May 5, 2014

Minutes of the ESA Governing Board,
May 5-6, 2014
Washington, DC

Members Present
Jill Baron                     President
Scott Collins               Past-President
David Inouye              President-Elect
Leslie Real                  VP for Finance
Sharon Collinge          VP for Public Affairs
Valerie Eviner             VP for Science
Julie Reynolds             VP for Education and Human Resources
Charles Canham          Secretary
Carmen Cid                 Member at Large
Stephen Jackson          Member at Large
Michelle Mack            Member at Large

Staff Present
Katherine McCarter    Executive Director
Elizabeth Biggs           Directory of Finance
Cliff Duke                   Director, Science
Michelle Horton          Director, Administration and Meetings
Teresa Mourad            Director, Education and Diversity
Sue Silver                   Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers
Alison  Mize                Director, Public Affairs
Regina Przygocki         Publications Office

9:00 am, May 5, 2014, meeting called to order by President Jill Baron

I. Agenda and Approval of Minutes 

  1. Adopt Agenda
    David Inouye moved and Carmen Cid seconded adopting the agenda.  All aye.
  2. Approval of the Minutes of the August 2013 Governing Board Meetings.
    David Inouye moved and Val Eviner seconded approval of the November 2013 minutes.   All aye.
  3. Ratify vote – Regional Policy Award
    Steve Jackson moved and Scott Collins seconded a motion to approve the recommendation of Darrell Steinberg, California State Senate Majority Leader as the winner of the 2014 Regional Policy Award.   All aye.

II. Reports

  1. Report of the President
    Jill Baron reported on activities related to the Earth Stewardship Initiative, including the project entitled “Integrating Ecological Science into Landscape and Urban Design” to be conducted during the 2014 meetings in Sacramento.
  2. Report of the Executive Director and Staff
    Katherine McCarter introduced the staff reports contained in the board packet.  Cliff Duke highlighted several new projects, including a 2-year grant to increase the visibility of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services within the scientific community.  Michelle Horton gave an update on preparation for the 2014 annual meeting.  They have retained a company to prepare an iPhone, Droid, and tablet app for the program of the meeting.   Alison Mize, the new Director of the Public Affairs program, reviewed recent efforts, including bringing graduate students to DC for meetings with congressional representatives.   She noted that The National Climate Assessment will be released this week.

Sue Silver reported on recent special issues of Frontiers.  They are introducing new open access components of Frontiers.  Teresa Mourad presented highlights of the Office of Education and Diversity Programs.  She summarized a recent SEEDS leadership meeting, and thanked Jill Baron for her help with the meeting.  There are several field trips scheduled for students in the program, including to the Trout Lake and Mountain Lake field stations.  Results of the SEEDS evaluation report will be presented later in the board meeting.  Regina Przygocki reported on activities of the Publication Office while David Baldwin is working part time from Mexico.  The Office is looking for new software for management of the production process.  Elizabeth Biggs gave a brief update on finances, since there will be an in-depth review of finances later in the meeting. Membership numbers and institutional subscriptions are both up slightly over the same time last year.

  • Financial Update
    Elizabeth Biggs, Director of Finance, reviewed the Society’s third quarter financial status.  Both dues and subscription revenue are going to be below budget for the fiscal year.  But both salary and benefits are also below budget, in part because the position of Director of the Public Affairs Program was vacant for part of the year.  As a result, total revenue was above expenses but at a much lower level than at the same time last year.  Liz also reported on the status of our investment accounts.  The Society has investments managed by both Merrill Lynch and Towneley Capital Management and both portfolios are performing well.


III. Discussion/Action Items

  • Report of the Audit Committee
    Steve Jackson moved and Sharon Collinge seconded a motion to accept the Audit Committee report.  All aye.
  • Program Review – Financial Status
    Liz Biggs reviewed the financial status of the Society, focusing on sources of unrestricted net income.  She began by reviewing the balance of income (less investments) versus expenses for the past 9 years.  Balances have been positive in all years from 2005-2013.  Including investments, the cumulative effect has been a $2.3M net balance which has resulted in unrestricted net assets of $2.9M.  In contrast, as recently as 1999, the society’s unrestricted net assets were negative ($126,363).   The Governing Board has set a goal of $5M in unrestricted net assets.  Liz then reviewed how the different categories of revenue and expenses have changed since 2005.  Dues revenue varies significantly year-to-year, largely because of variation in meeting attendance, while the long-term average has increased slightly because of built-in and gradual increases in membership dues.  Subscription revenue has declined slightly from a peak in 2009, despite increases in institutional subscription rates.  The numbers of institutional subscriptions has declined in 6 of the 7 last years, from a peak of 2,015 in 2006 to 1,791 in 2013.  Member subscriptions have also dropped, in part attributed to online institutional subscriptions.  There was extensive discussion of strategies for retaining and expanding institutional subscriptions, particularly at smaller institutions and government agencies.  The Annual Meeting is an important source of net income.  The Board has set a target of a minimum of $80,000 in net income from the meetings, and this target has been met in each of the last 9 years.  The actual net income varies from $96,000 to $432,000, and is a function of both attendance and expenses associated with the site.  Julie Reynolds suggested that the Board increase the expected net income from meetings.  There was discussion of the perennial issue of selecting locations for meetings to balance issues related to maximizing attendance and net revenue versus geographic diversity.  Scott Collins noted that the most fundamental goal of the meeting is to encourage the largest number of members to attend and interact.  There has been strong sentiment to set up a rotation in which certain cities are used repeatedly.

    Les Real moved and Sharon Collinge seconded a motion to set the minimum expected net income from the annual meeting at $125,000, beginning in 2019.  All aye.

    Liz Biggs then reviewed page charge revenue.  This typically amounts to close to $500,000/yr (including income from special features in Frontiers).  Income relative to expense for Ecosphere is projected at about $20,000 for 2014.

  • Proposed FY 2014-2015 ESA Budget

    1.Budget and Assumptions
    Katherine McCarter introduced the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Budget Proposal.  Highlights include changes in journal subscription policies that are designed to bring institutional subscription revenue back to 2012 levels.  Membership dues are also expected to increase based on anticipated annual meeting attendance.   Per Council vote of August 2007, membership dues will increase by 2% for all members in 2015.  In lieu of the normal annual allocation of $50,000 to unrestricted funds, that money will be devoted to Centennial activities.  There are no significant capital expenses in the draft budget.   The budget will be reviewed again at the August meeting before bringing it to the Council for approval.
    2. Board Strategic Initiatives
    There was discussion of a number of ideas for use of the Board Strategic Initiative funds, including reserving the monies so that they accumulate in the Opportunity Fund for future initiatives.  The strategic review of ESA journals being considered during this meeting would likely be funded from the Opportunity Fund.
  • Strategic Review of the ESA Journals
    For several years, the Governing Board has been discussing the future of ESA’s publication program. Stresses on journal publishing include open access, declining library subscriptions, and the demand for new technology. The publication program has been a major source of funding for ESA and the Board is aware of the decline in revenue due to fewer institutional subscriptions.

    As a follow up to these conversations, President Jill Baron and Executive Director Katherine McCarter are recommending that Bill Burke of Rising Tide be engaged to do a Strategic Review of ESA’s journals. The effort will take no less than three months and no more than six months. The review would:

    * Review ESA’s publication portfolio (peer review, production practices, use of technology, mode of access, etc)
    * Conduct a competitive review of the standing of ESA’s journals in relation to their direct and major competitors
    * Benchmark ESA against like publishers and identify practices that have led to their success
    * Determine what actions ESA needs to take to be successful in the future – include a range of operational options to pursue

    Bill Burke joined the meeting via speakerphone to summarize their proposal and take questions from the Governing Board.  There was extensive discussion of the review.  Julie Reynolds noted that it would be desirable to have bids from other sources.

    Charles Canham moved and Sharon Collinge seconded a motion to approve soliciting a formal bid from Rising Tide, with a maximum budget of $75,000.  All aye.

  • Ecosystem Health and Sustainability Update
    Sue Silver and Regina Przygocki updated the Board on progress with the development of the joint journal with the Ecological Society of China, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability.  A journal website was launched in March 2014 and the Ecotrack portion of the journal is to be available by June 2014.  They hope to have the first papers published in January 2015.
  • Fundraising Update
    Charles Canham reviewed efforts to increase the number and average size of donations to the Fund for the Future.  He thanked board members for the e-mails they sent to ESA members last winter.  In the coming year fundraising efforts will be coordinated with planning for the Centennial year.  Michelle Mack suggested developing posters that can be displayed at the annual meeting to illustrate the need for and use of donations to the Fund for the Future.
  • Mid-term Review – Education
    Teresa Mourad, Director of Diversity and Education and Julie Reynolds, Vice President for Education and Human Resources updated the Board about education and diversity program priorities since the last review.  She presented initial results from the NSF-funded review of the SEEDS program, including surveys and compilation of data from both current students and alumnae.  She reviewed 2013-2014 priorities for the Committee for Diversity and Education.  These include preparing for the Centennial, the annual diversity luncheon, the sustainability of SEEDS funding, and vision and change in undergraduate biology education.
  • New Generation Report – Implementation Update
    The Ecology for a New Generation Committee made its final report to the Governing Board at its May 2012 meeting. While the Board did not specifically approve all the recommendations, it encouraged ESA staff, sections and chapters to review the report and implement the recommendations as appropriate. Director of Education and Diversity Teresa Mourad has sent a survey to sections and others to gather information for the update. She presented results to the Board, noting that many of the recommendations are being addressed by the Society and by individual sections, chapters, and committees.
  • Early Career Ecologist Section Petition
    Daniel Scholes and an organizing committee have submitted a petition to establish an Early Career Ecologist Section. The petition contains a statement of general scope, proposed bylaws, and the names of at least 50 members.

    Staff review of the proposed bylaws indicates that they are in accordance with the requirements of the ESA Constitution and Bylaws and also confirm that 50 members have signed the petition.

    Scott Collins moved and Julie Reynolds seconded approval of the Bylaws of the Early Career Ecologist Section.  All aye.

    Scott Collins moved and Julie Reynolds seconded recommending that the Council approve the formation of the Early Career Ecologist Section.  All aye.

  • Proceedings of the National Vegetation Classification
    The ESA Panel on Vegetation Classification has been collaborating to develop the standards for a national classification and construction of the classification itself since 1994. In 2009, the ESA Council amended the ESA By-laws to grant the Panel standing committee status.

    ESA’s panel on Vegetation Classification is proposing that ESA agree to house the Proceedings of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC), an online resource that would document changes in the NVC.

    The National Vegetation Classification is dynamic—it can be changed in response to new information from the field. In the last several years, the Federal Government has relied on ESA’s Vegetation Panel to develop a peer review process to review proposed changes. ESA is being asked to house the review materials and products. After completion of the NVC (anticipated in 2015) proposed changes will begin to be submitted and the ESA Panel will maintain the leadership of the review process.

    Scott Collins moved and Les Real seconded a motion to approve that ESA will house the Proceedings of the National Vegetation Classification in an online format.  All Aye.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014
    The Governing Board met in executive session from 8:00 – 9:00 am.

  • ESA Professional Certification – Review
    Linda Heath, former chair of the ESA Certification Program has provided a background document on the Professional Certification program and a suggestion that the program, established in 1981, would benefit from a review including an update of its criteria and consideration of new directions.   Heath’s document not only contains the argument for the need for an update of the certification program, but also contains the kinds of questions and concerns that should be addressed.

    Steve Jackson moved and Julie Reynolds seconded a motion to approve the appointment by ESA President Jill Baron of an Ad Hoc Committee to review the certification program. A charge, time frame, and selection of members will be determined by the President.

  • Automatic Section Membership
    During the November 2013 Governing Board meeting, the Board approved a motion to “recommend to the Council increasing the Student Membership by $2, with the additional funding dedicated to Student section activities”.   There was also discussion of the issue of whether all student members should be automatically enrolled in the Student Section, and whether all membership classes should include membership in a section of the member’s choice.  Currently about 60% of ESA members pay the $5 fee to join a section.  Attendees of the annual meetings will, beginning this year, be able to join a section while at the meeting.

    Julie Reynolds moved and Val Eviner seconded that the Board recommend to the Council that all membership categories be increased by $5 and that all members are invited to select one section or chapter as part of their basic membership.  Additional section or chapter memberships can still be selected for $5 each.  Student dues would increase by the $2.00 going to the student section and the $5.00 fee for a section or chapter of their choice. All aye.

  • Centennial Implementation – Update
    The Centennial Implementation Committee, chaired by Nancy Huntly, was charged to oversee the implementation of various activities approved for funding by the Governing Board as part of the Centennial celebration during 2015. These activities include Centennial Papers in ESA journals, a video production, efforts by the Past Presidents and Historical Records Committees, and allocation of funds for activities organized by Chapters, Sections, and Students. The Committee Chair also communicates with ESA Staff, the 2015 Program Chair, the Historical Records Committee Chair, the Past Presidents Chair, and Section Chairs to coordinate and promote the Centennial.

    Nancy Huntly provided a written update on activities of the committee.

  • 2015 Centennial Theme
    Carol Brewer, Program Chair for 2015, in consultation with Nancy Huntly, Chair of the Centennial Implementation Committee, and others has submitted a suggested theme for the ESA 2015 Centennial meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.   The board discussed feedback to provide to the Program Chair for revision of the theme.  Jill Baron will pass on comments from Governing Board members to Carol Brewer.
  • Report of the Nominations Committee
    Scott Collins announced the slate of candidates for the 2014 ESA Governing Board elections.  Steve Jackson moved and David Inouye seconded approving the slate of candidates.  All aye.

    Les Real moved and Charlie Canham seconded the motion to appoint Scott Collins to serve a one-year term as Vice President of Public Affairs, to fill the vacancy from 2014-2015.  All aye.

  • Report of the Awards Committee
    The Awards Committee, chaired by Alan Hastings, has provided its recommendations for the ESA-wide awards to be presented during the Scientific Plenary at the 2014 Sacramento Annual Meeting. These recommendations also contain nominations for Fellows and Early Career Fellows and the Whittaker and Shreve awards.

    Scott Collins moved and Valerie Eviner seconded approving the slate of candidates for the awards.    10 votes aye, 1 abstention.

Meeting adjourned at 11:30 am,  May 6, 2014