Know Your Opportunities to Get Involved at ESA

a person with long blond hair wearing a teal t-shirt that says "VOLUNTEER" in white lettering on the back stands at a conference registration desk and hands a badge to an attendee with long dark hair, a black jacket, a brown scarf, and a face mask. other attendees mill about in the distance.

Volunteering at the registration desk for the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting is just one of the many ways that students can become more involved in ESA.

By Victoria Pickens

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.

Victoria Pickens

Victoria Pickens

Have you ever been at an Entomological Society of America meeting and, after working with a student volunteer to upload your presentation, watching a student-organized symposium, or hearing the long list of activities of a student award-winner, wondered “Can I do that too?” For many of us, prior to attending our first ESA meeting we focus on preparing a presentation or poster, but then we arrive and are struck with the realization that ESA is a place for so much more.

In fact, it can be quite dizzying. I’ve been a student member of ESA since 2016, and I can honestly say I’m still learning about all the opportunities available to students to get involved. (I learned a few more just while writing this blog post!) And, even better, more are available every year.


If you’re looking for a first step into getting involved with ESA, volunteering is perhaps one of the best ways to do so. Personally, I helped with the ESA Southwestern Branch Insect Expo at my first ESA meeting. Even though I didn’t know about it until I arrived, I was able to jump right in and get started. I had so much fun that I volunteered for the Insect Expo every year after, and it was a great experience for networking with fellow entomologists and practicing public outreach.

Volunteering with ESA can take many different forms. Some like the in-person approach, where they sign up to help at Branch or Annual Meetings with moderating, registration, or community outreach. There are regularly a few Annual Meeting Volunteer Opportunities ESA organizes, like the Student and Early Career Professional Volunteer Program, serving as moderators or judges, and a community project. For example, 2022 Joint Annual Meeting attendees could volunteer for a group cleanup of a nearby park and give back to the hosting community.

Additionally, you can volunteer for ESA Sections, though these opportunities tend to vary between Sections and years. If interested in helping your Section while attending the Annual Meeting, it’s best to contact your Section leaders for more information. The same can also be said for Branch Meetings, as each tends to organize its own activities (like the Insect Expo at Southwestern Branch). If interested in volunteering at a Branch Meeting, be sure to contact your Branch leaders.

Helping at the Branch and Annual Meetings is great, but sometimes there just isn’t room in your schedule. If you find yourself looking for ways to volunteer outside of the ESA conferences, then take a glance through the Section initiatives listed within each Section’s page on the ESA website. In many cases these initiatives need member feedback and participation. Additionally, you could sign up to serve as a peer reviewer for one or more of ESA’s journals. This is a particularly great experience for students to improve their critical thinking and writing skills, keep up with new methods, and build recognition as an expert in their field.

Similarly, volunteering as a judge on ESA award panels is another great opportunity for students to both help and learn award-application skills. In some cases, students can even serve on a panel for an award that they are interested in applying to in the future. Contact a member of the ESA Committee on Awards and Honors to indicate your interest in serving on a judge panel.

ESA has tried to make volunteering opportunities easily accessible to members online. The best way to keep in the loop is to use the “Volunteer with ESA” page underneath the “Support ESA” button on the header of the ESA website. Here you will find links to various volunteer opportunities discussed above, in addition to a link for setting up your own listing in the Volunteer Directory, where you can select which volunteer opportunities you are most interested in. However, it’s important to note that ESA communications and certain website functions are only available while an ESA member, so be sure to continue renewing your membership if you’d like to stay up to date on opportunities as they arise.


It may come as a surprise, but many leadership opportunities are available for students through ESA. In addition to the Governing Board, students can serve as representatives to a variety of different committees within ESA. Perhaps the most familiar committee to students is the ESA Student Affairs Committee, for which student representatives from each of the ESA Sections and Branches are appointed and work together to help with student engagement in entomology. (Learn more in my Entomology Today post from 2022, “Meet the Committee Working to Grow the Next Generation of Entomologists.”)

However, students aren’t limited to only the SAC to serve on ESA committees. In some cases ESA committees consist primarily of representatives from Sections or Branches, but for committees like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, any ESA member is eligible to join the committee. Be sure to look at the committee descriptions and search the website for their standard operating procedures for more information. If you become interested in a committee, but have trouble finding information on it, feel free to look through the committee roster and contact committee members to inquire about position vacancies.

Note that ESA Branches and Sections also form committees. For example, each of ESA’s Branches has a Student Affairs Committee, in which student representatives from each institution focus on student engagement for Branch Meetings. Committee opportunities are typically advertised via email from Branches or Sections to ESA members, but you can also contact your Branch or Section leaders for information, too.

Certification and Science Policy

If you’re looking to stand out as a student leader in entomology, then you might also consider one of the two following ESA programs. Becoming a Board Certified Entomologist (BCE) is certainly not a path commonly followed, especially by students. As students we generally do not meet the criteria to become a Board Certified Entomologist; however, joining the BCE Intern Program can set you on the path of obtaining the BCE Certification. By becoming a BCE, you become a certified professional in entomology who strives to uphold the integrity of your discipline and provide service to the community.

Applying to be a Science Policy Fellow is another way you can become a leader in entomology while a student. This two-year program teaches its participants (drawn from all career levels, students included) about the federal decision-making process for science policy and scientific funding, as well as giving them hands-on experience engaging with lawmakers, agency leaders, and legislative staff. Afterward, they then represent entomology in their legislative districts as part of ESA’s advocacy team.


As we progress through our careers, we can all use a helping hand along the way. ESA created the Professional Advancement Career Training (PACT) Initiative to do just that. For $100, selected students and postdoctoral fellows participate in webinars and work with a paired mentor and discussion group over the course of six months to self-evaluate and develop soft skills valuable to future work environments. Various other content for networking and professional development arises throughout the program.

EntoMentos is a different mentorship program developed by ESA typically held over the summer. Students can select a mentor and meet weekly to discuss graduate school, work-life balance, career prospects, and transitioning to the professional field. Similarly, the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology (MUVE) Section offers the MUVE Mentorship Network. Mentors and mentees within the MUVE section are paired for the year to share professional guidance, career advice, and new techniques and concepts, as well as network with other mentorship participants.

Students may also consider applying for the Public Health Entomology for All, an internship and fellowship partnership program created in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants must be currently enrolled in or recent graduates of a Minority Serving Institution. This program offers paid summer internships for current undergraduates and one- and two-year fellowships for recent graduates to learn about public health entomology as a profession and develop related skills in vector-borne disease prevention and control.


Contributing knowledge and communications resources for ESA is also big help for the Society, as it ensures that ESA continues to foster the needs of its membership. For example, if there weren’t people willing to write blog posts for Entomology Today, then ESA members wouldn’t have the opportunity to read about a cool new gadget that could speed up their data collection, or updates about an invasive species, or even a story that relieves some of their stress for a problem someone else also faced. And let’s not forget the magnificent World of Insects Calendar we get each year! So don’t be afraid to submit content to things like Entomology Today, the student life column for American Entomologist, or the World of Insects Calendar.

Or consider all the activities you could participate in at the ESA meetings. Organizing a symposium or workshop for a Branch or Annual Meeting can be a great experience as you work with your speakers and organize the symposium, plus you help further the diversity of the meeting and build your CV (see “Inviting Speakers and Organizing Symposia: How to Engage as a Student“). Member competitions like the Entomology Games and Student Debates are a fun way to testing your current knowledge, encourage innovative thinking, and build relationships with fellow students. Competitors not only have the chance to win prize money, but competing teams in the Student Debates also earn a free publication in ESA’s Journal of Insect Science when debate arguments are published. (See the 2020 edition.)

Also, be sure to attend things like the mixers and Section business meetings to network. Attending Section business meetings will especially give you the chance to hear updates about potential opportunities for members, and they also often solicit feedback for ideas to help make the Section more engaging to its members.

Words of Encouragement

Navigating an education in entomology can be overwhelming, but luckily ESA offers ways to get involved so you can develop skills and form connections that help guide you along the way. Although ESA’s membership includes roughly 7,000 professionals, it’s important for students to understand that they have a voice in ESA and that the Society is eager to support student members. In fact, it was through the support and guidance of multiple ESA members and leaders that I was able to compose this blog post. Just remember that you’re more than welcome to reach out with any questions about available opportunities. And, if you’re still nervous about getting involved, I’ll leave you with some words of encouragement offered by Chris Stelzig, executive director of ESA:

“I’ll emphasize that students have the same rights and privileges of more senior and established members. You can volunteer for committees, including committee chair positions. You can run for office. You can vie for awards. You can submit posters, talks, and symposia for the meetings—even Program Symposia. The Society has a wide array of benefits that every member can take advantage of. In a way, membership is like any tool or resource. It only works for you if you use it.”

Victoria Pickens is a Ph.D. candidate in entomology at Kansas State University and chair of the ESA Student Affairs Committee. Email: [email protected].

Source link

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *