Highlight from ESA Governing Board 2022 Fall Meeting

by Lin Meng, Council Speaker

The ESA Governing Board 2022 Fall Meeting was held from Nov. 1 to 2, 2022, at the ESA office in Washington, DC. The board members and ESA staff discussed past ESA activities, decisions to be made, current opportunities and plans for ESA. I was excited to attend the Governing Board meeting for the first time and as Council Speaker. Below are some of the highlights and my reflections from the meeting.

President Collinge, Diversity Committee Chair Cid and Society Programs Director Sponberg shared their experience attending the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) meeting in Puerto Rico, Oct. 27-29, 2022 — the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country. They also led activities (field trips, booth, networking events, etc.) at SACNAS as part of ESA DEIJ efforts. They shared that SACNAS is a true science gathering that equips, empowers and energizes participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM, and equally important, with a lot of fun. The board discussed how to learn from the SACNAS formats and make ESA’s annual meeting a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming platform for learning, sharing, networking, mentoring and empowering, and with music!! I believe these changes in upcoming ESA annual meetings will attract more students and early career ecologists and help them find professional homes within ESA.

Related DEIJ efforts that were discussed during the meeting include the recently established ESA Excellence in Ecology Scholars (EEE) — an ESA program to select early- to mid-career BIPOC ecologists annually to promote diversity and inclusion in ESA. This effort will contribute to supporting and elevating diverse scientists and remove critical barriers to scholars who have traditionally been excluded or underrepresented in our community. In addition, the board approved supporting non-student registration grants and continuing to provide opportunity funds for dependent care grants during the Annual Meeting. These support mechanisms are things that members care about and proposed to ESA to make ESA more inclusive, so it’s great to see that ESA incorporates membership feedback that quickly and efficiently. This action will also encourage members to share perspectives and suggestions more openly with ESA in the future.

There are other exciting opportunities discussed during the Governing Board meeting. For example, Public Affairs Director Mize shared the opportunity of the National Nature Assessment (NNA), a once-in-a-generation opportunity for ecologists to contribute and inform biodiversity policy within the US. Mize emphasized that organizing the scientific community to effectively contribute to the NNA in terms of both technical and policy/public engagement aspects is necessary to ensure the best available knowledge is considered and used. In addition, the board discussed new ESA journal pilots that will be launched soon. The two new journals are in the process of finalizing the name and branding process.

Another big thing is the ESA visioning project, which was launched during the ESA annual meeting this summer. This is a project that will assess and evaluate the needs of ESA members as well as the changing operational ecosystem in which ESA operates to fulfill its mission. ESA gathered ideas and suggestions from members through a poster board at the annual meeting and I saw my own notes on the board, now at the ESA office. We had an in-depth discussion on ESA’s highest contribution to the future, current challenges, and the most needed changes to better meet emerging challenges and serve ecology and ecologists in the 21st century. If you have ideas or comments, feel free to email visioningproject@nullesa.org. ESA wants to hear from you.

Updates on future ESA annual meetings is something I am interested in learning about, and I believe some of you are too. Meetings Committee Chair Ogle shared many improvements on the 2023 ESA annual meeting. The changes include a pilot of invited session hybrid options, expanded workshops and special session timeslots, revised contributed abstract guidelines, a restructured abstract fee (to include a lower fee for student abstracts but you are still able to opt out), updated reviewer instructions and a formal abstract appeal process for rejected abstracts. These changes are a step to make the meeting more diverse and inclusive.

This one-and-a-half day meeting allowed me to realize and appreciate the thoughtful and open discussion behind every single decision that is made within ESA to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for all ecologists. In particular, it’s encouraging to see that ESA makes sure that voices from students and early careers are heard and incorporated into the decision-making. It’s educational, and of course, with a lot of fun!