October, 2017

Rich Pouyat, Presiding

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ecological Society of America
Conference Room

Members Present

Rich Pouyat                President

David Lodge               Past-President

Laura Huenneke          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

Gillian Bowser            Member at Large   (Tuesday only)


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 , Publishing and Member Services

Alison Mize                 Director, Public Affairs



Matt Aiello-Lammens Chair, Early Career Section


Guests for Specific Agenda Items:

Lori Carlin, DeltaThink

Bonnie Gruber, Delta Think

Dale Strickland, Chair, Board of Professional Certification (by phone)

Kathy Cottingham, Chair, Ad Hoc Committee on Harassment (by phone)


9:00     I.   Roll Call and call to order by President Rich Pouyat, Presiding

A. Adopt Agenda

Emily moved, Jayne seconded all aye

B. Minutes from August Governing Board Meeting and Council
Emily moved, Gillian seconded all aye

II.  Reports

A. Report of the President (Pouyat)
Commendations were offered to David Lodge on his outstanding service to ESA. Welcomes to Gillian Bowser and Laura Huenneke as they join the Governing Board and appreciation to Katherine McCarter at her last Governing Board meeting. Rich also discussed some of the upcoming challenges and goals for ESA, including size and stability of the membership, meeting size and inclusivity. His goals are “Extending the Tent” to address these issues and focus on inclusiveness and the future character and nature of ESA.

B. Report of the Executive Director and Staff (McCarter, et al.)
McCarter spoke briefly about the changes in ESA from her beginning as CEO when ESA had a deficit of $800,000 and had just instituted the Washington office and professional staff to the present.

Elizabeth Biggs: The current status of ESA is that everything is on budget, finances are steady, and we are working to modernize the IT system; the website will be overhauled with the services of a consultant to create a new website.

Cliff Duke: In a quick update, Cliff Duke summarized some recent activities. Cliff and John Anderson did a full-day workshop at Lake Itasca with 24 students (at capacity) teaching communications and business planning for directors of field stations; the 3-day course will be offered twice next year with support from NSF. Sharon asked whether some of this content might be helpful for other ESA members; Cliff will report more about these ideas in the afternoon in his report.

Alison Mize: We are still getting Press from the annual meeting; about 20 journalists attended the Annual Meeting, most of whom were freelancers. THe Public Affairs Office (PAO) put up a website with materials for the press based on presentations at the Annual Meeting, which are still getting picked up. In response to the multiple disasters recently, ESA wrote a note to members affected in Texas, Florida, and Mexico and set up a member-to-member sharing list to help members affected by the disasters. This will go live in the next couple of days. Once the immediate humanitarian crisis is passed in Puerto Rico , a similar effort will be instituted for members there.

Teresa Mourad: A full mid-term report on SEEDS will be presented later in this GB meeting. A research coordination network proposal on environmental careers was submitted to NSF but declined (focused on undergraduates). New efforts are being developed on post-undergraduates to map out career pathways, etc. to create infrastructure and support. She also discussed the impact of the hurricanes in Florida, Houston and Puerto Rico and the earthquake in Mexico City on members, students and staff.

Steve Sayre: Our relationship with Wiley has settled down and is going well; submissions to the journals are steady and Ecosphere continues to increase (and is our largest journal). Steve had a meeting with the Ithaca office staff to discuss strategy and planning which went well. Membership—Laura Capponi is no longer at ESA and there have been interviews with new candidates for that position. Membership strategy is being discussed, based on the outcome of the survey and discussion with the consultant who helped with that. There will be a discussion in November with staff on strategy for promoting the New Orleans meeting. Steve has been working on the 2018 cycle for Certification. The application process has been streamlined, and more outreach and marketing is being planned. Gillian and Jayne raised the issue of annual meeting themes and wondered whether a theme is necessary.

Sue Silver: Short updates—there has been an invitation to have authors create short videos or blogs to go along with their articles; this Frontiers Focus effort have been refocused with the help of Nalini Nadkarni and will be restarted. A strategic review is coming up and there will be a survey to readers and authors as part of that effort. The design of Frontiers will be refreshed and tweaked to modernize it to some degree. Matt commented that other journals have had similar efforts (to Frontiers Focus) that haven’t been sustained, and that readers of the paper version can’t directly access those without going online; Nalini mentioned that there will be other methods to create wider outreach for Frontier Focus output.

C. Financial Update
First Quarter Financials (Biggs): The 2017 meeting was financially very successful.  We are also somewhat over budget estimates on dues. Laura asked about the timing of income vs. revenues. Liz explained that it is important to understand the schedule of seasonal income and expenses relative to cash flow. It was discussed that it might be worth considering how the income and costs are reported seasonally; this will be considered with the new Executive Director. Most important, our reserves are strong and our annual cash flow is positive. Gurevitch asked about funds available for speakers, etc. at the Annual Meeting, and requested that the overall strategy for supporting travel to the annual meeting be considered strategically. Bowser pointed out that even students may have difficulties getting funds through section grants. Evan reminded us that the Annual Meeting is a critically important source of revenue for ESA, and that we need to be very cautious about committing those funds. Jayne commented that we need to have an overview of what funds are available across all of the various sources for member expenses for speakers, etc. to attend the Annual Meeting. Liz concluded that the bottom line looks good.

Investment Update (DeLucia): The investment portfolio includes restricted funds (gifts and awards) managed by Townley and unrestricted funds (managed by Merrill Lynch). We have a policy that guides investment allocations which are conservatively invested. Our target is to have a year’s operating budget in reserve. Matt asked about limitations on sources of investment, and Evan informed us that we do have specific limitations for what sorts of companies ESA can invest in, as well as, targets for socially responsible investments.


III.        Discussion/Action Items

A.   Ad Hoc Committee on Certification (Pouyat)
Dale Strickland as a member of the ad hoc committee on certification and Chair of the Board of Professional Certification joined the meeting by speaker phone.

Rich reported on the recommendations of this ad-hoc committee. The committee interviewed other scientific societies (and held a focus group with representatives of six of the societies) to survey what other practices are, and investigated what the demand for certification would be particularly with an eye toward expanding and diversifying the audience for certification. Dale suggested that the certification process should be simple and straightforward for qualified applicants; the criteria for certification don’t currently cover the range of ecologists who could be potentially certified. It is currently focused more on people in academic careers, but should be broadened to include a wider range of applied ecologists, as well as ecologists in administrative and policy positions. Rich said that the committee has discussed the need for more qualitative information based on focus groups or other potential ways of reaching out to new populations, based on discussions with a consultant. The potential value of certification for people certified was discussed; this would have to be built over a long time. Ultimately it might provide income for ESA but would require a long term investment; Evan is supportive but says we need a clear business plan before committing to this. Gillian asked for more clarification on the value of certification for people being certified; also, the international aspect should be considered. Teresa commented that many of these issues were considered by the committee, and the committee needs approval to proceed with gathering more information before being ready to create a business plan. Gurevitch said that the ideas were very exciting, and suggested that this is a two-step process, first to gain more information before putting together a business plan, and later putting together a business plan for this expansion. Lodge asked for current expenses and income from the Certification process; Liz responded that there is a current net income of roughly $12,000 for ESA. Matt commented on behalf of the Early Career Section that this is important for this group of the membership (early career ecologists). Sharon reiterated the importance of the international outreach, as well as information on demographics of potential certified ecologists. Laura commented that professional accreditation is also valuable for environmental consulting firms to bolster their status.

Jessica moved to approve the committee’s request to proceed with this process; Laura seconded and all Aye.

B. 500 Women Scientists:

(Gillian asked the GB whether her connection with this group constituted a COI; the GB said that we felt that she need not recuse herself from the discussion.) Nalini suggested that there should be an ad-hoc group to address the letter point-by-point; Teresa informed the GB that there were already plans to hold extensive discussions on this. Jessica, Laura, Sharon and Emily are willing to work on this ad-hoc committee, with Laura informally heading the committee. Gillian informed the GB that the 500 Women Scientists group started with a group of AAAS Fellows especially involved in government and policy. Nalini suggested that past progress should be noted in a response; Gillian brought up that concerns of minority women might have different priorities than non-minorities and ESA should be mindful of these different priorities and acknowledge them in any discussion.

C. Communications Strategy (Bonnie Gruber/Lori Carlin Delta Think)

Steve Sayre introduced the consultants, Bonnie Gruber and Lori Carlin, who conducted a large survey of the members with many implications for a communications plan for Membership. The survey was developed in consultation and with input from many stakeholders. The consultants worked on this from early April 2017 to late August; the survey was conducted from May 1-June 30 2017. A Communication Strategy was developed to increase benefits for ecologists in academic and alternative career paths at all career stages.  The following concepts emerged as key attributes for  the membership values the ESA mission as the highest priority, that ESA serves with integrity and is a trusted source of knowledge, is a catalyst for the future of the field, is diverse and inclusive, advocates for the field, is adaptable but also provides stability and reliability, and leads the community. A Membership Value Statement was proposed. The four different audience categories/populations (Undergraduate/Graduate Students; Academic Early Career; Academic Ecologists and Professionals in Public and Private Sectors) were reviewed, based on the survey, for what actions and objectives ESA wants them to take, what they believe and what the potential hurdles are to achieving these objectives. The GB members volunteered ideas and feedback about the values of membership to the different populations of the membership. The development of an ESA Communication Strategy was discussed by Gruber and Carlin. Strategies were discussed in terms of two approaches: Goals, and by Audience Type and made recommendations according to each of the two approaches. There was extended discussion about the “audience types” particularly regarding the potential over-emphasis (or not) on ecologists in the academic career pipeline.

D. Science Program Review (Belnap/Duke).

The history, current structure, vision and conclusions of the Report were reviewed by Cliff Duke. Cliff responded to 8 questions posed by the GB earlier, in addition to the general report. The Sustainable Biosphere Project Office was founded in 1992 in response to the SBI report and “a call to arms”. Starting in 1997 this office reported to the Executive Director rather than directly to the GB.  It has changed by being integrated into the ESA HQ office, and ESA began providing 50% support for the salary of the Director of the Science Program. During Cliff’s tenure of 15 years, it has become more fully integrated with the Public Affairs and Education offices. Federal funding for science has become functionally much more limited during this period. However, the office has been successful in retaining level funding. Project ideas come from a wide range of sources, including members of the GB, ESA committees, members, staff and government agencies; examples were provided. The current main focus includes services to members and the scientific community including facilitating engagement, conducting peer review, building capacity, and synthesizing. For engagement, the vegetation classification panel and intergovernmental platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services both currently receive input of ecological knowledge and expertise from ESA. This office conducts peer reviews on occasion of scientific studies and programs that government agencies use to support decisions; an example is the North West Forest Program, science synthesis review (completed in 2017). Such reviews are conducted on request (not solicited) and are evaluated based on relevance to ESA’s mission,  and staff and resource availability. To build capacity, the office offers workshops and courses to help scientists gain skills relevant to funding, policy and technology. These include Sustaining Biological Infrastructure project (funded by NSF), the Future Proofing Natural History Collections project, the Nagoya Protocol and the Sustaining Data Repositories project (including all of the NSF directorates, not just Biology or Ecology). For Synthesis, the office supports Issues in Ecology (an ad hoc publication published once or twice per year, based on other published articles), Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable, and the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable to help make ecology more accessible to managers and the public. Cliff reviewed 21 grants and cooperative agreements to ESA through this office from 2014 to the present, some initiated by ESA and some solicited by various funders. Funders included NSF, US Forest Service, USGS, BLM and others, with a total of $3,365,215 in funding and a range of $5,000 to $476,943. These are for workshops and reviews that are not competing with research grants, and that offer unique services to the funders. Metrics of effectiveness include participant evaluations, annual reporting of goals, objectives and milestones, and feedback from the funding agencies. The Science Committee provides advice and leadership on projects, and co-develops annual meeting sessions with the Science Office. In terms of the vision for the next 3 years, these include: 1) Continuing projects; 2) Member services in the past (meetings and workshops); 3) Future member services (in terms of skills development and professional development and training, e.g., webinars, needs assessment; horizon scanning efforts; public engagement); and 4) Resources needed (member services would require core funds; work with new exec director on priorities and needed resources). Conclusions from this report are that this office provided needed services to the membership and community, and the primary challenge is to clearly communicate what the office does and offers. Duke recommended that the office change its name to Office of Scientific Services.Questions for May 2018 Publications Review (Sayre)

Questions for the publications review were proposed and recorded for Steve Sayre to address in the May GB meeting. These will be discussed by the EiCs of the journals.

E. Online Petition Response (Gurevitch/Pouyat)

The protocol for handling petitions and letters addressed to the GB, President, or to some members of the GB, etc. was discussed, relevant to a recent petition that was addressed to some members of the GB and partially discussed by GB members by email, and responded to without further discussion by the President and Executive Director.

5:00                             ADJOURN


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ecological Society of America

Conference Room

8:00–10:00                  EXECUTIVE SESSION

10:15  Regular meeting convened

F. Strategic Plan Review (Pouyat)

Nalini has been working with Rich to discuss how to address the new issues and needs coming up from the membership, and she discussed what we want to do as a society to address those issues and needs. Diversity, public engagement and future career paths in ecology are major areas of focus among member concerns. These will need more attention from ESA in the future and present both needs and opportunities. Should the Strategic Plan be amended or developed to include a greater focus on these issues? Frank felt that these issues are already included in the Strategic Plan, but we need to be attentive to them. Steve pointed out that it is important to set priorities to better match our member benefit proposition to current member needs. Katherine mentioned that the ESA staff is focused on the issue of career paths. Laura commented that the Strategic Plan is new enough not to need amending at this point, but with a new Executive Director coming on board soon we will need to continue to revisit these issues at the annual fall governing board meetings (as suggested in the Strategic Plan). David agreed that regular discussions at each Fall meeting is important for continuity. Katherine updated the Governing Board about the staff’s extended efforts to improve the continuity of governance, as stated in the Strategic Plan.

G. Ad Hoc Committee “Extending the Tent” (Pouyat)

Rich introduced and expanded on this metaphor; there have been a lot of discussion already on how to extend the ESA tent in terms of education, career paths, diversity and other areas. He is going to set up an ad-hoc committee to come up with a strategy for ESA to address how to best approach the issues of inclusion, engagement and membership, including reaching out to the membership. Laura will head this ad-hoc committee. Laura solicited feedback from the GB on the charge of the committee and how to focus the efforts of this committee. Theresa suggested that mechanisms for how to approach this would be an essential focus. Jessica suggested focusing on priorities and a timetable; Matt suggested being careful not to conflate human diversity and career/professional focus kinds of diversity. David commented that we must remain mindful of ESA’s financial health while also strategizing how to reach groups that ESA would like to target for inclusion. Steve pointed out that 75% of our membership are in academic positions, and we don’t want to ignore or neglect that core. Rich asked how we can include people from a wider base while still maintaining our core. There was further productive discussion on the composition of the ad-hoc committee (including staff), the goals for the size of ESA, the changing nature of academics, connections with other scientific societies, and the mission of ESA. Suggestions for the ad hoc committee were Laura Huenneke, chair, Nalini Nadkarni, Matt Aiello-Lammens (or other early career member) Frank Davis, Steve Sayre, and someone from the Inclusive Ecology Section.  The ad hoc committee is asked to provide a report in May.

H. Ad Hoc Committee on Harassment (Cottingham joining the meeting by phone)

Kathy gave the GB some of the background to the committee; there was a document submitted in Spring 2016 to the GB from a group of ESA members with recommendations preventing harassment in field stations, but concerns that the suggestions could  conflict with institutional policieswere raised. The Governing Board then charged an ad hoc committee with defining best practices and making suggestions for moving forward, and providing an interim report that focuses on fieldwork. A short document was presented to the GB on a suggested definition of harassment (from the AGU) and suggesting good codes of conduct for meetings and conferences as well as recommendations for fieldwork. The ad-hoc committee recommends that ESA adopt this definition of harassment, as have other scientific societies. These recommended codes of conduct may apply to all ESA-sponsored events, including meetings, outings, etc. Jessica brought up the point that “if a participant feels like something is harassment, it is harassment” as an ambiguous statement with no rights for people accused of harassment. Matt and Katherine brought up that this just means that the accusation of harassment should be taken seriously by ESA. Kathy responded that the committee will work on clarifying the wording of that statement. The report of this ad-hoc committee will continue to be developed; Kathy asked what can be planned and carried out at the 2018 Annual Meeting regarding harassment issues.  Staff will review the suggestions for amending the existing  ESA Code of Meetings Conduct, incorporate them as appropriate, and report back to the Governing Board about the changes.

I.  Education Mid-Term Review (Nadkarni/Mourad)

The strategic plan was mentioned by Teresa and Nalini, and the goals of the office and committee reviewed. SEEDS, Faculty Development, and the 4DEE program were discussed briefly. They have had 8 grants awarded for a total of a little over $1,000,000 since 2015. Assessment is determined by satisfaction surveys, 10 year outcomes evaluations and other assessments. Nalini discussed the intersections with other sections and chapters; there is a 1.5 day retreat during which the direction of the committee is discussed. Assessment needs further development. Minority membership has increased from 6.3 to 11% since 1999. David asked if there is information about the outcomes for SEEDS students, particularly regarding ESA membership and futures in ecology/environmental careers. Teresa said that  about 32% of SEEDS alumni (N=161) who responded to the 2013 Impact Survey were ESA members and approximately 80% of SEEDS alumni on academic and government tracks were ESA members. Of the alumni who are working or doing research, 73% (n=90) are in ecology or a related field.

Laura asked to what extent the current database will provide this information (attending annual meetings, and other involvement with ESA activities). Future activities include developing ways to help coordinate career development, public engagement and diversity activities in addition to pursuing the Strategic Plan and improving assessment. Information about SEEDS alumni and their current status in the field was requested for the May Governing Board meeting.

J. New Business

The Governing Board unanimously and enthusiastically recommended that the Graduate Student Policy Awards are to be renamed the Katherine McCarter Graduate Student Policy Awards to honor Katherine McCarter’s distinguished and long service to the ESA as its Executive Director.

NOON                        ADJOURNED