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New field biology scholarship honors UND Professor Emeritus Robert Seabloom and wife Nikki

The Robert and Nikki Seabloom Field Biology Scholarship will provide a $1,000 scholarship to a qualifying UND biology student beginning with the fall semester of 2022.

Bob and Nikki Seabloom.JPG
Robert and Nikki Seabloom.
Contributed / Robert Seabloom
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GRAND FORKS — A scholarship endowment honoring a UND professor emeritus of biology and his wife, who both have a long history of conservation work, has reached its $25,000 fundraising goal just weeks after being launched, organizers say.

The Robert and Nikki Seabloom Field Biology Scholarship will provide a $1,000 scholarship to a qualifying UND biology student beginning with the fall semester of 2022.

Robert Seabloom, who taught at UND from 1961 to 1996, started the wildlife program at UND in the 1960s and has authored two volumes of “The Mammals of North Dakota.” Nikki Seabloom for several years was assistant editor of The Prairie Naturalist, a journal published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. She also assisted her husband in the field and lab and with writing.

Dan Sverdarsky
Dan Svedarsky

Dan Svedarsky of rural Crookston and Erik Fritzell of Grand Forks launched the endowment to honor the Seablooms as mentors and friends. Svedarsky, a retired natural resources professor at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, had Seabloom for an adviser as a doctoral student. Fritzell, a retired wildlife professor from Oregon State, had Seabloom as a teacher while an undergraduate at UND.

“The phrase, ‘Those who deserve praise the most seek it the least,’ describes Bob’s low-profile manner,” Svedarsky said. “He and Nikki have done so much for so many.”

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Because of that, a scholarship endowment in their honor was long overdue, Svedarsky said. The $25,000 goal represents money now invested and not just pledges, Svedarsky said.

“Both Erik and I have done a bit of this sort of honoring people and places, so when I started checking into what had been done to honor Bob, I was surprised that nothing specific had been,” Svedarsky said. “So, I reached out to Erik to partner in the effort and he was immediately onboard — and how!”

Fritzell set up a Wildlife Game Management Scholarship Endowment in 2016 to support UND graduate students doing research. Despite initial skepticism by some, the game management endowment by 2020 had exceeded its $250,000 fundraising goal, thanks to generous private donations and a matching grant program the North Dakota Legislature established in 2019 that awards 50 cents on the dollar to qualifying endowments.

There’s minimal crossover in fundraising efforts, Fritzell says, because most of the donors to the Seabloom endowment are former students and colleagues.

Erik Fritzell.JPG
Erik Fritzell

“Motivations to contribute are different,” he said.

Reached on Thursday, Seabloom said he and his wife “were just floored” when they learned about a month ago that Svedarsky and Fritzell were planning the endowment.

“We were just flabbergasted — we had no idea whatsoever,” Seabloom said. “Quite frankly, it brought tears to our eyes. The program has been so important to me personally and to Nikki, as well, because she supported me and she’s been working in peripheral ways for years.”

Looking back on his tenure at UND, Seabloom said his students include a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Dakota Game and Fish Department directors and division chiefs and a former director of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

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To name just a few.

“I authored the first (UND wildlife) program back in the ’60s, and I had no idea at that time the impact that would have on the state’s natural resources and, for that matter, the region, as well,” Seabloom said. “We had graduates in Canada, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and some of the positions they’ve occupied have been really impressive, especially in North Dakota.

“We essentially populated the leadership positions for the state Game and Fish Department for many years.”

Shane Hersch, director of development for the UND College of Arts and Sciences, is coordinating operational details for the Seabloom scholarship endowment. For more information or to contribute, contact Hersch at (701) 777-3992 or by email shaneh@UNDfoundation.org .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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