Value Added by Being a Member of a Professional Society

Sean Lucey, AFS-AIFRB Liaison E-mail: sean.lucey@noaa.gov Professional societies come in all shapes and sizes. They foster cooperation and communication between people who are engaged in a profession, in our case fisheries science. Some focus on specific issues, while others are broader in scope. I have the pleasure of serving as the liaison between two well-established organizations, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) and the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists (AIFRB). Being a member of both organizations has been extremely rewarding, both personally and professionally. Although this article describes those two organizations, there is value added by being a member of any professional society (e.g., American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpitologists, American Elasmobranch Society, International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, etc.). The AFS is the world’s oldest and largest professional society for fisheries scientists. It was established in 1870 and has over 7,300 members worldwide. The strengths of such a large society include the publication of several top-rated journals in the field as well as a large multi-national Annual Meeting. In contrast to AFS, AIFRB is a medium-sized professional society with just over 600 members. As a smaller organization, AIFRB hosts major symposia on important topics in fisheries rather than meetings with multiple concurrent sessions. Both promote the conservation and utilization of resources in a sustainable way. All professional societies are expected to provide value to their membership. The value of AFS membership includes a subscription to Fisheries magazine, discounted registration fees to the Annual Meeting, discounts on AFS publications (journals or books), and professional certification, which sets a standard across the field of fisheries science. A smaller society like AIFRB may not provide so many discounts but offers things like a pre-peer review of your manuscripts by a senior scientist within the organization and job placement services for students and young professionals. Both organizations provide travel assistance and recognize accomplishments through various awards. In addition to tangible value, there is intangible value in being a member of a society. The biggest value added of membership is career development. This comes through networking, public speaking, and training. Most people recognize the importance of networking. Professional societies provide a forum for you to interact with some of the top people in your field. Networking can result in new and exciting collaborations. My entire Ph.D. dissertation was outlined at an AFS meeting over several pitchers of beer with my advisor. However, communication is just as important. As your career advances, you will be asked to disseminate your results and expert opinion via presentations. Participating in meetings and committees improves your public speaking. Local Chapter meetings of AFS are often the first professional presentation made by many of us. Both AFS and AIFRB offer training opportunities. Many of these opportunities are at the local or regional level rather than nationally. Professional societies can also add value to each other. This issue of Fisheries is an example of the synergy that can be created between two organizations. The AIFRB recently sponsored a symposium at the AFS Annual Meeting in Québec City entitled, “Are we still fishing down the food web?”. The AIFRB was able to leverage the AFS meeting to provide a venue bringing together experts from various disciplines. Most people recognize the term “fishing down the food web,” a phrase that describes fisheries systematically targeting fish species down the food web as higher trophic levels are depleted. The AIFRB brought together one of the original authors of this idea, Villy Christensen, and one of the chief opponents of this concept, Trevor Branch. Both have published high-impact papers on the subject, and their keynote presentations set the stage for an excellent discussion on the merits of fishing down the food web. The AFS has captured some of their thoughts in the subsequent pages (Branch 2015; Christensen 2015; both this issue). The AIFRB and AFS will continue their collaboration with further symposia. This year AIFRB has planned a symposium on the challenging topic of balancing conservation and utilization to sustain fisheries. I encourage each of you to get involved with your favorite professional societies, either locally or nationally. There are many tangible reasons to join an organization, but it is your involvement that unlocks the value-added portion of your membership. Participation will help your own career development as well as strengthen the bonds of collaboration and move fisheries science forward.