ESA Governing Board Spring Meeting May 3 – 4, 2017 Washington, DC 20036
David Lodge —President
Monica Turner —Past-President
Rich Pouyat —President-Elect
Frank Davis —VP for Public Affairs
Nalini Nadkarni —VP for Education & Human Resources
Jayne Belnap —VP for Science
Evan DeLucia —VP for Finance
Jessica Gurevitch —Secretary
Emily Cloyd —Member-at-Large
Sharon Hall —Member-at-Large
Kathryn Cottingham —Member at Large (arrived in mid-morning on 3 May)
Katherine McCarter —Executive Director
Elizabeth Biggs —Chief Financial Officer
Cliff Duke —Director, Science
Teresa Mourad —Director, Education and Diversity
Sue Silver —Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers
Steven Sayre —Director of Publishing and Member Services
Alison Mize —Director of Public Affairs
Laura Capponi —Manager of Member Services (for part of meeting)
Christi Nam —Convention & Meetings Manager (for part of meeting)
Kelsey Fisher —Student Section, Chair
A. Adopt agenda
—Emily moved to approve, Monica seconded, all aye
B. Ratification of Votes taken since November meeting
1. Approve Awards Nominations
The Governing Board ratified the vote by email to approve the recommendations provided by the Awards Committee chair, Jonathan Levine for the awards to be presented during the annual meeting in Portland. Because these recommendations were approved early in the year, it allows the winners to be notified in time to make plans to attend the annual meeting and also allows for ESA staff to publicize the winners with greater detail than was possible in the past.
—Monica moved to approve, Emily seconded, all aye.
A. Report of the President (Lodge)
President Lodge reminded the GB that under Monica’s leadership we adopted a Strategic Plan for ESA, and we should plan future developments and assessments with that as a touchstone. Evan DeLucia suggested that the strategic plan should adopt an explicit timeline, so that milestones are reached and goals assessed regularly. President Lodge emphasized in light of the Strategic Plan how important it is for the new members of the GB to be fully aware of the three-year evaluations of the different programs, and for adequate records to be kept and available.
The GB thanks the staff members who worked with EHS for resolving the remaining business of winding up ESA’s relationship with the journal, and to the ongoing efforts of the staff in this challenging year.
B. Report of the Executive Director and Staff (McCarter, et al.)
Executive Director Katherine McCarter reported on several actions taken following up decisions from the November meeting. The membership office activities have been ramping up and the staff overall is attentive to membership issues. The Emeritus Senior Ecologist membership category will begin in 2018; new Certification models are being explored for Professional Ecologist. The ESA Diversity statement was circulated to all sections, chapters and committees, and the Wiley Award funds will be split between supporting SEEDS graduates and postdocs to attend annual ESA meetings, and a regional policy workshop led by an ESA chapter. ESA has agreed to sign the TOPS (for Open Science practices) guidelines and copies were circulated to the EiC’s and Publication Committee. ESA supported the March for Science.
Long range planning grants were made to the following sections and chapter:
Disease Ecology Section
Early Career Ecologist Section
Inclusive Ecology Section
Invasion Ecology Section
The Office of Education and Diversity Programs continued to organize activities for students, plan professional development opportunities in ecology education and several SEEDS activities were discussed.
Liz Biggs reported that our long-time IT person has left and the ESA webmaster has assumed new IT responsibilities, ESA is working with a consulting firm to fill in other duties related to IT.
Teresa Mourad reported on SEEDS developments and activities, including a meeting held at El Junque National Forest in Puerto Rico. She also reported that the Wiley funds allocated to her office were used to solicit proposals for organizing a wide-ranging Forum across relevant areas (sections, etc.) of ESA to support diversity and education to be held at the Annual Meeting. They are also seeking to expand the QUBES faculty mentorship activities, as well as other efforts by her office. Rich Pouyat commented on how amazing the SEEDS leadership meeting has been and what a wonderful job Teresa and Fred Abbott did with organizing and running it.
Cliff Duke discussed the ongoing activities of the Science Office, including training workshops on how to fund scientific infrastructure and a proposed workshop related to data archiving, as well as other efforts. The Northwest Forest Plan Science Synthesis assessment has been developed with support from his office.
Sue Silver reported on the launch in August of the Exploring Science Careers section in Frontiers, and of the revival of an effort to train early career ecologists as peer reviewers for journals.
Steve Sayre reported that Laura Munley Capponi joined staff on December 6 as the Society’s new Manager of Member Services. Membership is now at 6500 members (to April 2017), 10% of whom are new members, and is expected to climb as we move closer to the Annual Meeting.
In conjunction with the routine three-year evaluation of the Editor in Chief of the Bulletin, there will be a review of the performance of the Bulletin, and a member poll; the goal is to convert the publication to better serve the membership in the future. Ecosphere is anticipating 10-20% increase and has been able to work through their backlog. The GB enthusiastically commended these successful efforts on Ecosphere.
Alison Mize discussed the ramp-up of the Public Affairs Office efforts, including recruiting Julia Marsh as a new member of the office, policy notices sent to all members, and other efforts to keep the membership updated and informed as developments occur. Responses from members have been overwhelmingly positive. Congressional office visits have been continued and ramped up; there is a webinar online now freely available on How to Communicate with Congress. The Wiley grant will be used to develop a Policy workshop with the Mid-Atlantic Section. Frank and Rich commended Alison’s efforts with her team on their effectiveness.
C. Financial Update (DeLucia/McCarter/Biggs)
Liz Biggs with Katherine and Vice President for Finance Evan DeLucia reviewed the third quarter budget projections and expenditures. Evan reported that the restricted and unrestricted accounts are healthy and growing; they are invested conservatively. Liz pointed out that the predictable income from Wiley has been important for the financial stability of ESA.
In the new year, our various financial advisors review our portfolio and discuss any changes in ESA’s financial situation. Biggs and McCarter met with Townley Capital Management and by phone with ESA’s Merrill Lynch advisors.
IV. Discussion/Action Items
A. Investment Policy (DeLucia/Biggs)
Evan discussed changes in the investment policy, which were made as an outcome of the previous discussion of the GB. There is now a change in the maximum and minimum for the investments in equities, with a goal for taking on a little more risk in the long-term investments to increase the potential for growth. The GB may wish to have more information from the account managers as to how fees and inflation affect the performance of the account investments.
—Katherine Cottingham moved and Sharon seconded approval of the investment policy, all Aye.
B. Finance Mid-Term Review (Biggs)
In the past, ESA’s income came from dues, the annual meeting, and institutional subscriptions. Currently, all regular member dues are increased by 2% per year (approved in August 2007 by Council), while they have been increased by 2% every other year for students and members from developing countries. The small but predictable dues increases have had a markedly positive impact on the ESA budget. Revenue has risen and fallen depending on the popularity of the annual meeting venue. Annual meeting attendance varies greatly with the location, with Fort Lauderdale lower than any meetings since before 2007. ESA meeting locations have been chosen to move among regions for member convenience, as well as taking into account cities with large enough conference centers and affordable rates; future strategies for choosing locations were discussed briefly, with a general consensus of moving toward meeting in a smaller number of locations, chosen for those that draw considerable member attendance as well as being affordable.
Institutional subscriptions had been eroding over time prior to the publishing agreement with Wiley (e.g. Ecology subscriptions went from 2015 institutional subscriptions in 2006, to 1747 in 2015). Currently, the agreement with Wiley has guaranteed a minimum income to ESA (starting in 2016), so that has stabilized our income and put ESA on a much better financial footing.
C. Proposed FY 2017―2018 Budget (McCarter/Biggs)
The details of the 2017-2018 budget were explained by Liz Biggs. The 2017 annual meeting in Portland should have much better attendance, resulting in greater income for ESA in next year’s budget. Staff salaries are increased by 4% per year, as decided by an earlier GB decision. The budget has become much more favorable since the contract with Wiley was finalized. New expenses include a new Membership Services Manager, funds for a communications consultant, enhanced website design, web based membership communications platform, and enhanced mass email capabilities.
Jessica Gurevitch raised the issue of whether ESA can cover some of the costs for future GB members (i.e., not for the present term of current officers) to attend the annual meeting, and it was agreed that information on other peer scientific society practices are will be gathered, and this issue will be considered by the GB in the future.
—The motion to recommend this budget to the Council was made by Frank Davis and seconded by Rich Pouyat.
D. Report of the Audit Committee (Davis)
The ESA Audit Committee, chaired by Frank Davis and including Monica Turner and Jayne Belnap met by phone with ESA’s auditors from the firm of Gelman, Rosenberg& Freeman. Michael Shafer reviewed the results of the audit of the Society finances and compliance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 with the committee and with Evan DeLucia, Katherine McCarter and Elizabeth Biggs. After this review DeLucia, McCarter and Biggs left the call so the auditors could speak directly with the Audit Committee.
Frank Davis reported on the actions of the Audit Committee. Several journal entries were reclassified. It was noted that the staff did an excellent job preparing the data for the audit. The Audit Committee approved the material for the Audit and recommended that the GB approve it as well. The GB affirmed the recommendation to approve the Audit.
E. Report of the Nominations Committee (Turner)
The nominating committee worked hard to solicit and make decisions on the nomination slate for this upcoming year, and the slate was presented to the GB with two nominees yet to be determined. Records on previous nominations and people considered for nominations were solicited from past-presidents and will be saved for future committees. The GB enthusiastically affirmed the nomination slate.
F. Ad Hoc Committee on Certification (Pouyat)
Rich Pouyat reported on the committee’s deliberations. ESA’s certification program has the potential to broaden the reach of ESA with practitioners from other fields (e.g. landscape architects) with mutual educational opportunities. Students and early-career scientists who are considering careers outside of academia may benefit from more opportunities if they hold a professional certification. Questions and issues that the committee feel need to be addressed include levels and types (e.g. academics and industry) of certification, issues of public understanding of science and scientific information, and that practitioners may not fully be versed in ecological science, and developing continuing education credits as a member service for professional practitioners. A survey will be conducted of current Certified Ecologists to understand their backgrounds, motivation for becoming certified, value of certification, etc. The GB looks forward to an update at the August meeting, and if more time is needed, a full report in the fall.
G. ESA PLAYA Fellows Residency (McCarter)
ESA has been offered an opportunity to name an individual to spend 2-4 weeks at the PLAYA which manages a remote retreat in Summer Lake Oregon.. It was recommended by the Awards committee that this be open to ESA Fellows and Early Career Fellows. ESA could pay for travel and some food, etc. expenses, PLAYA will cover lodging. PLAYA is hoping to expand their residences to scientists from their current humanities emphasis. A process for selection of a candidate by ESA to participate has been outlined; the Awards committee will make the decision, and proposes that ESA grant $2000 for travel expenses and food to cover those expenses.
—Jayne moves to accept the Awards Committee proposal, Emily seconds, all aye.
H. Member Services Update and Communications Strategy Update (Sayre)
The staff prepared a communications RFP in order to identify a consultant to guide the development of a communication strategy; Delta Think was selected from 6 formal bids submitted. Delta Think is currently in the discovery and goal setting phase of the project.
Staff members are collaborating to develop a membership engagement strategy across all departments, and involve committees, sections and chapters. A member survey will be conducted to determine member backgrounds, demographics, career and career goals, why members join ESA, etc. It will go to all members, former (lapsed) members, and non-members. Final recommendations are due in July 2017. A goal is to recruit and retain a diverse membership (as retention has dropped over time), conduct outreach to foster engagement, and expand member benefits, among others.. In addition to direct member benefits, the collective benefits of membership regarding the actions and effectiveness of ESA as a voice for ecological science will be emphasized. Current immediate focus is on infrastructure development, communications strategy and planning, and development of benefits for members.
Options for a platform for communication among members, committees, etc. is being evaluated. Currently, sections and committees often have independent websites, which should be incorporated in the future under the ESA umbrella. Kelsey Fisher reported on student surveys on what students are looking for from the student section and ESA. The biggest challenge they found was the fear of not having jobs in the field, as well as not knowing what non-academic employment is available. The section proposed holding job fairs at the annual meeting, moving the job board to a better platform and access limited to members, particularly for non-academic positions. Steve Sayre said thata job fair will be implemented for 2018, and that his staff can develop this effectively. Wiley has proposed hosting a job board, and the question is what the business plan might be, how to keep payments low, what is happening with the ecoLog listserve, and what ideas the student section would like to see on this platform. Teresa emphasized the importance of personalizing offerings and targeting individuals above and beyond the results of people searching on their own. This may or may not be possible via Wiley.
I. ESA and the New Administration (Gurevitch)
What does ESA have to offer, and how can its members interact effectively as ecologists in light of the new administration and congress? Gurevitch feels that ESA needs to stand up for the value of science not only for how it can contribute to the public good in coming up with, e.g., new medicines, making the economy grow, etc., but also for the value of science as a fundamental aspect of civilization’s need to understand the natural world. She also mentioned that many people who participated in the March for Science (which ESA endorsed) were marching for the value of science, facts, and evidence as informing both policy and our view of the world, and not only for more science research funding. Alison Mize pointed out that developing relationships with members of Congress takes years but is a very valuable function of individual members, so they can be engaged more in the legislative process. Emily introduced her experience with the desire of scientists to become involved at the state and local levels. Alison gave the example of an ESA member who is working with stakeholders to interact with state legislators in Indiana to deal with climate change. Rich pointed out that Alison is working with the Chapters on working on the local and state levels. Monica suggested reaching out to Science Friday, BBC, etc. for proactive opportunities to reach the general public.
V. Discussion/Action Items (Continued)
J. Regional Policy Award (Davis)
Frank Davis gave the GB an update on plans for speakers at the Annual Meeting and other plans for the meeting. The Public Affairs Committee is recommending that Suzanne Bonamici be awarded the Regional Policy Award. Bonamici has had accomplishments in STEM education and other areas including climate, coastal and oceanic protection, and is an inspirational rising leader in Congress.
—Davis moved to approve this award and Rich seconded, all aye.
K. Eco-Wiki Proposal (Belnap)
Jayne Belnap proposed instituting a Wiki with several goals to serve the membership. The purpose of the proposal is to provide materials to help members better engage audiences on a range of ecological and environmental topics. An example might be information provided to talk to ranchers, or to a church group. The request from the Science Committee is to get a go-ahead for exploring a business model and for scoping the possibilities for carrying this out; no resources other than a modest amount of staff support are required for the present. Evan suggested that it will be most successful if the wiki that is developed can be edited by members with interest and expertise on the topics; Rich commented that chapters and sections might want to contribute as well. One question to be resolved would be if access would be designed to be for members only to both contribute and use the material on the wiki. Katherine McCArter. cautioned that this was a substantial undertaking, and that all of the implications and commitment of members need to be ascertained before launching such a project, and others echoed these cautions. Various ideas for how such a wiki might take shape were discussed, and questions raised. Gurevitch proposed a motion to approve the Science Committee’s proposal to carry out a scoping exercise on the Eco-Wiki.
—Evan seconded Jessica’s motion. 11 voted in favor and one voted against.
L. Sexual Harassment Ad Hoc Committee Update and Brainstorming (Cottingham)
Kathy Cottingham reported on the ad hoc committee on sexual harassment which was authorized in May 2016.. The committee is will synthesize best practices, and is currently looking for suggestions for new members to the committee. One concern is how ESA should act so as not to run counter to or in conflict with institutional policies (e.g. from universities or governmental agencies) on sexual harassment protocols. The thoughts now are to focus on field stations, fieldwork, and other ecologically relevant venues.
M. Wiley Awards Contribution
Member at Large Sharon Hall will chair a committee, with Monica and Evan, on how to most effectively use the contribution from Wiley for the coming year and the future to one or more awards. The committee will make their recommendation at the GB meeting in August.
N. Annual Meeting Issues
a. Local Host 2019 Louisville Annual Meeting
The co-chair of the Meetings Committee, Kiyoko Miyanishi has recommended Sarah Emery as the local host for the 2019 Louisville annual meeting. The duties of the Local Host involve organizing field trips and identifying a local organization to receive the environmental offset contribution that ESA provides each year. Emily moved to approve, Monica seconded, all aye.
b. Environmental Offsets
ESA contributes $5 per annual meeting registrant for environmental offsets for the meeting to a local organization or project recommended by the local meeting host. Maryann Dressner, the local host for Portland, recommended the Sustainable Northwest Forest Association as the recipient for the ESA donation. Monica moved and Nalini seconded, all aye.
c. Mexico Collaboration 2018 Annual Meeting (Gurevitch)
In follow up to the suggestion of organizing a way to work with the Mexican Scientific Society of Ecology, McCarter and Christi Nam worked out a preliminary plan with ESA Secretary Jessica Gurevitch which was shared with the Meeting Committee Chair, Kiyoko Miyanishi, Program Chair Tim Showalter, Vice President for Science Jayne Belnap, and Latin American Chapter Chair Daniel Stanton prior to being presented to the Mexican Society for their consideration. In 2018 ESA will offer annual meeting member rates to the Mexican Society, welcome the Society during the Monday Scientific Plenary, highlight the Society with a Special Session, provide a room for them to meet, encourage coordination with the ESA Latin America Chapter, and find ways to celebrate the collaboration with signage and other means during the 2018 Annual meeting in New Orleans.
d. ESA Annual Meeting Diversity Awards (Nadkarni)
A number of sections have supported developing an ESA Annual Meeting Diversity Award with some financial support, perhaps to cover meeting registration costs. This would be open to non-ESA members invited to give talks at the Annual Meeting. Rich suggested offering a one-year membership as well. Monica expressed concern for calling this an award, because it is different from other ESA awards. Frank suggested calling it a grant rather than an award. This would be for up to 8 (non-member) invited diversity speakers and workshop participants per meeting.. Kathy Cottingham. suggested that Sharon Hall’s committee will take this under consideration for the Wiley funds.
e. Additional Business agenda item: Gurevitch suggested that ESA should consider offering workshops training faculty from non-Tier 1 universities in writing effective grant proposals and pre-proposals. Rich Pouyat suggested that the meeting of the mid-Atlantic Section or other sections or chapters might be a good venue for this, and Steve Sayre thought this might fit well with the strategic goals relevant to member services.
Second Executive Session
Report out to Staff: for future GB meetings, having presentations on reports in the Board Book limited to 5 minutes, with questions encouraged from presenters and for the GB to presenters. A slot is requested for New Business limited to 15 minutes. These will be discussion items only, not decision or action items.