AFS Second Vice President Candidate Statements: April Croxton

Please note: Voting for Second Vice President will open in late April. Voting instructions will be sent to current (2019) AFS members by email.

BACKGROUND

Raised by parents from a small fishing and agricultural community along the Atlantic coast, I was fortunate to develop an appreciation for both land and water at an early age. This appreciation was further developed in my elementary school years, when I was certain that I wanted to study how “bad things in our water made aquatic organisms sick.” Every science project during my elementary, middle, and high school years was dedicated to water quality in river systems. Advised by high school counselors, I decided to develop a strong biological foundation by completing a B.S. in biology at Virginia Union University. This led to my completion of a Ph.D. in environmental sciences, with a concentration in aquatic toxicology, from Florida A&M University. My experiences at both universities afforded me the opportunity to conduct research as an Environmental Protection Agency Undergraduate Fellow and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Graduate Sciences Fellow, and further strengthened my interest in aquatic sciences through research in the James River, Apalachicola Bay, and Tampa Bay.

My research career began as a Fisheries Biologist with NOAA, where I studied the immune physiological responses of shellfish exposed to changing environmental conditions, such as contaminants, coastal acidification, harmful algal blooms, and other water quality parameters. This research allowed me to work closely with, and advise colleagues from South Korea for nearly 5 years. As a result of my work, I was able to see firsthand the importance of my research on these important economic and ecological species. Over 15 years later, I still maintain the same passion for aquatic sciences from my early youth. However, in recent years I have made the transition from researcher to science policy and planning. As a researcher, I recognized early on the need to maintain a broad understanding of how my research fit into my agency’s mission and goals, as well as its importance on a national and international level. More importantly, in my policy role I hope to bridge the gap between policy makers and researchers, having now spent time in both disciplines.

In my spare time, I teach science courses in both online and traditional academic settings, as well as mentor middle school students from underrepresented communities. The goal in these outreach activities is to inspire the next generation of science professionals. My current project with a local middle school involves developing a science curriculum that involves experiential activities that help to strengthen the student’s interest in STEM careers. My overall goal for the participants of this pilot program is to expose students to non‐traditional jobs in aquatic sciences.

SOCIETY INVOLVEMENT

Unlike many members, I joined AFS when I was well into my professional career. During my academic years, I maintained memberships with organizations that reflected those of my advisors. Although I was a member within these organizations, my involvement was very minimal. I was introduced to AFS through a fellow colleague who expressed a need for more engagement of minority researchers in the Society’s Equal Opportunities Section (EOS). Also during this time, I co‐organized a panel discussion that featured Tom Bigford, who shared highlights of the work taking place within AFS. I decided to take a chance and join a Society that was not the typical organization within my research community. Three years later, I stand before you as a candidate for the position of AFS Second Vice President.

Since joining AFS, I have experienced an overwhelming sense of belonging to the fisheries professional community. At the insistence of my colleague, I immediately joined the EOS as Secretary and began my earnest service to the organization. I later went on to become the Vice President, and am currently serving as the President of the Section. During my tenure as an officer in the EOS, I have had the pleasure of working alongside great members who are committed to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive community within the Society. The Section is currently re‐branding the resources and activities that we offer to be more reflective of the member’s needs. This includes creating a Diversity and Inclusion ToolKit, contributing to diversity and inclusion articles in the Fisheries magazine, and hosting workshops and symposia at Annual Meetings. As the President of Equal Opportunities Section, I represent AFS on the Management Board of the Diversity Joint Venture, an initiative to increase representation of women and people of color in conservation careers. For the past 2 years, I have been a member of the AFS Governing Board, and was recently nominated to serve on the Management Committee. My other Society involvement includes serving on the Special Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, and as a recent member of the Mid‐Atlantic Chapter. Although I have only been a member of AFS for a short amount of time, I am truly committed to the work of the organization.

VISION

The future success of AFS will largely depend upon our continued internal engagement, as well as external engagement with policy makers and the science community. Internally, the Society must continue to provide a welcoming environment that supports our current and future members. As professionals in this discipline, we are aware that all organisms are essential in the success of the ecosystem. Our differences, whether gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or even type of research studied are those unique characteristics that make us an adaptable organization that is forward thinking. Engagement means supporting our future leaders in our Student Subunits, mentoring our early and mid‐career professionals, and tapping into the wisdom of our retired members. Our international members also bring a unique perspective that contributes to our overall organizational success.

As a minority female in the Society, I have observed that our membership demographics are, in some cases, lower than what is demonstrated in our professional settings. My initial interactions with members truly shaped my involvement and experience in the Society. Because of those positive experiences, I felt welcomed and inspired to work in an organization that was open and willing to accept my time and energy. I am confident that there are other members, and prospective members, that would be willing to share their talents if they had the same initial interactions.

External engagement with policy makers is equally as important to the continued success of AFS. The Society has had a long history of providing decision makers with relevant information to inform their decisions. As an honest broker, the Society has the opportunity to effectively communicate the concerns of our science community. The positive relationship that the Society has cultivated over the years will need to be further maintained as new scientific challenges present themselves. I am honored to be recognized as a candidate for Second Vice President. If chosen, I would be committed to further enhancing the goals and values of AFS by engaging all current and potential members. We are more successful if we all work together. Through our combined efforts, we will strengthen the Society’s role as a premiere leader in the aquatic sciences profession.