An incoming President could hardly ask for a better situation than the one provided by Andy Read and our Board of Governors. The Society is very healthy, with an engaged and diverse membership, a high-quality journal, solid finances, and a superb website. I am fortunate to have the institutional memory and experience of a number of returning officers and committee chairs. Helene Marsh is transitioning from chair of the Committee of Scientific Advisors to President-Elect, while Heather Koopman remains as Secretary, Jim Harvey rejoins us as Treasurer, Emer Rogan completes her term as Member-at-Large (and thus receives the gavel as the Society Parliamentarian), Daryl Boness will continue as Editor, and all of the committee chairs have agreed to continue in their roles. We welcome new faces to the Board: Simon Goldsworthy joins us as Member-at-Large, and Inez Campbell has been elected as Student Member-at-Large. The Board has selected Doug Wartzok to chair the Committee of Scientific Advisors, and Barb Taylor to chair the new Conservation Committee. As these Board members have already experienced through frequent e-mail exchanges, I intend to rely heavily on their wisdom during my term as President. Michel Fougères will continue as our webmaster, bringing new levels of function, quality, accessibility, resource availability, and interactivity to our website. The tools, expertise, and enthusiasm are in place to continue to accomplish good works over the next several years.
The Society has matured since its founding in 1981, and I feel I have grown up along with the Society. As a young biologist I attended my first Marine Mammal Conference at San Diego in 1977, where the idea to form the Society was conceived. I witnessed the Society's exciting (and occasionally painful) gestation and birth over the next several years, and as a charter member and as a graduate student of the Society's first President, Ken Norris, I witnessed how the Society sought to be more inclusive and diverse. I have participated in hosting four different Conferences now, and have marveled at how the quality and sophistication of our Science continues to improve. We have all been a part of remarkable changes to the field of marine mammal science and the Society over the years, and I have seen how it is possible to make a greater difference for the animals, ecosystems, and principles to which we have dedicated our careers. The resulting quantity and quality of information now available, as well as the increasingly robust approaches employed in the compilation of the information, are truly impressive. At the same time, there has been increasing need for applying our information and approaches to a growing list of issues and threats around the world. Of particular concern, and a theme of my presidency, is to direct more attention to the cumulative impacts of human activities on marine mammals.
When I agreed to run for President of the Society, I had two main goals:
- to increase public awareness of the diverse resources and expertise available through the Society, and
- to make involvement more accessible to students and scientists around the world.
The basis of the first goal resides in the Society's objectives as expressed in its constitution:
- Evaluate and promote the educational, scientific and managerial advancement of marine mammal science;
- Gather and disseminate to members of the Society, the public and public and private institutions, scientific, technical and management information through publications and meetings; and
- Provide scientific information, as required, on matters related to the conservation and management of marine mammal resources.
The Society has done a superb job of developing as the premier international collection of marine mammal scientists, known for maintaining high standards of scientific objectivity and rigor. I believe the time is appropriate to increase public awareness of what the Society and its members have to offer. I will strive to increase awareness of the Society, the high-quality work being conducted by its members, and their potential to provide credible and relevant information of importance to current and emerging issues by taking advantage of new and conventional tools for dissemination of information. We are discussing the possibility of developing press releases to direct attention to information in each newly released issue of the journal. In addition to working to realize the full potential of our committees and our website, we will explore the use of social media. We will not compromise or risk the hard-earned objectivity and credibility of the Society, but who is better qualified to interpret and communicate data for conservation purposes and the public than the scientists who collected the data?
With regards to my second goal, several actions are planned or are underway to make involvement in the Society more accessible to students and scientists around the world. We live in an interesting time in the development of the Society. We have the benefit of still having active involvement by many of the scientists who started the Society (and indeed the field!), providing tremendous opportunities for the students and young researchers to benefit from interactions with the "silverbacks" in the field who were responsible for creating their career paths. My goal is to increase the relevance of the Society to these potential new members while keeping the Society true to its founding principles and of value to the long-time members. Increased use of social media, and promoting scientific training and relationships among scientists are means of achieving this goal.
Over the past 18 months I have worked to identify two potential Latin American hosts for the 2015 biennial conference. Our first Latin American venue will facilitate access for a large and growing cadre of marine mammal scientists and students (a reminder - the polls are now open on the website for you to select which of the Latin American sites will host the conference). We will strive to increase training opportunities and workshops for scientists and students from regions where such opportunities don't otherwise exist, either in association with biennial conferences or by traveling teams of experts. In addition, thanks to Mike Hammill and the Quebec City conference committee, funds have become available that I hope we will be able to apply toward increased support for student conference travel now and into the future.
This is your society. I am truly honored to have been elected to help provide direction to the Society for the next two years. I will seek guidance from our superb Board of Governors to try to move us in the best direction, but I welcome the input from our membership to ensure that we are on the right track, and we are continuing to meet your expectations for the Society. Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for this opportunity to serve.