November, 2016

Minutes of the ESA Governing Board,

8-9 November 2016 Washington, DC

Members Present:

David Lodge               President

Monica Turner             Past-President

Rich Pouyat                  President-Elect

Frank Davis                  VP for Public Affairs

Jayne Belnap                VP for Science

Evan DeLucia               VP for Finance

Jessica Gurevitch        Secretary

Kathryn Cottingham  Member at Large

Emily Cloyd                 Member-at-Large

Sharon Hall                 Member-at-Large


Staff Present:

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



Members Absent:     

Nalini Nadkarni      
VP for Education and Human Resources (present for part of the meeting on Tuesday by phone)                        

 9:00 am November 8, meeting called to order by President David Lodge

  1. Roll Call and Agenda
  1. Adopt Agenda

Monica Turner moved and Emily Cloyd seconded adoption of the agenda.  All aye.

  1. Ratification of Votes taken since August meeting
  2. Minutes, August 2016

Monica Turner  moved and Jayne Belnap seconded approval of the minutes of the August 2016 meeting, as well as the Conference call on September 2, 2016 of the Governing Board in which it was voted to terminate our partnership with the Ecological Society of China to publish EHS was duly noted. All aye.    

  1. Reports
  2. Report of the President (Lodge)

President Lodge highlighted the implementation of the Strategic Plan. He emphasized continuity and effective communication among members of the GB, as well as communication between Board members and ESA staff members. He also discussed upcoming meetings where ESA has been invited to participate, including a NAS all day conference on GMOs in agriculture.

  1. Report of the Executive Director and Staff (McCarter)

Katherine McCarter reported on actions taken after the August GB meeting, including: Deb Peters and David Schimel have been notified about their reappointments as Editors in Chief; information about long range planning grants was sent to all section, chapter and committee chairs, and a vote of the ESA Council was held to amend the Bylaws to require 100 members to petition for a new section or chapter (the amendment was not approved by the Council) . Steve Sayre has carried out a search for a Member Services Manager, who will serve in the unit headed by Steve.

Liz Biggs reported that the 2016 membership year has closed with a total of 7794 members, the lowest since the launch of Frontiers. The numbers attending the Fort Lauderdale meeting were also low, with 2542 attendees. Plans are underway for the 2017 meeting in Portland, OR.

The Public Affairs report covered activities held at the Annual Meeting, discussed the ESA press releases this past year, and informed the GB on media coverage of ESA journal articles, as well as other activities and successful outcomes of the Public Affairs program. Alison Mize noted that a full program review of the Public Affairs Office will be discussed later in the day and also reported that the office is ramping up activities after the U.S. election.

Teresa Mourad gave a brief review of the Education and Diversity program, including the many SEEDS activities during the Annual Meeting and throughout the year, as well as other educational support and mentoring activities, including ways to increase the understanding of and profile of ecological science among students and the general public.  Monica Turner raised the issue of where support for graduate students might fit best in ESA.

Steve Sayre will be doing a midterm program review later in this meeting, but summarized the excellent progress in working with Wiley, greater resources and support for Ecosphere activities, the wrap-up of EHS, and reported the excellent news that Laura Munley has accepted the offer as the new membership staff person. The position will be housed in the newly re-organized Publishing and Member Services office, which will also include Meetings, and is supervised by Steve. This office will be issuing an RFP in December 2016 for a Communications Plan for ESA (to be discussed in detail in tomorrow’s session).

The Office of Science Programs, headed by Cliff Duke, carried out Advancing Ecological

Science activities including the continuing ESA Panel of Vegetation Classification, an extensive peer review of the Northwest Forest Plan, the Ecology for Community efforts in support of ESA’s Issues in Ecology series, Sustaining Natural History Collections workshops, Future-proofing natural history collections, ESA’s Earth Stewardship Initiative and other activities. In-person courses could be developed into webinars for reduced fees to reach a broader audience.

Sue Silver highlighted an exciting recent initiative in Frontiers, in which authors of main papers are asked to provide a lay summary, videos, photo albums, animation, and other outreach materials starting in the September 2016 issue. This will increase the profile of Frontiers and the ESA. It is called Frontiers Focus; it will be circulated and advertised more broadly going forward. Sharon Hall suggested developing and providing ESA support for authors for the technology and software for developing high quality Frontiers Focus materials.

  1. Financial Updates
  2. Fourth Quarter Financials

Katherine McCarter and Elizabeth Biggs reported on first quarter financials. Liz Biggs reported that although the Annual Meeting had low attendance, its revenue will exceed expenses and will meet the financial targets established by the Governing Board.  The income from Wiley is happily stabilizing the Society’s long-term finances. The first-quarter financials were distributed and discussed. The new office lease has been very positive, with many upgrades for the facilities in the offices, as well as, a reduced monthly rent.

Investment Updates

  • ESA’s investment policy was originally adopted by the GB in 2000 and revised in 2012. It is now being revised again. VP for Finance Evan DeLucia commented on investments. ESA has about 5.5 M of investments in total. The unrestricted funds are managed by Merrill Lynch; they are conservatively invested with bonds and equities. The restricted funds (specific endowed awards, etc.) are invested with Townley.


III. Discussion/Action Items

Investment Policy (DeLucia)

  • Evan DeLucia discussed the formal investment policy, which was developed by financial professionals and subject to approval by the GB. The GB discussed the Purpose and Allocation of the unrestricted investments in the formal investment policy. The proposal for the Purpose is to “Provide a reserve for unanticipated expenses, and after reaching a threshold of $5M (approximately one-year of operating expenses), provide support for new or existing initiatives as deemed appropriate by the GB.” Kathy moved and Monica seconded. All aye. For Sources, the proposal is, “Sources include revenues in excess of expenses, with a target of $100K per annum investment.” Emily Cloyd moved and Monica Turner seconded. All aye. We discussed a change in asset allocation target, to change the maximum target for equities to 80% and decrease the minimum target for fixed income to 20%. (The target is currently 75% maximum for equities and minimum 25% of fixed income; the current allocation is 70% equities and 30% fixed income.) Jayne Belnap moved and Emily Cloyd seconded. All aye. Under “Cash Flow and Time Horizon”, the suggested underlined text in the document will be deleted, and the following added after the Purpose text copied and pasted from above: “…for these reasons the investment portfolio horizon will be consistent with the distribution of these funds.”

The text under Registered Investment Advisors will be changed to substitute the text beginning “The Governing Board shall consider….” to change the first three mentions of the Governing Board to “The Vice President for Finance”. Kathy moved and Jayne seconded to make these three suggested changes to the investment document. All aye. The document will be reviewed for typos and errors and a final version presented to the GB for approval.

Emeritus Certification (McCarter)

In August 2016 the Board of Professional Certification proposed to the GB that a new level for professional certification, Emeritus Ecologist, be instituted. The GB requested further clarification for eligibility. The BPC has submitted a revised proposal, clarifying the criteria for eligibility, and recommended that the fee be half of the fee for Senior Ecologists, and that it be an honorary, lifetime category with no need to reapply for certification.    

The GB discussed the strengths and limitations of the proposal for the new category for professional certification of Emeritus Senior Ecologist. Kathy Cottingham moved and Monica Turner seconded the proposal for the new category, amending to be called Emeritus Senior Ecologist, with reviews being carried out as in the proposal, and for the fee to be half of the regular fee for Senior Ecologist. All aye.

Board of Professional Certification Response to Certification Issues (McCarter)

The Board of Professional Certification (BPC) created a report several years ago on what was needed for professional certification. The Committee for Diversity and Education had also been involved in developing core concepts that should be mastered for mastery in ecology. The Governing Board asked  the Board for Professional Certification to evaluate the core concepts to see if they would be useful in the certification process. The BPC reported with a detailed letter to the GB expressing doubts about the usefulness of this document for professional certification, but expressing the need for further definition for how these standards will be developed in the future. Vice President Nalini Nadkarni commented by phone connection that the document developed by the Diversity and Education group might still be useful for the Education and Diversity goals. However, this leaves the issue of how to better develop the identity and standards for professional certification. The distinction between certification in ecology for people in other fields, and certification as an ecologist, was discussed. Consideration of the future for how to define and potentially expand certification in ecology by ESA was discussed at some length, and it was recognized that this is a very large undertaking with a long-term timeline for the Society. Rich Pouyat, Teresa Mourad, Frank Davis, and others as needed including consultation with Janet MacFall and with the new Membership Manager will consider what key questions and information will need to be gathered before the society can make a decision as to whether to proceed to study of the matter further.

It is expected that the group will update the Governing Board in August and if more time is needed, provide a final document in time for the Fall 2017 Governing Board meeting.

Committee on Diversity and Education—update (Nadkarni/Mourad)

Teresa Mourad reported on the ESA efforts to inform members on non-traditional careers and alternative careers, including the NSF NRT graduate program. Intersection between ESA and K-12 ecology education and organization of core ecological concepts were covered. The goal of considering a broader inclusion of diversity efforts across ESA’s activities and not just relegating it to Education was emphasized. The committee recommended that ESA should consider expanding support for increased diversity for graduate students, faculty at all levels, and in professional non-academic careers. Nalini suggested that this issue be brought to the chapters and sections to encourage them to consider specific actions to support and further diversity in their areas.

  1. Program Review – Public Affairs (Davis, Mize)

Frank Davis and Alison Mize presented a power point presentation going over the PAO portfolio, history and looking ahead to future activities. The PAO was established in 1983; it began to work with the media in 1990. The first webinar was offered in 2016 (on policies and regulations for using drones in ecological research) and was very successful. The two main things the PAO does are related to media outreach and policy. The office achieves its mission by increasing informational resources available to members and the public, sending letters regarding policy, staff and member congressional visits and briefings, and informing members about relevant policy (including action alerts), makes awards and invites plenary speakers for the annual meeting.

Letters include federal funding for science, removal of “poison pill” riders in appropriation bills, and federal funding for attendance at scientific meetings and to support scientific freedom and integrity. Achievements of the Graduate Student Policy Awards were highlighted. Kathy Cottingham asked if these could be expanded to include a larger group of students, and this seems possible if it is a priority of the GB.

Plans are being considered to highlight “partner releases” (e.g. where the US DOI issues a press release) that mention articles in ESA publications on the ESA website. Member programming (including expanding webinars) current and planned, and many other activities of the PAO were highlighted.

Mize and David will develop a one page summary of the goals going forward and how they serve the mission of ESA.  This will provide a record of the program review that can be referenced in future program reviews.

  1. Wiley Contribution to ESA Awards Program (McCarter)

The new publishing contract allows funding for new or expanded awards, so the GB needs to decide on a set of recommendations. Awards for freelance journalists to travel to the annual meeting, travel awards for award recipients, additional graduate student policy awards, , a Regional Policy and Communications Training Award, more funding for SEEDS undergraduate student travel, SEEDS funding for graduate students and postdocs, Regional workshops for students to interface with ecological thinking in the private sector, an Ecology in Action speaker at the annual meeting, and travel awards for a Playa participant.

The GB discussed how to allocate the money available for awards from Wiley at some length, and after GB members conveyed their priorities, a decision was reached to leave the final allocation to be decided by President Lodge.

President Lodge determined that the funds would be evenly divided between resources for SEEDS to bring graduate students and post docs to the annual meeting, and funding for a regional policy and communication training workshop in collaboration with an ESA chapter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Strategic Planning—Update (Lodge/McCarter)

Katherine McCarter introduced the update. Communications and membership: Steve Sayre reported that the new membership person will be starting on Dec. 6. Internal communications (to members) will be under his aegis, but will be coordinated with Allison. There will be an RFP on communications. The questions that he recommends should be in it are under the areas: Platforms and branding (including priorities for print, web, podcasts, etc.), member segmentation to customize our messaging to the various demographics in the Society, communication efficiency (including combating information overload), assessment metrics, and process.

Continuity of governance: Katherine made the points that there will be a yearly review about progress towards the strategic plan, making the full 3-year reports of the offices available. The three-year review will be a “living document” that updates previous reviews, with substantive documentation that includes any feedback from the GB. The PowerPoint presentations will be archived. The GB is also recommending a new policy–that each office prepare a one page yearly document to be presented to the GB to review what the previous year’s activities have been, what progress has been made to achieve previous goals, and goals for the coming year. Frank and Alison will develop a model to be used by the other offices. KSM commented that these policies are consistent with what the staff intends to do.

Charge to Ad Hoc Committee on Harassment (Lodge/Cottingham)

A new ad hoc committee will be initiated within the next year. The focus is on harassment in field work and at field stations. The initial charge was broadened from a focus on sexual harassment to general issues of harassment. Naming the ad hoc committee was an outcome of a set of workshops conducted during the Baltimore 2015 Centennial Meeting.       

Transparency, Openness & Promotion Guidelines (Sayre with input from Gurevitch)

The Editors-in-Chief have recommended the implementation of TOP level 1 and exploration of adoption of TOP level 2, and that ESA should become a signatory to these guidelines, indicating approval for th principle of rewarding transparency in research, and committing ESA to reviewing the TOP standards as appropriate for our journals within one year. Frank moved to approve, seconded by Monica, all aye.        

 Mid-Term Program Review—Publications (Sayre)

All of the ESA journals except for Frontiers will be online only within one year. The covers have been redesigned to be more consistent and more graphically appealing. The timeliness and quality of Wiley’s production and copy editing has been acceptable.

Problems include employee churn and turnover in production, sales, and marketing. Their management is decentralized and this has created difficulties in communicating with them and seeing action items through. Issues with Scholar One were highlighted. Early view is shortening the time to get papers into the hands of readers. Ecosphere is now the largest ESA journal and is also growing most rapidly. Impact factors are all up. Total online access is up; Ecology has the largest share of online access. The support for Ecosphere has been ramped up substantially and the backlog greatly reduced. Steve noted that the post-acceptance process might need to be outsourced to most effectively scale up as the journal continues to expand, and that the current staff is now sufficient for the next 6-8 months. The process of exiting from EHS was agreed upon on 22 Sept 2016 and has now largely been accomplished; Wiley will continue to support the existing online content.

2018 Annual Meeting Theme (McCarter)

The New Orleans Annual Meeting Program Chair, Tim Schowalter, submitted his theme to the GB to review; it is, “Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being.” Evan moved and Jayne seconded approval, all aye.

Proposal for Annual Meeting with Mexican Scientific Society of Ecology (Gurevitch)

Gurevitch has been in contact with President Valeria Souza of the MSSE regarding a possible joint meeting in 2018 in New Orleans. This should be brought to the Latin American Chapter of ESA for their feedback. For past joint meetings, Katherine informed the GB that ESA has to make the financial decisions. Implications would include member rates for registration, availability of convention and hotel rooms, and a possible submission for a symposium. Concern was expressed about the commitment and whether this was in accord with the Strategic Plan and goals of ESA. The GB suggested that this could be handled as a guest invitation with membership rates for registration. A joint meeting would require a MOU that would imply a financial arrangement. This issue was referred to the Meetings committee. Jayne Belnap and Jessica Gurevich will communicate with the Meetings Committee and Latin American Chapter to see whether and how to proceed with this suggestion.         

Usefulness of Annual Meeting Final Friday Board Meeting (Lodge)

The value of a second meeting at the end of the Annual Meeting was discussed, and the difficulty of scheduling it was considered. It is proposed that the Friday morning should be cancelled, and that new members be expected to attend the Saturday and Sunday meetings at the start of the Annual Meeting. Jayne so moves and Emily seconded. All aye.


ADJOURNED at 12:00 Noon