Bringing Together Fish and Wildlife in 2017

Doug-Austen-edited-235x300

..Second Vice President Margraf will have the pleasure of helping to develop, coordinate, and manage probably one of, if not the largest, most broad-ranging, complicated, and innovative fish and wildlife conferences ever to be held.

Doug Austen

A joint Fish and Wildlife meeting has never been done be- fore at the national level, yet many of our Chapters and Divisions have become pretty good at hosting such events. Chapters frequently meet with their fisheries counterparts in neighboring states or with their wildlife colleagues in their own state. A great example is the Missouri Natural Resources Conference (mnrc.org), which has, for over a quarter of a century, been bringing together some combination of the Missouri Chapter of AFS, The Wildlife Society (TWS), the Society of American Foresters, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. At the AFS Division level, our Northeast and Midwest members have been meeting jointly for many years under the auspices of their regional state fish and wildlife associations. Going back even farther, many of us actually obtained our degrees in university programs that were balanced fish and wildlife departments. Since the beginning we’ve recognized that fisheries and wildlife resources are intimately intertwined and are often best studied together. However, until recently, the two largest scientific societies have not been able to find a way to meet jointly. Certainly, there are obstacles to such an effort. The size and complexity of our meetings is a serious challenge for organizations of relatively modest means. Each society certainly also has a strong desire to maintain its own individuality. Bureaucracy also plays a role. We’re on different meeting planning cycles and decision processes often don’t align. Yet at our 2017 Annual Meeting, to be held in Tampa, we will be meeting jointly with TWS for the first time in the history of the societies. So what led to this rather substantial development?

First of all, you should be aware that TWS is located in the office suite directly above AFS. Their executive director, Ken Williams, has his office directly above mine. Those of you who know Ken and his energetic conversational style will immediately realize that I am thereby made aware of his presence virtually every day. Office juxtaposition aside, one of the first conversations upon my starting at AFS was a long and fruitful lunch with Ken where we explored many options for TWS– AFS collaboration. Second, the selection of Tampa for the 2017 meeting, a location with clear Gulf of Mexico connections, opened up the immediate opportunity to highlight one of the largest ecological disasters and recovery efforts in our nation’s history. Of particular significance is the broad, ecosystem approach of the restoration that, appropriately, recognizes the Gulf of Mexico as the sum of not just those immediate Deepwater Horizon insults but also all of landscape transformations and the resulting accumulated and transported impacts taking place throughout the largest river basin in North America. The only way to adequately discuss the science of the restoration of the Gulf and the Mississippi River basin is from the perspective of all natural resources with fish and wildlife being of obvious importance to our two societies. The Gulf provides the raison d’etre for a conference that focuses on the integration of wildlife and fisheries science in the broadest and most all-encompassing sense.

Third in the process of developing the 2017 meeting is the leadership of AFS. In our officer progression, the second vice president, Joe Margraf, has a major role in establishing the tenor of the 2017 meeting. This was, to a large degree, “his” meeting, where the theme, plenary speakers, and the overall focus of the event are established by Joe. One possible reaction to being presented with this type of event would be to negate the entire idea. Too problematic, the possible loss of identity, challenges of shared ownership, just too far out of the norm for AFS. In fact, just the opposite was the response. He embraced this approach and became a strong advocate for the joint event and made the motion to endorse the joint meeting to our Management Committee (which won unanimous support). As a result, Second Vice President Margraf will have the pleasure of helping to develop, coordinate, and manage probably one of, if not the largest, most broad-ranging, complicated, and innovative fish and wildlife conferences ever to be held.

Tampa will be a groundbreaking event; our wonderful hosts with the Florida chapters of AFS and TWS will begin working with the Bethesda office staff to start the process of figuring out the organizational structure of this event. New ground will be covered in joint ownership, branding, development of symposia, plenary speakers, sponsors, and all of the thousands of details that will demand attention. We’ve got over three years to put this together and will likely need every year, month, and day to make it a great success.

Regardless of how large an AFS conference is, all of our events are of the utmost importance and we are continually in the process of planning them. In just a couple of months we’ll be in Québec City for what is increasingly looking to be an exceptional event—a beautiful city, with over 40 symposia and, at last count, over 1,600 abstracts and a wonderful host in our Canadian and Northeast members. Then, off to Portland in 2015 where we know we’ll have a phenomenal event hosted by a group of seasoned meeting planners in a great northwest city.

 

Become a member of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) to read more articles like this.