August 3, 2008

Minutes of the ESA Council 
August 3, 2008 
Milwaukee, WI

I. Introductions of Council Members and others present

Brendan Bohannon (Microbical Ecology), Lou Gross (Program Chair), Scott Collins (Long-Term Studies & Publication Committee), Jenny Talbot (Student), Nancy Johnson (Soil Ecology), Wayne Zipperer (Urban Ecosystem), Richard Brugam (Paleoecology), Jill Baron (Editor in Chief, Issues in Ecology), Karen Yee (Canada Chapter), Hoski Schaafsma, Janet Morrison (Mid-Atlantic Chapter), Mimi Lam (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), Mark Fulton (Vegetation Section), Dennis Martinez (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), Susan Andrews (Agroecology Section), Catherine Pringle (Awards Committee), Scott Collins (Publications Committee), Deb Peters (Southwest Chapter), George Middendorf (Environmental Justice Section), Laurie Anderson (Researchers at Undergraduate Institutions), Anna Sher (Plant Population Ecology Section), Carolyn Hunsaker (Board of Professional Certification), Kiyoko Miyanishi (Meetings Committee, Future Meetings Committee), Randy Balice (Statistical Ecology Section), Ed Johnson (Editor in Chief, Bulletin).

Governing Board members present: Armesto, Belnap, Christensen, Covich, Inouye, Parton, Lowman, Jackson, Stanley, Huennecke, Schimel, Pouyat, Power, Kinzig.

ESA Staff members present: Katherine McCarter (Executive Director), Elizabeth Biggs (CFO & Director for Administration), Sue Silver (Editor), Teresa Mourad (Director of Education), Ramona Crawford (Development), David Baldwin (Publications), David Gooding (Publications), Cliff Duke (Science office)

II. Report from President Christensen about recent Governing Board discussions and ESA activities and initiatives

President Christensen recognized Lou Gross as Program Chair, Michele Horton and Aleta Wiley as ESA staff, and Gretchen Meyer as local host, all of whom were critical to this Annual Meeting.  This has been a good year for the Society, with no big bumps in the road.  Leadership by the staff and ESA members has made it a successful year.  The Science Program has been quite active, for example running the Biofuels Conference, and planning for next year’s Millennium Conference.  Frontiers has continued its rising trajectory, with increasing numbers of submissions.  Issues in Ecology are also taking off, with six in preparation at present. 

            An upcoming issue is that of data registration and data archiving. The Rapid Response Teams have been busy, helping to address important, topical ecological issues, and regional chapters can help with local response teams in the future.  The SEEDS program is helping to train a new generation of ecologists. 

            The financial health of the Society is good, and this year the D.C. office moved to new quarters and was consolidated with the Frontiers staff that was previously in Silver Spring, MD.  Thanks to all of you who have volunteered to help lead the Chapters and Sections.

III. Review of ESA financial status, presentation of the budget proposal (Parton)

In short, we’ve had another good financial year.  We have had several good years in a row, but will have to look ahead with caution given the current world economic outlook.  Although we had about 10% interest/yr for the past two years, we had a 4% loss on the endowment funds this year (which is good relative to many indices over the past year).  Over the past 5 years the average annual return has been 8%. We have an unrestricted reserve fund of $1.8 million, with a goal of $5 million. 

Assumptions made in planning the 2007-08 budget were reviewed. The proposed budget assumes 10,000 members during 2008-2009, that membership subscriptions will decrease by 20%, that there will be $10,000 in long-term planning grants for Chapters and Sections, and that there will be a subsidy of $40,000 to the Millennium Conference.  The projection for the current fiscal year is that there will be revenue of $6,267,800 (slightly less than the previous year, and expenses of $6,267,462 (down from $6,369,307 last year). Revenue minus expenses is thus projected at $338. As approved two years ago by the Governing Board, there will be a routine increase in annual dues of approximately 2%, with a 2% increase for student and developing member categories every other year (beginning in 2009). 

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved: The Council approves the proposed 2008-2009 budget.

IV. Discontinuing the Western Chapter (Inouye)

The Governing Board has recommended discontinuing the inactive Western Chapter.  A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Council approves discontinuing the Western Chapter.

Long-Range Planning Grants are reviewed by the Members-At-Large of the Board of Governors. Last year about 8 proposals were received and 6 were funded (not all at the original levels requested). A motion is moved, seconded, and approved (not unanimously): The Council approves transfer of the accumulated Western Chapter dues to the Long-Range Planning Grant account to be distributed over a two-year period. 

President Christensen points out that the Council will be asked shortly to approve creation of a new South American Chapter.

V. Meetings Committee By-Law Changes (Inouye)

            Two changes are proposed to the By-Law concerning the Meetings Committee, to bring it into alignment with what has been the practice for the past couple of years. The first would have the immediate past Program Chair rather than the current Program Chair serve as Co-Chair (with the Future Meetings Chair) of the Meetings Committee.

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously:  The Council approves the proposed change in the By-Laws, to make the immediate past Program Chair rather than the current Program Chair, Co-Chair of the Meetings Committee.

            The other proposed change is the addition of the Chair of the Student Section as a member of the Meetings Committee. This would recognize formally the involvement of the Student Section in Annual Meeting planning. A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Council approves the proposed change in the By-Laws, to make the Chair of the Student Section a member of the Meetings Committee. 

VI. Board of Professional Certification (Hunsaker)

            There are many reasons why it would be good to increase the (currently quite low) proportion of members who are Certified Ecologists.  There may be some unexpected costs to members who become certified; e.g., anyone claiming certification of any kind in Tennessee has to pay a $250 annual fee to the state. The proposal from the Board of Professional Certification to require Board and Council members to be Certified Ecologists was discussed.  Council and Board members are encouraged to consider becoming certified (only a few are currently certified).

VII. Reports from Long-range Planning Grant Awardees

  1. Education and Human Resources Committee – Meg Lowman. Six speakers have been invited to speak at the EHRC lunch this week, and these funds were used to help bring them to the meeting.
  2. Education Section – Christopher Beck.  The grant was used to bring six high-school teachers to the meeting so they could learn about what ESA does. 
  3. Student Section – Jenny Talbot. The proposal was to fund travel by students to the Annual Meeting.  Over 100 applications were received, 11 students (3 international) were funded.  Prizes of $150 were given to the winner of the competition for a Student Section logo, for the best undergraduate presentation at the Annual Meeting ($150 each for the best oral and poster presentations), and for the best student (undergraduate and graduate) research project (nominated by their advisors). There will also be a presentation of entries for the best student-made film, following the Student Section meeting.
  4. Soil Ecology – Nancy Johnson.  The grant was used for awards for student travel to the Annual Meeting, and the apparent need has stimulated a search for funds for an endowment for future travel awards.
  5. Canada Chapter – Karen Yee.  The grant was used to hire someone to create a database for use by the Chapter on its Web site. 
  6. Agroecology Section – Susan Andrews.  The grant was used for awards for the top three oral and poster presentations. 
  7. Microbiology Section – Brendan Bohannan. This is the end of the Section’s first year. The grant was used for travel awards for four students. 

Ann Kinzig gave some information about what kinds of proposals for Long-Range Planning Grants the Members-At-Large would like to encourage.

VIII. Information Exchange (Inouye)

            There was a lively discussion about the need for and mechanics of seeking external funding for Chapters and Sections.  
The Plant Population Biology Section silent auction at the Annual Meeting to raise funds for student travel could be emulated by other Sections or Chapters.
Sections and Chapters can submit Symposium proposals. Note that jointly sponsored proposals are encouraged.  Organized Oral Sessions are another opportunity for cross-Section interactions.  
Mid-Atlantic Chapter has an annual spring conference; this year it will be co-sponsored by the Society for Ecological Restoration.  Janet Morrison would appreciate any suggestions about how to run a co-sponsored event like this.
There are many opportunities for involvement with SEEDS, Teresa Mourad pointed out.
Meg Lowman announced that there will be a focus during the 2010 meeting on best practices for ecological education.
There may also be a need for student subsidies for field trips and workshops, or some balance between the need to control numbers of participants in workshops and allowing access by students; the Meetings Committee will discuss this.  
Mimi Lam (TEK Section) suggested that there is also a need for travel funding for members of Native American and other groups with traditional ecological knowledge.

IX. Recognition of Governing Board Members Leaving the Board (Christensen)

            President Christensen recognized the service by Alan Covich (Past President), Rich Pouyat (VP for Public Affairs), Juan Armesto (Member at Large), Jayne Belnap (Member at Large). 

X. Introduction of New Governing Board Members and Passing of the Gavel (Christensen)

            President Christensen introduced President Elect Mary Power, incoming Vice President for Public Affairs Laura Huenneke, incoming Members at Large Josh Schimel and Large Emily Stanley, and incoming President Sunny Power. 

XI. Announcements and New Business (Christensen)
Meeting adjourned at 4:18 PM.

David Inouye, Secretary