ESA Governing Board Approves Major Initiatives

by Kathleen Weathers, ESA President

The ESA Governing Board members met for its spring meeting over Zoom May 11-12. Even with the virtual social limitations, Board members were highly engaged, and ever-thoughtful as we considered several important—some even called them historic—positive strides forward.

Agenda topics focused on advancing ESA’s strategic priorities, the health of ESA’s finances, discussions of future ESA Annual Meetings, and important, forward-looking changes to ESA governance.

I am sharing some highlights of the meeting that you may find interesting:

  • ESA’s current financial health is sound for the 2020-2021 fiscal year despite this unprecedented time of change. Our journals, programs, and members are successfully navigating in uncharted waters. Even with all the disruptions over the past year, ESA reached a major accomplishment, which took over 20 years of careful saving and stewardship by previous Governing Boards, of having one year’s worth of expenses in unrestricted net assets in reserve.
  • For the first time, the Governing Board was able to enthusiastically consider new opportunities to be funded from earnings on these assets. After carefully evaluating how to spend the earnings on the financial reserve to best serve its members, the Board overwhelmingly voted to spend the funds for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to advance ESA’s DEIJ goals and cover Annual Meeting expenses if necessary. Look for more details about new DEIJ activities in the coming months.
  • The Governing Board decided to split the Committee on Diversity and Education into separate committees. The Board tasked Vice President for Education and Human Resources and DEIJ Task Force Chair Pam Templer, along with the members of the subcommittees, to develop charges for the new Diversity Committee and the new Education Committee. Both of the recommended charges were approved.
  • The Board approved changes to the ESA Code of Ethics, presented by Professional Ethics and Appeals Committee Chair Dale Strickland, to update the standards of behavior expected from ecologists while engaging with the public.
  • Fellows and Early Career Fellows Committee Chair Sarah Hobbie proposed increasing the Committee’s membership from six to eight to handle the review of a growing number of nominations it receives. The Board approved the Committee’s recommendation.
  • Publications Committee Chair Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald led a discussion of the ESA journals program, which highlighted goals of increasing diversity of authors and access to publishing in ESA journals, as well as the challenges of open access. The Governing Board accepted a Publications Special Working Group’s recommendation to extend our publishing agreement with Wiley for two years.
  • Future Meetings Committee Chair Rich Pouyat reported on the upcoming Annual Meeting and plans for future meetings. This year’s virtual meeting will offer enhanced networking, longer live sessions via a new meeting platform, and an inspiring group of plenary speakers. The Committee continues to discuss the options and implications of holding hybrid Annual Meetings in the future. We are now setting our sights on a joint Annual Meeting with the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution in Montreal, Quebec in August 2022.
  • The Board accepted the recommendations to endorse the proposed updates to the ESA bylaws after hearing Governance Subcommittee Chair Evan DeLucia present its final findings garnered from a three-year process. The Council will vote on the proposed Bylaw changes during the full Council meeting scheduled for July 30.

Throughout this process, the Governance Subcommittee members embraced their charge to review ESA’s governance system, structures and practices in consideration of best practices in good governance, organizational efficiency, and effectiveness—and, most important, increasing transparency and broad inclusion in ESA’s leadership.

ESA is committed to a transparent, open process and we look forward to hearing from the membership over the summer in advance of Council meeting  July 30. ESA will actively respond to members’ questions about the proposed Bylaw changes and we urge you to submit your questions and thoughts.

At our November 2020 meeting, I told the Governing Board that our job over the coming year would be to lead ESA forward in a time of profound change—that we would be engaged in dynamic planning and strategic action—which is precisely what happened during our May meeting. I continue to be inspired by ESA’s volunteer leadership, the Board and the remarkable efforts of the staff. As Board members commented throughout this last meeting, we are collectively moving the dial and leading forward in a time of profound change.