What New Changes to ESA’s Governance Mean for You

As you may recall, ESA formally made the latest in a series of changes to our Bylaws, as recommended by the Governing Board and adopted by the ESA Council last August. Overall, the goal of these changes in our Bylaws is to enhance participation of members in leadership roles and to add transparency to ESA decision-making processes. The new Bylaws (annotated here in the Bulletin) are now in effect.

The compositional changes in the ESA Governing Board distribute responsibilities more broadly among the members and standing committees while preserving the fiduciary role of the Board members. They also extend the terms of at-large Board members to match the other offices at three years.

The Council

The new Council Structure provides a greater voice of the membership to strategic directions of ESA and enhanced exchange with the ESA Governing Board and staff. The Council Speaker, a new position for the Council, will serve as an ex-officio non-voting member of the Governing Board. The new Council leadership will be led by three members composed of the current, past and future Council Speakers. They will be joined by ex-offico members composed of the Board President, Secretary and Executive Director to plan the meetings and advise the Council. This new structure will enhance communication and dialogue between the Governing Board, the ESA program staff and the Council. Sections and chapters will appoint Council members to serve for two years.


We have restructured the Committee organization and revised the Committee Chair role and selection process. The Committees are now sorted into three main categories—Board Committees, Program Committees and Administrative Committees—to provide clearer distinction of purpose and responsibilities related to ESA business and membership needs. And, rather than having Governing Board members Chair Program Committees, they will now be chaired by general members of ESA that are selected for their expertise related to the charge of the Program area assigned to the committee and will be vetted by the ESA Governance and Leadership Committee. Members of the committees will be comprised primarily of ESA members with an ESA Governing Board member serving as an ex-officio member. Nominations for individuals to serve on the Program Committees will be solicited through open calls to membership, as well as requesting nominees from the ESA Council.

How to Get Involved

With these changes in effect, members can look forward to more opportunities to provide perspectives on how ESA moves forward as a professional science society and to be leaders in ESA. Taking on a leadership role is a great way to give back to the Society while building your own skills—and adding to your resume. For our certified ecologists, service to the Society is also a great way to earn CEUs.

Serving in elected section or chapter leadership is always an option, but now these bodies will also appoint a representative to the Council to more effectively represent its segments of the membership in determining our shared strategic direction. The first meeting of the new Council will be held in February, so expect to hear from your representative and other leaders shortly thereafter. For the more traditional roles (chair, vice chair, secretary), you can expect to see calls for nominees in the spring and summer for most bodies. The role of the Chair differs among sections and chapters, but these folks are often the driving forces behind symposia and oral sessions at the Annual Meeting, organize webinars and work with ESA’s staff and other leaders to create benefit for members.

Additionally, the change in Committee structure means that there are both more Committees and more opportunities to serve on them! You can explore the full list here. We will be making a public call for nominations to those Committees later in the month, but as you can see there are many ways to add your skills and voice to these vital bodies.

Finally, keep an eye out for a call for nominations to the Governing Board and Board of Professional Certification (BPC). The BPC governs our certification program, providing important guidance on its shape and requirements and the kinds of support we need to provide to holders of our certification. The Governing Board is responsible for the highest-level decisions in ESA, and in its new structure will seek to involve a wide diversity of personal and professional perspectives so that we are truly representing all ecologists.

Having served in ESA’s leadership in a number of capacities over the years, I can say that these are tremendous opportunities for growth as a scientist and a leader. You learn so much about how organizations function, how decisions are made and how to manage competing priorities, to say nothing of the incredible networking opportunities that leadership provides. I could not more strongly encourage you to consider raising your hand when nominations are called for!

A Special Thank You to Our Committee and Working Group Members

This governance redesign process has been 3 years in the making, with a lot of hard work from past and current Society leaders. When I became President in August, just after the adoption of the Bylaws, I worked with Past President Kathie Weathers and President-elect Sharon Collinge to set up a series of working groups to develop policies and procedures to implement the new structure. Thanks to the hard work of the Ad Hoc Governance and Leadership Committee (chair Diane Pataki, and members Carmen Cid, Zoe Cardon Jacquelyn Gill and Sharon Collinge), the Board has adopted new processes for nominating and appointing Committee chairs and members. You will hear more about this process as we open the call for committee members in late January. 

I also want to thank the Council Leadership Working Group (members Marcel Vaz, Ariane Peralta, Dan Stover, Dan Rubenstein, Lin Meng, and Sharon Collinge). They worked incredibly well together (including taking turns chairing the meetings) to provide recommendations on Council structure, function and election processes. Based on recommendations from the Council Working Group, I have appointed the inaugural speakers: Ariane Peralta as Speaker, Dan Stover as Past Speaker, and Lin Meng as Speaker-elect.  The Council will meet more frequently (twice per year), the first meeting in February.

This new era of our Society leadership would not have been possible without the hard work of the ESA Governance Subcommittee, especially Evan DeLucia, who steered the subcommittee throughout the process when he was appointed to chair the effort in late 2018 by then-President Laura Huenneke. The process continued under Presidents Osvaldo Sala and Kathie Weathers and concluded its work in August 2021 with the adoption of the Bylaws. I want to thank the many people that served on this subcommittee over several phases (Charlie Canham, Laura Huenneke, Osvaldo Sala, Jessica Gurevitch, Manuel Morales, Rob Jackson, Rich Pouyat, Carmen Cid, Zoe Cardon, Daniel Stover, Marcel Vaz, Ariane Peralta, Daniel Rubenstein).