AFS Second Vice President Candidate Statements: Jim Bowker

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


Like anyone approaching the end of their career, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I’d fill my days after retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. One hundred days on the slopes and another hundred on the river is an ambitious annual target, but I also want to stay engaged with the fisheries community. The respect I have for fish and fisheries is deeply rooted—it’s not something you turn in with your keys on the last day in the office—and staying involved with AFS is how I plan to fulfill my ongoing commitment to the profession.

I got my start in fisheries analyzing Great Lake fishes for contaminants, but I spent most of my career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership, generating data to support approval of fish medicines. As rewarding as I found my job, I felt something was missing—something intangible that kept me from feeling completely fulfilled as a professional. I found that missing piece when I became an active, engaged member of AFS. The Society has allowed me to channel my energy and enthusiasm for fisheries science, make a difference beyond my day job, and give back to the profession that has given me so much.


I have been actively involved with AFS for most of my career, fulfilling a number of leadership roles over the past decade. My mantra is, “Show up, be prepared, and engage,” and it’s driven me and my service to AFS as Fish Culture Section President (2012–2014) and Western Division President (2015–2016). I also resurrected the Emerging Leader Mentorship Award program, helped revise the AFS Guide for Use of Fishes in Research, served on the 2014–2019 Strategic Planning Committee and now chair the same committee for 2020–2024, have been an associate editor for 7 years, and recently served on the Special Committee to make AFS journals more relevant. It has been a rewarding journey being so actively involved with AFS—the Society that is my community, my family, my home.


I continually marvel at the Society’s collective brain power and am proud that our ranks include world leaders in various scientific fields, agencies, and academic institutions. Whether at the water cooler or in the public square, AFS must speak for fisheries and our profession. In times when things happen quickly and memories and news cycles are short, the Society needs to be strategic, nimble, and able to strike while the iron is hot on technical issues, while becoming adept at passing along important science‐based information to lay audiences. I am excited to see the recent establishment of the Science Communication Section and the Society’s efforts to better connect our leaders with the public and decision makers.

Fisheries scientists are data‐driven and quantitative…except when it comes to gauging how our Society is doing. I am proud to have led the charge to develop a database reporting tool that will allow us to capture what AFS and each of its Units accomplish each year. Once this tool is fully implemented, we will have a complete accounting of our impact as a Society—what we have done well and where we have more work to do to fully serve our members. For the first time, AFS staff and leaders will be able to make fully informed decisions to move the Society forward.

I would like to help our membership become more inclusive and interconnected. The Governing Board provides a great system for Division and Section leaders to get to know one another while taking care of AFS business. It would benefit the Society if similar systems were developed to bring together Chapter and Student Subunit leaders for more meaningful interactions. The Society would also benefit from a better process to increase diversity among not only our membership but among our leaders, whether as an officer, a committee member, or annual meeting organizer/contributor. Annual meetings provide a great venue for networking and many seasoned fisheries professionals talk about how networking enabled them to have a more rewarding and productive career. Conversely, I’ve spoken with students and young professionals who do not know what networking is, let alone how to do it. Regardless of our professional or AFS position, we are all people with way more in common than not. I envision developing or elevating networking events proven successful at the Chapter level that are more rewarding for under‐represented groups, provide opportunities for those that want to step up to do so, and show the benefits of being a more active member.

I have been told more than a few times that I’m a connector—a person who knows people from many different walks of life and can be the link between groups that wouldn’t otherwise interact. This particular skill served me well during my career and as an active member of AFS. I would like to put this skill to work in terms of making AFS more inclusive and interconnected, and to make fisheries science and our organization more accessible to those outside our profession. I firmly believe that you can lead from any level, and want to help others to discover new ways to get engaged and develop their leadership potential.

Whoever is at the helm, AFS will continue to play to our strengths as a society and protect our legacy of sound science, effective communication, and empowered members. We must keep our fiscal house in order and provide resources to AFS Units so that they may do the same, better utilize technology to cut travel costs and increase Annual Meeting participation, and continue to strive to be global leaders in fisheries. As I contemplated the nomination to run for Second Vice President, I asked myself: Have I prepared sufficiently for this undertaking? Am I ready to commit the time and energy to effectively lead the Society? Do I have what it takes to make a difference? I think the answer to each of these questions is a resounding YES. I am deeply humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve the Society at the highest level and to help shape the future of AFS.