Candidate Q & A: Margaret Murphy

Note: Also see the official candidate statement. Voting will open on May 15. Check your email for voting instructions and note that only members who have renewed for 2018 are eligible to vote.

  1. With the 150th anniversary of AFS approaching, can you explain what the Society stands for now and how it should prepare itself to succeed in the next 150 years?
    It’s amazing to think we have been at this for 150 years, and looking back at our history, we are still facing some of the same challenges, as well as many new ones. AFS has always been a voice for research and sustainable management of fisheries resources.  Our diverse membership will serve us well into the future as our challenges are at the ecosystem level and will need collaboration from genetics and bioengineering to water quality and fish habitat professionals to fully understand and respond to these challenges. AFS with its mix of divisions, sections, and chapters has the resources in its membership to work at both the local level, as well as nationally and internationally, with this structure. Preparing for the future means empowering our units while providing the larger voice to communicate issues at a larger scale.
  1. What is one role that AFS does not currently fulfill that you believe could be important in the future and why?
    AFS has a professional certification program; unfortunately, not all members agree about the potential significance of the program. As science is being questioned more and more, having a certification program that is rigorous, relevant, and embraced by the entire membership will allow for greater respect and credibility among other professions and the general public.  We have professional engineers, landscape architects, and many other professional certifications that carry more weight in society. As a scientist working in the private sector, having “certified fisheries professional” next to my name helps define my expertise.  The objectives of certification are: (1) to provide governmental and nongovernmental agencies and organizations, private firms, courts, and the general public with a definitive minimum standard of experience and education for fisheries professionals and (2) to foster broader recognition of fisheries professionals as well educated and experienced, acting in the best interest of the public (emphasis my own). I like that passing a test or multiple tests are not how certification works in AFS.  It is based on our education and what we do related to career training and continuing education, as well as service to the society and our communications with our peers and nonprofessionals; it also needs to be renewed by documenting how we have maintained our skills.  This gives the program amazing credibility. AFS has a goal in the strategic plan: “Support, manage, and promote a fisheries professional certification program that is recognized as a distinguished mark of scientific excellence and expertise within and outside the Society.” We have the program, but we need to do better with promoting the importance of this to our members and to those we work with. We should continue to evaluate the educational requirements for initial certification and work with colleges and universities to keep both aligned with advances in fisheries science.
  2. Science is being challenged in government and in our society. What can AFS do to better respond to this challenge and ensure that our institutions persist and the science that they develop are used properly and effectively in resource management?
    We live in an interesting time where communications come from many sources and many times it is a challenge to find the truth. AFS needs to maintain a focus on strong scientific principles in all that we do.  Nature is dynamic and can be challenging to predict; however, by following the scientific method we can gather information, gain a better understanding of the resource, and defend our conclusions. It is important that we continue to support the various state and federal agencies, nongovernmental agencies, and research institutions that conduct or oversee this work. Conducting research and monitoring programs to better inform management and policy is essential for the future of our fisheries and aquatic resources. AFS can continue to provide support for members through meetings, continuing education, and publishing the best peer-reviewed science possible.  Annual, in-person meetings are still important as face-to-face encounters with our peers, and others we may not interact with otherwise, are vital to advancing fisheries science. We also need to continue to advocate – for the resource and the science – and educate our representatives in Washington on the importance of sustaining and managing aquatic and fishery resources. Our state and federal agencies and the regulations they enforce are critical to maintaining environmental resources.  Softening of regulations such as the Clean Water Act will allow for the advances made since the 1960s and 1970s to slowly erode away. We need to be the strong voice for the environment as well as the humans interacting with it.
  3. How can AFS better contribute to increasing diversity in the profession?
    Working on watershed management and identifying the threats to our aquatic resources is a constant struggle. Funds are limited, and we always seem to respond to an immediate threat with less effort given to proactively assessing all potential threats.  We take our eye off the ball – and that next threat we didn’t pay attention to or think about has arrived and we are in response mode again. We need a holistic approach for watershed management as well as diversifying AFS. AFS needs to proactively assess what we mean by increasing diversity. For much of my career that has meant more women. While I agree, there were not many women at meetings, let alone in leadership early in my career, we are not paying enough attention to other ways of diversifying our membership. If you look back at AFS leadership (past presidents) over the past 148 years – it is dominated by men – even currently. That’s not representative of our membership today – if we want to increase diversity in the profession, we need leadership that represents that diversity. AFS needs to nurture and support women, students and young professionals, as well as other cultures. Our first woman president was in 1927; we have had 8 more since. We need to be proactive and develop actions that will support more diversity. For example, the Hutton Program was envisioned in 2000 as a mechanism to engage underrepresented groups while they were still in high school – what a great time to stimulate a career in fisheries! But do we know how many have gone on to careers in fisheries and become AFS members? Have we continued to stimulate and nurture that interest since their summer internship? In 2016, there were 210 applications with 38 high school students offered internships – only 18% – that’s not good enough, we need to do better. I would like to see this program grow to support more students.
  1. AFS has thousands of “Chapter Only” and “Affiliate” members who are not AFS members. What should AFS be doing to transition these fisheries professionals to AFS membership?
    Early in my career, I became involved in leadership within AFS and had to become a “full-fledged” AFS member.  As a chapter member, I was able to experience the welcoming environment at the local scale; as an AFS member that expanded to a national and international level.  While many argue their focus is only on their state or region and that they don’t need to be “national” members, this is a short-sighted argument as AFS is one entity and our issues and concerns cross chapter lines. We are all interested in maintaining fisheries for current and future generations and AFS as a whole becomes that voice for all the parts – succeeding in ways the individual units cannot.  And units can succeed at the local and regional level knowing they have the support of an international organization.  I think it is critical that AFS portrays itself as something greater than the sum of its units – and helps transition those chapter only members by providing examples of the work being done in support of them. Compared to other professional organizations, AFS is affordable and offers great benefits to its membership.
  2. At the end of your presidency, how will you know you have succeeded through advancing the Society (domestically and/or internationally)?
    If only I had a magic eight ball to summon…It’s been challenging the past two and a half years as I started my own business, with a vision of success, to look beyond several months and getting projects lined up. Thinking about five or six years from now as my term as president ends and trying to gage my (our) success is difficult. However, if I can achieve even one goal – I will consider that successful. My goals for AFS are to continue to support all members and communicate our successes and failures to the general public. If we have improved our outreach and communication of our science to policy makers, as well as the general public, that our research and management is critical to the future of our fisheries and aquatic resources, that would be success. If our membership is more diverse than it is now (by age, sex, ethnicity) – including more diverse leadership – that is success. If I have energized our students and young professionals to passionately advocate for our aquatic resources with full support from AFS – that is success. My success will be AFS’s success and our members’ success.  Only by working together and continuing to advocate for our work can we advance our mission for the next 150 years.
  3. Please tell us something unique or compelling about you that will help you to succeed as an AFS officer and president?
    I don’t give up, but I do compromise when needed. As much as I will fight, I will also work with others and try to listen to and understand their points of view.  Sometimes they have a more compelling view – and I will need to concede a bit. I have learned that collaboration is a give and take – I will passionately argue my position – but it’s not about winning (I do like to win though). It’s about taking a step back, thinking about the various points, and selecting what is best for the resource and all stakeholders. Whether it is removing a dam or just lowering it and providing passage or stocking non-native fish versus promoting a wild native fishery – there will be opposing viewpoints, and a justification for each one. I LOVE what I do – but as a scientist I know there are multiple ways to accomplish similar goals and we are always learning. Being able to listen and incorporate those ways while working with others to find the best solution for each situation is the most satisfying, even if it’s not what I personally wanted or thought was best at the start. In a global world, it’s important to be able to compromise and understand the details of each project and the factors that make it unique.