From the Desk of the Executive Director
In 2021, ESA faced continuing restrictions and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our volunteer leaders and staff rose to the occasion to continue to enhance and grow programs, from new DEIJ initiatives, to publishing the largest number of papers in ESA journals in a single year, to expanding our on-line offerings of webinars and water-cooler chats. Thanks to the hard work of many, we continue to be the largest scientific society focused on advancing ecology and environmental science.
ESA flipped the Annual Meeting, originally planned for Long Beach, California, to a rich virtual experience. The second-ever all-virtual ESA meeting was expanded to include live Q&A sessions for all technical oral and poster sessions, on-demand virtual content of recorded talks and posters, and a wide array of social and networking events. More than 3,100 participants from around the world joined together for five days of programming. Through the Opportunity Fund, ESA donors continued to enable us to offer both registration grants and dependent care grants to those without institutional support to attend.
ESA leaders also re-envisioned our governance and completed a second phase of bylaws changes to create a more participatory and transparent society. The ESA Council voted in August to adopt new bylaws, effective in January 2022. The structure was outlined in an article in the Bulletin in July, and the transition will continue through August 2022.
Strong Fiscal Position
ESA continues to be financially healthy. The Governing Board has instituted a standing Finance Committee to help review plans for new initiatives and other governance changes. Through the discipline of our fiduciaries over the past 25 years (board and staff), ESA was, for the first time, able to invest in new ventures by spending a small amount of our unrestricted net assets. The Governing Board approved creating a standing committee on diversity and spending on some new DEIJ initiatives.
Our total membership dipped slightly last year, to 7,723, as a reflection of a smaller virtual meeting. Our membership office continued to support section and chapter activities and launched an expansion of the ESA certification program, which now includes continuing education requirements and an expanded role for the Board of Professional Certification. Initial results of the program show an increase in 60% in the number of applications for certification.
While the ESA headquarters office remained mostly closed in 2021, staff continued to support programs and committees remotely. Our publishing staff worked with our partner Wiley to push through a backlog of submissions to ESA journals, setting records for number of total articles published and strengthening the position of our journals in the marketplace.
ESA members are resilient. They continue to advance ecology and environmental science through research, communication and teaching around the world. They work together with staff to strengthen our current programs and are ready to take on new challenges that may lie ahead. Will you join us?