17 August 2017
I write to update you on the progress of our first year of the American Ornithological Society (AOS), having recently concluded the very successful inaugural meeting of the AOS in East Lansing, Michigan attended by over 700 ornithologists. Thanks to all our marvelous volunteer members who worked on the Local Committee chaired by Jen Owens and the Scientific Program Committee chaired by Sharon Gill. It was a fun and engaging meeting, with outstanding plenary talks, workshops, symposia, and contributed papers and posters balanced by local beverages, dancing, and networking opportunities. We offered financial support to 126 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral researchers to attend the Michigan meeting, who enjoyed activities designed for early career professionals. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee, formed in 2016, sponsored new activities designed to learn how best to serve underrepresented groups in ornithology and to promote their engagement. AOS honored and welcomed 59 new Elective Members and 26 new Fellows, with a nearly equal number of women and men elected and with an emphasis on younger members. So the first AOS meeting was a historic meeting in many ways.
Over the past 10 months since the merger of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and the Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) to form AOS (which became official on 11 October 2016), the AOS officers (President-Elect Kathy Martin, Secretary Andy Jones, and Treasurer Rebecca Kimball), the AOS Council and our Executive Director Melinda Pruett-Jones were focused on smoothly integrating the two societies so their functions would continue to seamlessly serve ornithology and ornithologists. We received advice at each step from four representatives to the AOS Council that I had asked COS to nominate as advisors for the transition process (Anna Chalfoun, Kim Sullivan, Morgan Tingley, and Blair Wolf).
Our first tasks were carried out with extensive engagement of AOS members and included (1) engaging our membership and the ornithological community in an open contest to create and select the new AOS logo—we received over 300 entries and chose an exceptional design; (2) integrating the awards of the two societies by reshuffling the award committees and their duties, and renaming and repurposing some of the Early Career and Service Awards that were duplicative in their objectives. In both cases, we changed the criteria of the former AOU awards and maintained the criteria for the COS awards; (3) engaging with the Bylaws Committee to evaluate suggestions for bylaws changes received from COS during the merger discussion and from AOU members at other times. Changes recommended from the Bylaws Committee, primarily related to society functions and processes, were overwhelmingly approved by the Fellows at their meeting in Michigan last week; (4) engaging the Publications Commit tee to review the COS book series, Studies in Avian Biology, which resulted in making it an official AOS publication; and (5) engaging the Communications Committee to revise the AOS website to reflect an integrated society, yet preserve the AOU and COS histories.
We held our first AOS elections. Rebecca Kimball was re-elected as Treasurer and Andy Jones was re-elected as Secretary. The new cohort of Elective Councilors is composed of Anna Chalfoun, Abby Powell, Andrea Townsend and Mike Webster. The Nominations Committee purposely sought candidates with connections to COS, and two of the four incoming Councilors have been COS officers. The committee also nominated individuals that represented the diversity of professional roles that ornithologists hold. More members voted in the election than in recent history.
We also rolled out MemberSuite, our new organizational management software that allows us to communicate directly with members, keep track of their participation in AOS, manage many of our programs, as well as other AOS functions. That transition wasn’t so “sweet” last November/December. It took a quite a bit of work to migrate the member information over from the previous OSNA database. This delayed the opening of the membership renewal process until winter 2017 and initially depressed membership numbers. However, now AOS is at 2552 members, which is slightly below the size that AOU was in 2016 but 100 more members than we had projected for 2017 post merger.
The good news is that it’s now very easy to renew your membership and update your information in the Membership Portal. Look for our invitation to renew your membership in AOS this Fall. In addition, MemberSuite vastly improves our ability to communicate electronically with you, our members, in ways that allow you to keep abreast of the information that is important to you—our published science, activities of the society, upcoming deadlines, volunteer opportunities, and much more.
The science citation index numbers are in and AOS publications continue to lead the field. The Condor: Ornithological Applications jumped to the top of the list of ornithological journals in the InCites Journal Impact Factor for 2016, while The Auk: Ornithological Advances remained the top performing bird journal over the past five years. And the Studies in Avian Biology book series produced four outstanding volumes over the past year. I’m also pleased to announce that the AOS is launching a new, online, open access journal of ornithological memoirs in an attempt to preserve and share some of the interesting lives of contemporary ornithologists.
We still have a lot of work to do to secure the future of ornithology by growing the profession and fostering the diversity of ornithologists, and securing funding for new grant and conservation initiatives. But thanks to the hard work of over 150 members serving on 34 committees, AOS is on its way to serving ornithologists and ornithology in significant ways.
Finally, it is important for me to convey, at this divisive moment in the United States, that our society stands with others in denouncing racism, bigotry, and intolerance. The AOS takes action every day to deepen and strengthen our efforts to promote diversity in all its forms among our membership and leadership, and to ensure that everyone we engage within or outside of our professional community is treated with respect and dignity. We play an important role in bridging divides; we bring together people from varied backgrounds, geographies, sectors, and age groups to benefit from a free and open exchange of ideas to advance our science and conserve the birds we are passionate about. These values will be on full display at our 2018 American Ornithology meeting in Tucson, Arizona, next April, where we come together as a community to Celebrate Co nnections: Birds without Borders.
President, American Ornithological Society