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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.

SFS Happenings and some random thoughts

By President Matt Whiles

October 2015

Matt Whiles

Planning for the 2016 SFS meeting in Sacramento is well underway, and there is much to be excited about. The planning committee is putting together an exciting schedule including a social event at the California State Railroad Museum (http://web.csrmf.org/) that will feature local food trucks and beer from regional microbreweries. You can find more information about the meeting and associated activities like field trips on the meeting web page (http://sfsannualmeeting.org/SFS2016.cfm). Be aware that the October 16 deadline for special session proposals is fast approaching, and advance registration opens soon. I look forward to seeing everyone in Sacramento.

Our society continues to make progress implementing the SFS strategic plan adopted in 2014 (http://www.freshwater-science.org/Business/5-Year-Strategic-Plan-2014.cfm). This year we funded three initiatives with strategic plan funds - 1) the SFS Instars program that provides resources for undergraduates from under-represented groups to attend SFS meetings (http://www.freshwater-science.org/education-and-outreach/instars-program.cfm), 2) the Leaf Pack Experiment Workshop for K-12 teachers and other environmental educators, and 3) a special session for the 2016 annual meeting with the goal of increasing our society's global presence and perspective. This special session will be entitled "Challenges in freshwater conservation: a global perspective" and will include speakers from different continents presenting their perspectives on major conservation challenges in their regions. We also allocated presidential discretionary funds to assist with a workshop that Natalie Griffiths is organizing for student and early career members at the 2016 meeting, and for Mark Wetzel to complete the 2014 and 2015 SFS bibliographies.

Along with implementing the strategic plan, SFS, along with other societies, is facing the increasing challenge of communicating the incentives of society membership to potential new members. With the increasing availability of journal articles and scientific resources on line, some of the traditional incentives for membership no longer exist. Gone are the days when society membership was the primary avenue for access to journals and related materials. I have had numerous discussions with SFS members about how we can better communicate the less tangible incentives of SFS membership like networking, camaraderie, and facilitating collaborations, and develop new incentives such as web-based educational resources and career development materials that are only available to members. Many of our younger members feel that the main benefits of SFS membership are reduced meeting registration fees and the meetings themselves. I certainly agree that our meetings are one of the great benefits of SFS membership, but I think we need to better develop and communicate incentives beyond our meetings. If you have any ideas about this, I would like to hear from you.

Some other new developments that you will be hearing more about in the near future - the SFS leadership is working on an official diversity statement for the society that will communicate our goal of fostering and embracing diversity and tolerance among our membership; this, in my opinion, is already a strength of our society, and it will be nice to officially acknowledge that. We are also exploring development of a SFS Fellows program, which would recognize SFS members for their professional accomplishments and contributions to the society. We are currently looking at the structure and operation of similar programs that other societies have developed.

Beyond SFS... The current situations in California (lack of water) and the Ohio River (massive Cyanobacteria blooms) underscore how precious, fragile, and limited our freshwater supply is (hence the "running on empty" theme for the Sacramento meeting). We often think of developing nations and impoverished regions when we hear or speak of severe water quantity and quality problems; the current situation in the US is a sobering reminder that these issues are global and urgent. Many of us are aware of the challenges and frustrations associated with translating science in to policy. There is strength in numbers that can help meet these challenges, and SFS continues to join forces with others. Our membership in the Consortium of Aquatic Scientific Societies and the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) is important in this regard, and our own Dave Penrose is current Chair of the CSSP Board of Directors. We are also working with the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with Alan Covich as our liaison, an organization that has been very effective at communicating with policymakers. Through our own efforts and these important partnerships, we can continue to make headway communicating our science to broader audiences.

Matt Whiles

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