AFS Second Vice President Candidate Statement: Julie Defilippi Simpson
I was born and raised near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My father often took my sister and me fishing as children and he taught us the value of natural resources according to these rules: “Only take what you plan to eat,” and “You catch it, you clean it.” I became interested in the marine environment at an early age and have been passionate about fisheries and quality science since then. I did my undergraduate work in marine science at Boston University and graduate work in marine policy at the University of Maine. My professional career started as a Fisheries Biological Data Coordinator at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where I was first exposed to the power of centralized data. From there, I went to work for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program. My over 12-year tenure began as the first ever Fisheries Data Coordinator and I have held roles of progressively greater responsibility and broader scope leading to my current position as Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program Deputy Director.
I attended my first AFS Annual Meeting as a graduate student in Lake Placid in 2006, got hooked, and have been an active member of AFS since 2007. I am a member of multiple Sections and began working actively with the Fisheries Information and Technology Section (FITS) in 2012 as their Communications and Outreach Coordinator, a position I served in until 2015. Because of my expertise and commitment to the Section, I was elected as Incoming President of FITS in 2013 and served as President from 2015–2017. During that time, I represented the Section on the Governing Board and also served on the Management Committee from 2015–2016. As a member of FITS, I was part of the Working Group to Develop Fisheries Data Exchange Standards in 2014.
Communications and science communication are a primary interest for me. I began serving the Society in these disciplines with the Special Committee on Science Communication in 2013. I then joined the Communications Committee at its inception in 2016 and have served as Chair since September 2017. In that role, I had the honor of presenting on communications and creating a communications plan as a plenary speaker at the AFS Minnesota Chapter meeting in 2018. I had the privilege to be part of the Impact-a-thon grant, awarded by Wiley to pilot a program focused on science communication and increasing diversity by working with high school students in urban areas. Participating in the workshop with the teens and my amazing team of AFS colleagues was a career highlight for me and I look forward to establishing the program as a model for all AFS Units.
Recently, I had the pleasure of serving on the Strategic Plan Revision Committee that drafted the 2020–2024 AFS Strategic Plan, which was approved by the membership at the Annual AFS Business Meeting in Reno, Nevada. I am currently on the 150th Celebration Committee. At a more local AFS level, I am in my second year as President of the AFS Potomac Chapter.
Organizations are like houses in that they are only as strong as the foundation upon which they are based. The American Fisheries Society has a 150-year history as a strong community of intelligent, passionate, and dedicated fisheries professionals working toward scientifically based conservation and management. I have yet to attend an AFS function, whether it be at the Society or Unit level, where the enthusiasm and energy hasn’t been palpable and capable of inspiring me to renewed commitment. All of this, added to the wealth of excellent work that has been achieved by previous officers and volunteers at all levels, gives us an unassailable footing on which to build our future.
We now stand at a pivotal moment as we set the course for our next 150 years. As Chair of the Communications Committee, I have had the privilege to work on the brand revitalization effort. A brand is about much more than a logo; it is the representation of who we are as a Society. In order to effectively execute this project, it was necessary to survey and interview members, non-members, officers, and even sponsors to ascertain how AFS is perceived, what members want from AFS, and what resources and services AFS can provide members and the profession.
This process, in conjunction with my time on the Strategic Plan Revision Committee, has helped me to recognize that while the functioning of the Society can be complex, it can be brought back to what is best for the science and for the people. The resources and support for fisheries professionals and science isn’t always on a stable footing elsewhere in this world, but it is here in the American Fisheries Society.
We know that inclusivity and rigorous science are the soundest path to a better future. I believe that if we can continue to hold to this tenet in our decisions, we will meet the needs of our members at higher levels than ever before. Achieving the pinnacle of service and support, for current and future members and the profession as a whole, will only come through the collective efforts of all of us stepping up—as volunteers, mentors, teachers, colleagues, and friends. Thus, we will safeguard the future of a Society that grows and adapts along with the profession.
Continually, I am personally and professionally enthused and energized during my AFS interactions. My vision is to create an AFS where all members share in that inspirational experience and are invigorated to fulfill their potential in their daily work and to give back to the profession through the Society. I am humbled to be nominated for the opportunity to serve the Society and my fellow members at the highest level. If the membership chooses to grant me their trust, I promise to honor that with active listening, hard work, and dedication.