Society for Freshwater Science Election
The Annual SFS election for society President will be conducted online from February 1, 2017 through March 17, 2017. Members during 2016 and current members are both eligible to vote. If you need to renew your membership please click here.
I am currently the Galla Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame (http://biology.nd.edu/people/jennifer-tank/). I grew up in northern Michigan on the Great Lakes; my dad was a biology teacher, and childhood and freshwater went hand in hand. I got my B.S. in Zoology at Michigan State University, and a chance course in Stream Ecology with Professor Tom Burton changed my trajectory from pre-med to ecology. I spent a formative year as a Lab Technician for Tom's group, analyzing thousands of water samples and learning about grad programs. I joined the Virginia Tech Stream Team, working with Jack Webster (my PhD advisor) and Fred Benfield on carbon and nutrient cycling in streams at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. My first Annual Meeting was in Blacksburg (changing slide projector trays!), and I know now that the generous mentoring by senior scientists and abundant collegiality of our meetings are SFS hallmarks. The Annual Meetings also nurtured and supported the large collaborative projects (LINXI as a postdoc, LINXII as an Assistant Professor) that shaped my career studying the impact of land use on stream nitrogen cycling. More recently, I have become passionate about interdisciplinary research that combines strong science with concrete management and policy outcomes. I am leading the Indiana Watershed Initiative
http://www.indianawatershedinitiative.com/, where we are exploring how novel conservation practices can mitigate the influence of agricultural land use on freshwaters. We are partnering directly with farmers and natural resource managers, conducting watershed-scale experiments on working lands, and quantifying the water quality benefits in a real world setting. My commitment to effective translation is also reflected in my role as Director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative http://environmentalchange.nd.edu/ whose theme is "Science Serving Society". In summary, I feel lucky to have found the society early in my career; it is my professional home and my extended scientific family. Now decades later, if elected, I would be honored to serve as President. I believe my leadership skills could serve the society, and I would be thrilled to repay my debt by advancing the society's mission to promote greater understanding of freshwater ecosystems through the exchange of knowledge between aquatic scientists and other stakeholders.
1. What do you think are the current challenges facing the Society for Freshwater Science?
Continued Growth: We are a welcome home for the next generation of freshwater scientists, but as the 2014 Strategic Plan stresses, we will need innovative efforts to expand our membership to include more diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and regions. I think that sustained membership engagement can create positive momentum to grow our numbers, with a special focus on graduate students and early career scientists. We have an active and vibrant Student Resources Committee. Let's continue to support them through unparalleled mentoring, professional training, and networking options. Strategic thinking, communication, and leadership training workshops, like those I experienced through the Leopold Leadership Program, can be game changers. Early career members should see clear opportunities for leadership to grow their society.
I also support the continued development of our website and social media presence, which can foster membership expansion through a virtual community. Even when members cannot attend the Annual Meeting (more common with ever-tightening budgets), we should grow our novel and valuable SFS web content. But these are not new ideas! I am inspired by the past and current SFS leadership, and given our positive trajectory, if elected, I would hope to carry the leadership torch forward with continued energy and enthusiasm. I would also use the year as incoming president for a "listening tour" to survey past leaders in SFS and other aquatic societies, providing a thread of continuity for promising approaches and continuing efforts.
2. What do you think are the emerging challenges facing the Society for Freshwater Science (and other scientific societies)?
SFS is a cohesive society, but as we grow, engagement of professional staff may be key to our future success. With an active and representational Board of Directors, and membership engagement through ~20 standing committees, there is an emerging need to coordinate the progress from the creativity and dedicated service of our members. The potential addition of an Executive Director is exciting, and they could facilitate cross-committee coordination, create continuity with administration transitions and initiatives, grow cross-society networking, and jumpstart creative strategic planning especially around fundraising. I would hope to grow this position, in its impact and potential to partner with the Board for the good of the society. Additionally, our website could include a platform that supports real-time committee interaction and proceedings that facilitate year round society progress and outcomes.
I also value the continued coordination that makes for a vibrant and stimulating Annual Meeting; each year it inspires my science, teaching and outreach. It also fosters vertically-integrated interactions that are key for cultivating the next generation of freshwater leaders. I also support meeting activities that continue to expand aquatic science education and outreach, including innovative workshops that transfer our collective expertise. Our journal Freshwater Science (FWS) is thriving under its new name and the transition to University of Chicago Press; it is a top-notch outlet that has informed and supported our scholarship. I would also support growing an endowment to offset FWS publication costs, such as those for special issues that build on the momentum and energy of special sessions that showcase the great science at our Annual Meeting.
3. What are the emerging challenges for science in general, and the aquatic sciences in particular?
I believe that effective science translation and communication is an emerging challenge for aquatic sciences. SFS and its members are a key source of information for science-based decision-making around freshwater management and conservation, building on the society's goal to share science outcomes with managers and policymakers, as well as educators and the public. Our collective expertise, coordinated with other aquatic societies, can serve as a clearing house for knowledge that supports efforts by the private sector, NGOs, and government agencies to sustain our freshwaters. In addition, the SFS social media presence has also grown, and I would look for opportunities increase its impact and extent of its reach. In summary, it is an exciting time for SFS and our society can play a key role in the critical debate about future of freshwater during a time of transition and change.
I am a professor in the Department of Biology and the Ecology Center at Utah State University (http://biology.usu.edu/about/faculty/michelle-baker). Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, I had a keen interest in all things science - I dissected my Baby Alive doll, collected insects and lizards, and made artificial streams in my backyard with a garden hose. Even so, as a kid, I had no idea that one could actually be employed as a scientist - I was going to be a veterinarian. I became an aquatic ecosystem ecologist by chance. As an undergraduate at Lafayette College, I engaged in research as a sophomore, and studied the genotoxic effects of chemotherapy drugs in mice. This work eventually became tiresome. Lucky for me, Dr. Majumdar, my mentor, was trained as a microbiologist, and he happened to get a contract with the power company to study water quality of a local reservoir. I was able to change projects and studied how water quality influenced leaf decomposition. Now I was hooked - I could be a scientist and be outside! After graduation, I moved on to do my Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology at the University of New Mexico where I was mentored by Cliff Dahm and Maury Valett. Linkages between ecosystems and how these influence biogeochemical cycles are a common thread in my work. I attended my first NABS meeting in 1993, and our society has been the foundation of my professional life ever since. SFS is deservedly recognized as an important incubator for the next generation of scientists and for advancing knowledge of freshwater systems - this happens because of the dedicated people who serve in all aspects of the society. It would be my greatest honor to serve as SFS President so that I could return the many favors the society has given me.
Current and future challenges:
We are entering uncharted and challenging times for science. Some call it a "post truth" world. Our sister society, ASLO (via their Public Policy Committee) aptly wrote "facts don't speak for themselves." It is our charge as freshwater scientists to speak for these facts and to empower each other to share our voices for the protection of freshwater systems, and science more generally. SFS and other scientific societies have a key role to play to educate the next generation, engage the public, and inform policy. As President, I would promote translational science that leads to action, by partnering with our sister societies through CASS to develop toolkits for our membership, promoting the work of our members who work outside of academia, and enhancing our social media presence and other messaging. Now more than ever, we need SFS to be a foundation to support our community. As President, I would work with the Board, committees, and members to increase the use of chapters to provide local or sector-based support systems; expand SFS programs that support early-career members; and explore ways to help under-represented, international, and government scientists to participate in our annual meeting and other activities. As a current director of a state-wide capacity-building program, I have experience bridging across academic institutions, state/municipal agencies, and non-profits to aid in these endeavors. I am eager to work with SFS members in our next strategic planning efforts to identify future challenges and opportunities our society can address.
Members during 2016 and current members are both eligible to vote. If you need to renew your membership please click here.
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