 2024 Fellows and Early Career Fellows, click here.

About the Ecological Society of America

ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to promote ecological science by improving communication among ecologists; raise the public’s level of awareness of the importance of ecological science; increase the resources available for the conduct of ecological science; and ensure the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision-making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policymakers.

For more information, visit ESA’s website at www.esa.org/.

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