Early Career Ecologists Section Minutes from ESA 2015 Business Meeting

When and Where: ESA 100, Baltimore Convention Center, 6:30-7.30 pm Tuesday August 23rd 2015

Meeting Chairs: Daniel Scholes (Univeristy of Illinois-Urbana Champaign; outgoing section chair), Sarah Supp (University of Wisconsin-Madison; incoming chair)
Secretary: Daniel Stanton (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)

Attendance: Sarah Supp, Daniel Scholes, Daniel Stanton, Matt Aiello-Lammens, Mike Allen, Sigrid Smith, Seema Sheth, Cameron Douglass, and additional attendee who was not recorded


I) Brief introduction to section history and purpose
II) Description of plans formulated at previous meeting and activities over the past year
III) Brainstorming of potential ideas
IV) Election of new officers

I) Brief introduction to section history and purpose

The Early Career Ecologist Section (ECES) is stil very new, having just completed 1 year of existence. The purpose is to serve the interests of Early Career Ecologists, broadly defined as spanning from the final year of a terminal degree to approximately 8 years post degree.

II) Description of plans formulated at previous meeting and activities over the past year

At the 99th ESA Annual Meeting the ECES met for the first time, and defined a number of potential activities for 2014-15. An overview was provided of what those aims were, what was achieved and what was not

a) Website: It was proposed that the ECES have a website that might serve as a centralized resource for early career ecologists in the Society. Potential content could include: links and postings of funding opportunities, job links (individual postings and/or posting boards), examples of documents such as Postdoctoral Mentoring Plans for granting agencies (e.g. NSF), a wiki or forum for discussion of early career concerns. A website has been created (https://esa.org/earlycareer/) by Sarah Supp, as have a twitter account and email. The website is currently low on content, and no documents have been posted, nor a forum created. The platform (WordPress) offers the potential to support many of the intially proposed functionalities.

b) We did organize several events for the meeting:

– Organized a special session on the challenges of early career personal and professional development with six presenters on research, teaching, dual careers, balancing family life, job market, measures of success (W 8-10, 302 Convention)

– Organized early career mentoring program with ESA Centennial award, pairs ten early career ecologists with ten more senior ecologist mentors who will provide feedback on oral presentations and offer discussion of any topics of interest to the mentee (to address request for quality mentoring)

– Organized drink mixer event (to address request for networking opps) where ESA members can purchase drink tickets in advance for early career members, our section’s members can then draw at random a ticket for a free drink with the stipulation that they must contact and thank the purchaser (establish early career-more senior ecologist connection), tickets available at section booth during poster sessions

– Co-organized the “Exploring Diverse Career Pathways in Ecology” workshop with Student Section and Science Committee, full day Sunday.

c) Ribbons: Special nametag ribbons identifying early-career ecologists or job seekers were discussed last year. These are possible, but will require funds, which as a first year section we did not yet have available (funds are primarily from membership dues). This remains possible for future meetings and there was interest in this from those in attendance.

d) Webinar series: The ECES will participate in a webinar series organized by the Research at Undergraduate Institutions Section (RUI) with the Student Section as part of an RUI long-range planning grant, RUI and Student Section webinars already occurred, ours coming up: “How to Position Yourself for a Successful Career as an Ecologist”. The two webinars that have already taken place had attendances of (live/downloaded) 16/16 and 86/140 for the RUI-led and Student Section-led sessions respectively. Lower numbers for the RUI session may in part reflect more limited advertising and scheduling challenges.

e) Other activities: Several other potential activities identified last year were not conducted. These include a “live job market” for prospective postdocs and potential employers, peer-mentoring networking events or mixers and liaisons to other sections.

III) Brainstorming of potential ideas

A number of potential future activities were identified during a brainstorming session during the meeting. These include:

a) how best to justify joining the section to potential members. Main grounds included the fact that it is “free” to join one section; the availability of travel awards and a mentoring program, the drinks mixer (especially since the value of a drink ticket exceeded the cost of joining the section).

b) whether or not to have a member-only section to the website, which could be seen as rewarding members, but also exclusionary. Alternatives proposed for forum-type discussions (i.e. not entirely public and therefore more perhaps more conducive to candid opinions) included Twitter, Facebook and Etherpad meetings. The latter would allow for several meetings (2-3/year) to be held with live Q&A activities. The importance of properly timing these meetings during the year was stressed.

c) hosting workshops/mixers at other societies’ meetings such as British Ecological Society and the Society for Conservation Biology. This would provide a chance for more regular contact outside of ESA meetings. Funds from ESA would most likely not be available for this type of activity, but costs may be low.

d) workshops at next year’s ESA Annual Meeting. Possible topics include: writing teaching statements, and resumes, interviewing and negotiating for jobs, managing early years of tenure-track (work-life balance, administrative responsibilities, teaching your first course, etc).

e) Travel awards determined on a need or merit basis.

IV) Election of new officers

As per the by-laws, Daniel Scholes became the section Past Chair and Sarah Supp accepted to move from her position of Vice Chair to Section Chair. No nominations for a new Vice Chair were made and candidates will need to be identified by emailing membership. Daniel Stanton stepped down as Secretary and Matt Aiello-Lammens (Pace University) became the section Secretary. Matt will also take on tweeting duties for the section.

Post ESA Note: Since the meeting, Christel Kern has volunteered to be the Blog Editor for the website (she will help keep our “News” up to date and will solicit blogs from members and non-members on early career topics. The Section is also looking for volunteers for the Webmaster and Twitter positions.

We have identified 2 candidates for the Vice Chair position and current members should look for an email with the Vice Chair election link and vote once by September 25.

To contribute ideas or help in planning the events listed above, and others, for ESA 2016 and throughout the year, please go here.