November 2010

Minutes of the ESA Governing Board
November 17-18, 2009
Washington, DC

Members Present: Mary Power (President), Sunny Power (Past-President), Terry Chapin (Past-President-Elect), David Inouye (Secretary), Josh Schimel (Member-at-Large), Emily Stanley (Member-at-Large), Deb Peters (Member-at-Large), Rob Jackson (VP for Science). Meg Lowman (VP for Education) arrived 10:10 AM.

Staff Present:

Katherine McCarter (Executive Director), Cliff Duke (Director of Science), Elizabeth Biggs (Director of Finance), Sue Silver (Editor), Nadine Lymn (Director of Public Affairs), David Baldwin (Publications). Teresa Mourad (Education and Diversity) joined the meeting after lunch on Tuesday.

Tuesday 17 November 2009. 9:03 meeting is called to order.

I. Roll Call & Agenda

  • The Governing Board unanimously adopted the proposed agenda.
  • The minutes from 1, 2, and 7 August 2009 were unanimously adopted.

II. Reports

  • Report of President Power

Much of her activity has been working on initiating Terry Chapin’s idea of a focus for the Society on Planetary Stewardship, and educating herself about planetary stewardship initiatives that have been brought up by small groups of ESA members and other individuals, organizing at the community scale to develop, sustainable working ecosystems, including community based fisheries, forests (redwood regrowth), ranching (grazing), and agriculture. Power and Chapin are launching a forum in the April 2010 ESA Bulletin in which groups will report on their diverse efforts towards ecosystem or planetary stewardship, and “lessons learned” can be exchanged. Power, with Chapin and other colleagues, are proposing some sessions for the Pittsburgh ESA 2010 meeting to explore interactions between local resource-consumption systems and the long-distance (economic, political, ecological) networks that either undermine or support them.

Under the leadership of Chair Rob Salguero-Gomez, University of Pennsylvania, the ESA Graduate Student Section is contributing exciting ideas for student-oriented initiatives, including an EcoService initiative to engage ESA graduate students in local ecosystem stewardship.

  • Report of Executive Director McCarter and the Office Staff
  • Sue Silver – the last issue of the 7th volume of Frontiers is now completed. There is still a significant backlog of papers to be published, and the acceptance rate for manuscripts is now about 17% (engendering unhappy comments from authors).
  • David Baldwin – the journals are on schedule. The November Ecological Monographs has the first ever synthetic review paper, and a second is forthcoming. Page charges are going up to $70/page as of January. He is investigating facilitation of citing ESA publications in citeulike. Proposals from several vendors to print ESA’s publications and host them online are being evaluated.
  • Cliff Duke – the Millennium Conference was very successful (despite 3” of rain during the drought conference!). The venue was excellent (Georgia Center for Continuing Education). The Forest Service contract should arrive today for funding the next meeting of the Vegetation Classification Panel, which is now a standing committee of the ESA. A report should be available soon for the effort led by RTI International to conduct a peer review of USGS Biological Resources Discipline programs. A draft report has been completed for planning (with The Wildlife Society and the Meridian Institute) for the new USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.
  • Nadine Lymn – Public Affairs has been reaching out to social scientists around town, e.g., agricultural economists, psychologists, Resources for the Future. There is excitement about ecosystem services and markets, so this may be an area for collaboration in the future. Congressman Baird (Ph.D. in social science) introduced a bill requiring Dept. of Energy to devote some funding to studying human behavior related to energy use. ESA sent a letter of support to Baird , who is waiting for an opportune time to try to reintroduce his bill, which was misrepresented as “mind control” by some Science Committee members and had to be withdrawn.
  • An ESA position statement and fact sheet on climate change are near completion. Nadine and Katherine went to a joint Department of Interior (DOI) – White House conference related to the green economy; there will be a meeting next week with a DOI administration official to talk about joint interests. Christine Buckley (Communications Officer) will be leaving in December for a job at U CONN; she’s done an excellent job with the ESA blog, podcasts, etc.
  • Liz Biggs – dust is settling on the Albuquerque meeting, and it looks like finances are on target with the budget approved by the Board. There are only 37 fewer members in the Society at the end of the membership year 2009, compared to the previous year, which is much better than many professional societies are doing.
  • When Meg and Teresa arrive, we will have a report as part of the Education program review.
  • Report of Vice President for Finance 10:55 AM
    • First Quarter Financials (McCarter)

The budget is in good shape at present (this quarter reflects all the income from the annual meeting, and most of the subscription income for 2009), but there is a lot of uncertainty about how the current economic situation will affect the Society, in terms of membership, subscriptions, and attendance at the annual meeting.

Staff will monitor the revenue and expenses closely to detect any trends.

    • Investment Update (Biggs – Parton is in Australia)

Our investment portfolio with Townley Investment (Board restricted funds, award and prize money, etc.) has gained 6% from 30 September 2008 to 2009, following a 17% decline in the previous year.

III. Discussion / Action Items 10:35 AM

  • Long-Range Planning – update

1. Standing Committee priorities

EHRC (Meg Lowman): A WAMIE (women and minorities in ecology) study has been conducted twice since the early 1990s but data are no longer available. A proposal has been put in for support for another survey, with plans to make sure the data are preserved. Other ideas being pursued include how to promote the development and inclusion of ecology in curriculum, providing tools and resources for effective ecology education, and opportunities for mentoring students and young scientists.

The Ecology Summit idea has a large working group now, and a venue has been offered in D.C. October 14-16, 2010, for a few hundred attendees. Interaction between gaming and ecology education will be investigated, as well as curriculum ideas and other teaching technology.

Science (Rob Jackson): The committee proposes a focus on more ESA-originated long-term projects, additional opportunities in climate change and sustainability, and promotion of ecological science (e.g., data sharing initiative). Strengthening collaborations with other ESA offices makes sense, as many of these initiatives would cut across multiple ESA offices. Also, strengthening international outreach efforts (e.g., with Mexican Ecological Society). Geoengineering and Neo-environment – recent advances are increasingly cutting across science, ethics, and social interactions, and with increasing speed. Some past and ongoing activities of the Science office map well onto this list, such as the data sharing initiative, and DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program. We should probably try not to overlap with efforts of NCEAS, the Heinz Center, etc.

Policy (Nadine Lymn): the Committee has not yet met to consider the priorities suggested by the Board but will be meeting in early April 2010. One idea is to add a day to the May Board meeting for training in public policy, followed by a visit to elected officials, focusing on a particular issue. OSTP Director John Holdren was suggested as a possible lunch speaker for the May Board meeting.

2. Report from the Training Priorities Subcommittee (Emily Stanley/Katherine McCarter): There are already many ongoing activities in this area, such as the ESA Graduate Student Policy Award, policy training workshops, communications training, online resources, training opportunities at the annual meeting, etc. Activities of ESA and some other scientific societies are described. The subcommittee will talk again to determine next steps.

3. Sustainable Business model (Josh Schimel): the subcommittee met via teleconference. How do we maintain the incentives for young ecologists to want to be ESA members? Social networking was probably a major reason in the past, but there are many other alternatives now for that kind of activity (Facebook groups, etc.). Why do students join, and why do they remain members or drop their memberships? Maybe a certificate program for workshops for students at the annual meetings would be attractive; e.g., a certificate for training in communications with policy makers or media. A survey of student members is planned.

  • Planetary Stewardship goals (Mary Power/Chapin)

This is a continuation of the sustainability issues ESA has focused on for many years, so it’s not a significant reorientation of Society activities. Rationale is that this is an urgent issue we can use to redirect the relationship between society and the biosphere, and an opportune time with the recent Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, IPCC activities, change in US administration, etc. Informing and engaging ESA members to do something is one goal, but how can we also involve other societies, disciplines, and policy makers? What are the leverage points where ESA could make a difference? Power is working on an article for the Bulletin’s April issue. Program Chair for the 2011 Annual Meeting (in Austin) is enthusiastic about using Planetary Stewardship as a theme for the meeting, and Chair for the 2012 meeting (in Portland) is interested in suggestions for themes that would follow up on it. Some of the Sections have expressed interest in finding ways to integrate with the theme.

Is this a radical re-orientation of the Society’s directions, by putting an emphasis on people rather than just organisms and their environment? AESS (Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences) might be a good group for collaboration. Should we say anything explicitly about human population size/growth, which underlies most environmental problems? Can we make statements about consumption rather than human population size/growth explicitly? E.g., the footprint approach. There will be an editorial in the December issue of Frontiers related to this topic.

We would have to move toward the direction of environmental sciences – e.g., considering water use for various power production methods, rather than just the hydrological cycle. Why are solar panels on houses better than a large-scale solar project in the desert? Would there by pushback by the membership about such a change in emphasis?

  • INTECOL (Mary Power). ESA Past-President Alan Covich is currently President of INTECOL, and is enthusiastic about joint activities with ESA during his 3-year tenure. Their next annual meeting will be in London in 2013, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the British Ecological Society (Mary has joined their committee planning for the anniversary).

Lunch with the ESA staff

  • Education and Diversity Programs (Mourad)

1998 – education activities began within the Public Affairs Office with a ½ JSTOR and ½ education position. 
2001 – the Education Manager position was created within the PAO
2002 – the Department of Education was created.

Early education activities included a Careers in Ecology brochure, community outreach programs, workshops and symposia at ESA meetings, and participation in education and diversity events with organizations such as SACNAS.

1999 – EHRC was formed with the merger of the former Education Committee and the Gender and Minorities Committee as recommended by the 1993 Women and Minorities in Ecology (WAMIE) report.

WAMIE 1 – 1993. Stimulated creation of EHRC, first fulltime EHR staff, mentoring programs, K12 ecology education, and Focus on Ecologists.

WAMIE 2 – 2006: Encouraged diverse recruitment and retention in universities; excellent ecology instruction; community outreach and environmental justice; grad students, postdocs, and young professionals; leadership development, broad career horizons, changing the culture of ecology.
Current Education initiatives – SEEDS, EcoEd Digital Library, Continental-scale ecology education (NEON); K12 research and education day, Ecology and Education Summit.

SEEDS – now present on 57 campuses, almost doubled since 2006. Won awards in 2006 and 2008. New projects in progress include supplemental REU partnerships (replacing SEEDS fellowships); University of North Texas IRES (International Research Experience for Students) in Chile; Appalachian State University research with SEEDS chapters in NC; MOU with Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); SEEDSNet Website.

EcoEd Digital Library is attracting growing use (but relatively flat number of unique visitors over the past two years). 
Another new project is an NCEAS Distributed Seminar focusing on publication of a set of teaching resources illustrating the use of large public datasets for the undergraduate level.

Ecology Education Summit: What should Ecology Education look like in 2020?

  • What is our core/common understanding of ecological and environmental literacy?
  • What pedagogical and technological tools should be disseminated or developed to prepare all citizens for future-oriented ecological thinking, planetary stewardship and participation in a green economy?
  • In particular, how can we ensure that minority and underrepresented audiences will have access to ecology and environmental education?
  • What cross-sectoral, multi-institutional coordination and communication strategies are necessary to achieve a transformational ecology and environmental education for K-gray by 2020?
  • How can effective educational policies be put in place to achieve the 2020 vision for quality ecology and environmental education?

Collaborators on the Ecology and Education Summit (so far) include AAAS, National Education Association, NEA Foundation, NA Association for Environmental Education, National Environmental Education Foundation, National Institute for Food and Agriculture, LTER network, National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, US Forest Service.

Planned products from the Summit include a pre-Summit ESA policy statement on ecology education; a dynamic visualization tool to facilitate information sharing and coordination; a pre-Summit survey of national organizations; an interactive online Resource Center with a one-stop shop for educational resources; a cohesive decadal plan. 

The Education Office has also been involved in K-12 education: attended the Ocean Science Education Coalition meeting; DC Science Alliance; White House STEM-Ed 21 initiative (national Lab Week, National STEM Week, Building Communities of Scientists and Teachers).

Partner programs include, managed by the Botanical Society of America for grades 6-12, and EarthTrek’s global citizen science program (managed by Geological Society of America’s Education and Outreach group.

The next part of the presentation addresses the challenges and issues related to education. The department has actively sought information from a variety of channels to guide its programs.

(1) Has included meetings with education representatives from

  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Metereological Society
  • Botanical Society of America
  • Geological Society of America
  • LTER Education Committee
  • Organization of Biological Field Stations Human Diversity Committee

(2) Also surveys through SEEDS, TIEE, and the EcoEd Digital Library,

(3) Information gathering through workshops and conferences such as

  • NSF Conversations on Undergraduate Biology Education Reform
  • Ocean Science Education Workshop
  • LTER All Scientists Meeting
  • National Science Digital Library conference
  • Cyberlearning Tools for Climate Change Education

Challenges and Issues

What is ecological literacy? (ecological knowledge, evidence based, systems thinking, ecological-cultural interactions, temporal and spatial thinking, citizenship, values)

No child left inside (narrowing curriculum, nature deficit disorder, childhood obesity)

Quality labs (NRC, 2005, America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science; labs emphasize procedures rather than science content, rarely incorporate discussion or reflection, and researchers and educators don’t agree on how to define high school science labs or on their purposes; facilities, equipment and supplies are inequitably distributed; providing a range of effective lab experiences for future teachers is critical)

Data and big ecology – challenges are generated by availability of biotic datasets, metada comparisons, statistical literacy, and causality and uncertainty.
Integration of disciplines – what does this really look like? How should SEEDS field trips be structured? Who gets the credit?

Workforce development and diversity – a concern of NSF. Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) published a biennial report this year. Diversity is increasing, but very slowly for some groups (e.g., American Indians and Alaska Natives). In 2006 minorities formed 21% of US population between ages of 25-64 with a Bachelor’s degree, but only 9% of the STEM workforce.

Stewardship and Outreach – SEEDS Education and Outreach Initiative is one example of ESA activity in this area, also engagement with K12 education, and bioblitz activities.

Funding – several NSF programs and some foundation support at present.

Opportunities include engaging the research community, developing partnerships, and avenues for revenue generation.

The Board spent some time brainstorming about possible sources of donations for sponsoring SEEDS students; maybe try approaching companies who exhibit at the annual meeting.

  • Proposal from the Publications Committee to launch a new author-pays, open access, rapid publication, online journal. Joined via conference call with Editors-in-Chief Don Strong and Aaron Ellison, and Publications Committee Chair Scott Collins.

Reasons for this proposal include the growing backload of papers waiting for publication in the ESA journals, and the growing number of submissions. Some editors are resigning because of the increased workload. Many of the papers being rejected without review are because the work is not novel, despite being solid science with valid techniques, etc. Submission rates suggest that authors want to publish in ESA journals, and many of these papers currently being rejected could be the primary content of a new journal. There have been 80 submissions to ESA journals in the past week.

Would we risk diluting the prestige of ESA journals if our acceptance rate does increase? Aaron Ellison is concerned about how one big hurdle now to publication is just getting your paper reviewed (not rejected without review), and suggests that it’s not quality of the work that is behind many decisions not to review. We are currently rejecting about 1,800 papers per year, and publishing about 600 (not including Frontiers).

Cost for publishing in the new journal is expected to be about $1,250 (which is $100 less than PLoS ONE). PLoS journals don’t publish many ecological papers. Length restriction would be approximately the average (about 14 pages) for current papers inEcology and Ecological Applications, with an extra fee for longer papers.

There is substantial support for the concept among the Board members. A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the concept of a new online-only journal that will be open access, rapid publication, and author-pays. The Business office is asked to work on a business plan that investigates the implications of different numbers of papers per year (e.g., 100, vs. 250, vs. 500), and to confirm that the proposed $1,250 charge per paper is sufficient. The Publications Committee will be told that the Board can consider a revised proposal for a new electronic journal as soon as it is received (no need to wait until the May Board meeting). Don Strong will be asked to serve as Interim Editor until a new Editor-in-Chief is appointed by the Board. The Publications Committee will be asked to provide, as soon as feasible, suggestions for a title and suggest a set of candidates for Editor-in-Chief. Schimel and Jackson will generate a list of additional questions for the Publications Committee.

  • TIEE

The Education Section has proposed to produce Volume 7 of TIEE, limiting the content to Experiments, Data Sets, and Figure Sets.

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board appreciates and approves the proposal from the Education Section to produce Volume 7 of Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) as a volunteer effort. No commitment to future issues is assumed by the Board, as it is possible that the upcoming Ecology Summit may result in new ways to disseminate these educational articles at the national-international level.

  • Name change and new focus for the Millennium Fund (McCarter)

The Fund for the Future is proposed as a new name, with a focus on generating funds for student travel to the ESA Annual Meetings and for the SEEDS diversity program. The Development Committee and Past Presidents (at their luncheon at the last Annual Meeting) recommended these changes. It is suggested that we need to leave some flexibility in wording so that donations could be used for a variety of Society needs, some of which we can’t anticipate.

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the renaming of the Millennium Fund to The Fund for the Future, with student travel to the ESA Annual Meetings and support for the SEEDS program as current priorities for funding.

  • Millennium Conference Series (Mary Power)

Past President Nancy Grimm, who initiated the idea for this conference series, was very pleased with the outcome of the first one, this fall. She has suggested a name change, and suggests that it should be primarily the responsibility of the proposers to find funding for the conferences (i.e., not ESA). A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board is enthusiastic about continuing the Millennium conference series as a grass-roots opportunity for the membership to propose conference topics and collaborate with the ESA staff and Board on planning, organizing, and funding. A call for new topics will be issued every other year.

Suggestions were made for a new name for the Millennium Conference (until a sponsor takes a naming opportunity), including Emerging Issues in Ecology, the Founders Conference Series (maybe named after a founder), the President’s Conference Series, Sustainable Biosphere Conference Series. Consensus is that Emerging Issues Conference Series is a good idea (Emerging Issues Conference on …..).

November 18, 2008 (Meg Lowman, Bill Parton, Laura Huenneke not present)

Executive Session 8:30 AM, followed by continuation of the normal meeting with staff present.

  • Review of Editor-in-Chief Don Strong

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board is enthusiastic about approving the Publications Committee recommendation to reappoint Don Strong for another term as Editor-in-Chief of Ecologyfrom 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2012.

  • Review of Editor-in-Chief Jill Baron

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the postponement of the review of Jill Baron as Editor-in-Chief of Issues in Ecology for a year, with an extension of her appointment until 31 December 2010.

  • Opening Plenary Speaker for the 2010 Annual Meeting (VP for Public Affairs Laura Huenneke joined the discussion by speaker phone).

An invitation has already been extended to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and the Board endorsed the idea of also inviting NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. The Board felt that it would be impractical to invite President Obama given the logistical and financial implications (minimum cost of $100,000).

  • ESA Centennial – Standing Committee suggestions

Sunny Power contacted ESA Standing Committees in January 2009 to invite them to consider how they might be involved in the celebration of ESA’s 100th anniversary in 2015. The Public Affairs Committee, Publications Committee, Education and Human Resources Committee, and Science Committee all made suggestions. The Historical Records Committee is currently without a Chair, but contributed some suggestions from their meeting in Albuquerque.

  • ESA Centennial Committee/Point Person (Centennial Czar)

Jim Collins and Alan Covich are suggested as candidates for the position of Committee Chair; President Power will contact them. The Committee itself would not be appointed for a couple of years.

  • Program Chair Incentives

It has been difficult to find program chairs for upcoming ESA meetings. The Meetings Committee has sent recommendations about possible incentives that could be offered to candidates, beyond what is already provided (complimentary registration and room, airfare and miscellaneous expenses, a letter to their administrators, and ESA staff support). The Board affirmed that the current incentives were appropriate and also were supportive of the suggestions made by the Committee to enlist their help in recruiting new program chairs; President Power will convey this to the Committee Chairs Kyoko Miyanishi and Scott Franklin.

  • Proposed position statement “Ecosystem Management in a Changing Climate”

ESA does not have a position statement on climate change, but has recent experience in developing one on economic growth. Four Rapid Response Team members worked with the Public Affairs staff to draft a proposed statement. The Board reviewed the proposed statement carefully, and while generally supportive of it and greatly appreciative of the work that went into it, provided extensive feedback to the Public Affairs Office for preparation of a revision. The Committee will revise the statement and circulate it to the Board for comment and a vote.

  • Theme for the 2011 Annual Meeting in Austin

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board approves the proposal from Thomas Jurik, Program Chair for the 2011 Annual Meeting, for the theme “Planetary stewardship: Preserving and enhancing Earth’s life-support systems”.

  • Student Representation on the Governing Board

A motion is moved, seconded, and approved unanimously: The Board will invite the incoming and outgoing Chair of the Student Section to attend August meetings of the Board of Governors as non-voting participants.

  • Adjournment

Meeting is adjourned at 11:31 AM.

Submitted by David W. Inouye, Secretary