Note: AFS members should check their email in March for voting instructions.
Thank you to the volunteers who help the American Fisheries Society. Volunteer time with AFS has meant a great deal to me personally as it has helped me build professional relationships and collaborations. Though I served the New Mexico State University Student Subunit as Secretary (2002) and President (2003), I was hooked into volunteering with AFS after first attending the Annual Meeting in Lake Placid, New York (2006)—a memorable meeting due to the sudden cool weather and blue vests that kept us warm at the outdoor socials. Being new to the Annual Meeting and not knowing anyone there, I distinctly remember a group of students and faculty from Michigan State University including me in conversations at the outdoor social events. I contributed to the Pennsylvania Chapter while serving as the student representative in 2006 to host the 2010 Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As an AFS member for the past 16 years, I have enjoyed serving in various volunteer roles, attending our Annual Meetings, and participating in Chapter Meetings. Prior to knowing the difference between members and chapter affiliate members, I have fond memories of Pennsylvania Chapter meetings of 25–30 people and 3 professional talks with pizza at a small facility. Thanks to the Pennsylvania Chapter volunteers who embraced change to move meetings around the state to improve inclusion of students from different colleges and the geographic representation of attendees. I learned from the Pennsylvania Chapter that change to promote geographic inclusion can bring growth in member participation.
In 2015, I served as a Policy Fellow for AFS (2014–2015), then as an Emerging Leaders Mentorship Awardee (2016–2017), and on the Resource Policy Committee (RPC) as the Vice Chair (2016–2017) and Chair (2017–2020). These years saw the transition of the RPC to a new format diversifying participation by including representatives from each AFS Section and the four Divisions. I worked with RPC Chair and AFS Past President, Leanne Roulson, retired AFS Policy Director, Thomas Bigford, and current Policy Director, Drue Winters, to help resource policy efforts. This included work with Roulson and Bigford on imperiled species policy issues, including reviewing history of AFS engagement, summarizing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plans for fish species, and visiting Capitol Hill to engage with offices of elected representatives. I also worked with the policy director and AFS volunteers as part of larger team efforts on Waters of the United States, climate change threats, and coordinating volunteer input on regulations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service definition of habitat. I most recently served as President of the Northeastern Division (NED; 2021–2022). A primary focus of my time as a NED officer has been helping promote inclusion from efforts started by the Southern New England Chapter (Lian Guo and Abigail Archer), finding additional ways to grow our membership (e.g., Gift a Membership Campaign work with AFS Membership Director, Kelly Kotche), and helping our return to in-person meetings. I have been fortunate to work with great people serving the NED and our Chapters, who are leading efforts to build inclusion and meeting participation that will benefit all AFS members.
My vision for the American Fisheries Society includes three areas within the 2020–2024 AFS Strategic Plan (http://bit.ly/395C8IB). (1) Focus on fiscal responsibility that enables our members to fulfill our mission; (2) help grow and serve our membership to increase reach in the profession; and (3) improve the vitality of our journals, books, and alternative media. These efforts are supported by my commitment to (1) foster a welcoming atmosphere in AFS; (2) recruit students to our profession (outreach effort ideas like engaging with high school students at our Annual Meetings); and (3) work to make sure volunteer participation represents membership breadth.
To fulfill the AFS Mission “to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals,” we need to be mindful of our monetary resources that support member efforts. In my opinion, we should (1) be purposeful in selecting meeting locations to keep costs down for our membership while generating revenue to support our programs, (2) find new ways to recruit membership, and (3) continue to improve our publications that provide a revenue stream. As part of recent conversations between the Northeastern Division, the Southern Division, AFS Officers, and AFS staff on where to host the 2025, 2027, and 2028 meetings, I had to make the difficult decision as a NED representative to forego our Division hosting the 2025 Annual Meeting, because of potential revenue costs to the Society based on bids from the potential host cities in the Northeastern Division being considerably higher than the Southern Division. This was difficult, because hosting the Annual Meeting builds our member base and generates revenue for our Division. But I could not in good conscience advocate for hosting a meeting that could impact our Society’s bottom line. The Northeastern Division will work with enthusiasm to find a suitable and affordable city to host the Annual Meeting in 2027, learning from the volunteer time and effort we put into planning conversations for 2025. I have continued these conversations with AFS Meetings Manager, Shawn Johnston, and our Division officers about affordable meeting venues for our members, including hotel and travel costs.
Membership Growth and Service
Critical to financial stability, I believe we can expand our Society’s reach and grow AFS membership while continuing to serve our current members. We each know individuals who could be AFS members but have chosen not to join. After serving on the Membership Committee a few years ago during the Member Get a Member Campaign (http://bit.ly/3JBf0lx) and serving on the Governing Board, I realized we need to find additional ways to recruit members. Upon discussing gift membership challenges and ideas with AFS Membership Director, Kelly Kotche, we decided at the Baltimore Annual Meeting to focus on developing a campaign to ask our members to consider gifting memberships. To make gift memberships more efficient, Kelly helped change our membership gift form from printed PDF to electronic (https://fisheries.org/gift/). The website submission reduces AFS staff time spent processing and can link directly to a member’s account to invoice. I will be excited to see this campaign launched. To help Kelly test the rollout via the website form, I have already gifted four memberships to new student members. I will ask you as my professional colleagues and fellow members to join me in this effort to share the benefits of AFS membership with others by gifting a membership.
We can grow our reach through our publications. After meetings at the 146th AFS Annual Meeting in Kansas City (2016), where Governing Board members and editors discussed the future of AFS publications, AFS leadership involved in editing the journals made a commitment to improve journal response times in response to member feedback. The meeting participants also discussed how we can ensure that our members’ best work gets submitted to AFS journals. To show my commitment to submitting my work to AFS journals, seven of my last nine peer-reviewed articles have been published in Fisheries. I want Fisheries and the AFS journals to be our members’ first choice when publishing data and new ideas. Given the desire expressed by our members, I hope to work with other volunteers to help launch a new AFS journal focused specifically on conservation—something mentioned by several of our members in conversations at Annual Meetings. Our peer societies (Society for Conservation Biology and Ecological Society of America) have launched new successful journals (Conservation Letters and Ecosphere) to increase their professional reach while meeting demand for journals that publish policy-relevant, open-access science. This effort connects to reaching new members and growing our finances as the Society will have to negotiate a new publishing contract after the current contract with Wiley ends.
In closing, I am honored to be considered by the Nominating Committee for continued service to AFS in an officer role. I owe service to the Society that has given so much to me through professional relationships and support. Thank you for reading my biographical sketch and vision for AFS. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the AFS membership.