The 38th Annual EEB Retreat Weekend, held from September 22-24, 2023, was a highly successful event attended by over 160 individuals that focused on community building and welcoming EEB’s new class of graduate students. The event was organized by EEB’s Retreat/Social and JEDI Committees. The department came together Friday morning at the Michigan Union for a community building workshop facilitated by KURTZ MCKINNON CREATIVE LLC, who helped us ask questions like “If EEB had a magic wand, what would it do?”. The department identified strengths and weaknesses of the department and created an action plan to address departmental climate concerns. The session concluded with eight tangible, actionable initiatives the group challenged each other to address within 30 days.  

Following the Friday session, attendees traveled to the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, where they were able to learn about the research and teaching resources available at the UMBS and participate in scientific field trips, hikes, swimming, canoeing, fireside chats, and more. For new students, it was an opportunity to be introduced to the natural history of northern Michigan and the EEB department. One weekend-long exercise was to play bingo to make the most scientific connections across the department, which was quickly won by Assistant Professor Kelly Speer and EEB Ph.D. students, Yu-Cheng Lin, and Bhaskar Kumawat.

Benjamin Nicholas, EEB Ph.D. student and part of the social committee, led both aquatic tours with Tom Duda, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “Across both aquatics tours, we captured nine species of fishes, along with multiple species of mollusks, amphibians, and aquatic insects,” said Nicholas. “In the morning tour, Tom found a dead raccoon on the lake shore, but when we returned in the afternoon, we found two bald eagles and two vultures eating it! But I thought it was a perfect weekend for the retreat. We had favorable weather, which made leading both aquatic tours very enjoyable, along with all the other activities that weekend.”

Activities were designed to foster a sense of community and collaboration among attendees and to provide opportunities for attendees to put into practice the ideas and strategies discussed during the Friday morning session.

"On Friday, we shared our ideas about the department we are and the one we want to become. While on the weekend at the UMBS, we had this great opportunity to start (or renew) connections with folks who love ecology and evolution as much as we do,“ said Matheus Januário, EEB Ph.D. student and one of the student organizers of the EEB Retreat weekend.

Overall, the 38th Annual EEB Retreat Weekend was a resounding success that left attendees feeling inspired and motivated to work towards a more equitable, transparent and inclusive department of the future.