Kari Bisbee O’Connell, associate director of the STEM Research Center at Oregon State University, has been given the Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education. The Ecological Society of America announced the winners of its 2024 awards on May 30.

Odum Award recipients demonstrate their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities. According to the ESA, through her innovative study and promotion of inclusion and belonging in field-based research, O’Connell has significantly influenced the field of ecology instruction and science education more broadly.

As a leader in the National Science Foundation-funded Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network (UFERN), O’Connell has developed more inclusive models of field education that promote equity and access. Under her guidance, UFERN has fostered collaboration among educators and researchers across numerous research stations and laboratories, supporting the development of evidence-based teaching practices, effective assessment tools and original research on student learning. Through UFERN, O’Connell advances the cause of enhancing field experiences for undergraduate students—particularly those from minority groups.

In her role at OSU, O’Connell has been involved in several other projects aimed at enhancing ecological education. Her initiatives include improving public engagement with science at Long-Term Ecological Research sites, fostering opportunities for middle and high school students to connect with old-growth forests at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and facilitating community engagement with wildfire research. Additionally, she focuses on professional development for middle and high school science teachers, developing their data literacy and cultivating a deeper understanding of ecosystems and the scientific process.

O’Connell identifies and implements strategies to make field stations and marine laboratories more inclusive, and her efforts have shaped practices at Oregon State University and beyond.

“Her holistic approach to ecology education will have a lasting impact on the academic community and on public understanding of ecological science,” award organizers said.

ESA will present the 2024 awards during a ceremony at the Society’s upcoming Annual Meeting, which will take place in Long Beach, California Aug. 4–9.