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The President's Environment

The President's Environment is published 3x/year. Past Issues of the President's Environment can be found in the archives of The Bulletin.

Freshwater Science Family Reunion

By President Emily Bernhardt

May 2017

Emily Bernhardt

Hi SFSers.

I am so looking forward to our upcoming 'freshwater science family reunion' in Raleigh next week. As hundreds of you are finalizing your poster or talk, with the inevitable accompanying stress, it is a good time to step back and ask — why do we do this?

Our annual meeting is the benthic highlight of my year. The NABS meeting in San Marcos, TX was my very first major scientific meeting. I had just completed my first year of graduate school and it was a thrill to discover that I could polka dance (badly) with many of my 'benthic' heroes that I had previously only known from their papers. I dreamed of getting a job someday so that I could afford to buy the framed magazine photo of Pope John Paul (why, I don't know) at the NABS live auction. I also learned an incredible amount about nutrient cycling, about metabolism and about how some stoneflies communicate by abdomen drumming.

For me, the best part of SFS has always been its good humor, the humility of its members and the lack of hierarchy. Our meeting prides itself on being welcoming and encouraging to young scientists. This year, for the first time we will be recognizing our first cohort of SFS Fellows, leading scholars in freshwater science who have previously been recognized with our Award of Excellence or with our Environmental Stewardship Award. Each Fellow was asked to write a letter offering their advice to young freshwater scientists. It has been a delight to get a first peek at their individual and collective wisdom. I cannot wait to talk about their ideas with all of you as we explore the SFS Fellows gallery at the meeting next week.

I hope they will forgive me for high grading some of their advice, especially with respect to preparing for our upcoming meeting. Collectively, our elders are telling us to Read! Take Risks! Follow your bliss! Do work that you love! Take time to watch the goings on in ponds and puddles! Be persistent! They have also shared priceless anecdotes and photos.

As we are all getting ready to tell one another about the amazing (or frustrating) discoveries we have each made over the last year, I ask you to take to heart the following excerpts from our fellows.

Both Bobbi Peckarsky and Bruce Wallace offer encouragement for those whose results fail to match their hypotheses. Both say they have learned a lot from being wrong and Bobbi reminds us that 'no' is a better answer than 'maybe'. Remember that when your summarizing your results.

Margaret Palmer suggests that you keep asking yourself, "Why am I doing this?". To that I will add, be sure to tell your audience your answer to this question at the outset of any presentation.

Vince Resh suggests that you "get fun out of public performing — like artists do on the stage". To that I will add, go ahead, better to be dramatic than timid in sharing your enthusiasm for your work.

Bob Hughes tells us about the career impact of making a connection with a Chinese scholar at an early NABS meeting. To that I will add — don't be shy about making new connections to interesting people at our meeting. Dave Allan suggests that you not be afraid to "ask dumb questions over a beer". Indeed, our meeting is all about networking and asking brilliant or naïve questions of one another so that we all understand more and do more interesting science.

Colin Townsend reminds us that "freshwater ecology as a social activity is just plain fun". Ben Stout says freshwater scientists are "fun to be around". Fun is a recurring theme.

Finally, Jack Stanford reminds us that "without healthful freshwater, life is not fun at all". Next week in Raleigh let's work on telling each other our stories and empowering ourselves to go back out into the real world and work harder at sharing the wonder, the beauty and the incredible importance of freshwater science.

I cannot wait to make some new SFS memories with you. See you in Raleigh!

Emily Bernhardt

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