Category Archives: Society News

Editors’ Select Series Presentation: “Tiger Stripes” on Estuarine Dolphins? by Elizabeth Titcomb

  

We are pleased to present the inaugural edition of the the SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series. This series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions. All are welcome.

Guest, Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins?

Thursday, 12 November 12, 2020
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Eastern Standard Time

About this presentation:
In a long-term photo-identification study on dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon found unusual skin markings that had never-before been reported in cetaceans. The markings resembled parallel linear scars and were predominantly seen in females that had been pregnant, leading us to wonder if they were related to stretch marks seen in other mammals. At the moment, the exact cause for the skin markings is unknown.

Presented by Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, find out more about this new mystery and the research that led up to it.

Discussion Panel on Unpaid Positions in Science

Dear Colleagues,

We all agree that our marine mammal community, and science in general, benefits from increased diversity. We all agree that barriers to diversity and inclusiveness, where they exist, should be dismantled.

In July 2020, the SMM received a petition requesting that the Society no longer post unpaid positions on our job board, as they contribute to inequity. This petition created an opportunity for important dialogue and consideration of the issue to occur. One of the most positive actions we can take is to facilitate this dialog further and include our membership to the greatest extent possible. To that end, we host an online forum with a variety of participants and perspectives on this issue on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST. This will be a moderated online discussion that will be archived for future watching.

Over the past few months, our colleagues in North America, South America, Asia and Europe have gathered insights and information from around the globe regarding the subject of unpaid positions in marine mammal science and how they help and hinder equity in the field. During this 1-hour panel, followed by a Q&A session, our moderators and panelists will share their collective insights and we will continue this discussion in a format designed to be accessible to our diverse global community. Panelists include: Eric Archer, Tara Cox, Auriel Fournier and Diane Gendron

Please join us on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST for this forum. Participation is open to everyone. Registration is required to participate in this event and it is free to attend.

Link to register:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9l04R8i5TFGenQ2HrZhljQ

We know that the timing will not work for all of our widespread members and we will be taking steps to address that. The conversation will be recorded and archived so our membership who can’t attend will be able to watch at their convenience. The panel will also respond to follow up questions that come from these delayed viewings. Most importantly, this is not the end of the conversation, merely the next step in our growth as a professional society.

About the Facilitator and Panelists:

Facilitator:

  • Eric Archer, PhD is currently head of the Marine Mammal Genetics Program at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA. He is also co-chair of the ad hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Society of Marine Mammalogy. He is interested in paying forward the opportunities he has received and helping to open doors to a wide array of people with a curiosity for marine science.

Panelists:

  • Tara Cox, PhD is a Professor of Marine Sciences at Savannah State University and currently serves as Secretary and co-chair of the ad hoc Committee of Diversity and Inclusion for the Society for Marine Mammalogy. She has had paid and unpaid interns work in her lab.
  • Auriel M.V Fournier, PhD is the Director of Forbes Biological Station and an Assistant Research Scientist, Wetland Bird Ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. In addition to her work as an ornithologist, ecologist she studies and publishes research on how unpaid labor impacts scientific career paths.  
  • Diane Gendron, PhD is a professor and researcher on cetacean ecology with a particular focus on monitoring blue whales in the Gulf of California and promoting conservation of the Northeastern Pacific population. She accepts seasonal unpaid interns to work with her program in Mexico and provides them with partial support during their time in the field. 
  • Cindy Peter, Msc is Coordinator of the Sarawak Dolphin Research Project, based at the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, where she is also a Lecturer. Currently the Member-at-Large for SMM, Cindy ran for the position to contribute as a voice for members from the developing nation and to increase inclusion of Asians in the Society.

While we encourage an open, transparent, respectful discussion above all, for those who prefer to remain anonymous, questions can be asked anonymously via the Q&A feature in the Zoom meeting, and we have also set up an anonymous comment box (here) for you to leave comments or questions prior to or during the forum.

Thank you for being a part of this important conversation.

Eric Archer and Tara Cox
Co-Chairs, Ad hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
Society for Marine Mammalogy
diversity@marinemammalscience.org

Marine Mammal Science Editors’ Select Series Presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins? by Elizabeth Titcomb

  

We are pleased to announce the inaugural edition of the the SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series. This series will highlight the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions. All are welcome.

Guest, Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins?

Thursday, 12 November 12, 2020
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Free and all are welcome

About this presentation:

In a long-term photo-identification study on dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon found unusual skin markings that had never-before been reported in cetaceans. The markings resembled parallel linear scars and were predominantly seen in females that had been pregnant, leading us to wonder if they were related to stretch marks seen in other mammals. At the moment, the exact cause for the skin markings is unknown.

Presented by Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, find out more about this new mystery, the research that led up to it and get your questions answered during this 1-hour presentation followed by a Q&A session.

Free registration is required to attend. Space is limited.
Reserve your space here:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_mS3vEEmJTwucu3aW-L7jbw

 

Update Unpaid Internship Discussion: Statement from SEAMAMM and Panel Schedule

The following letter, drafted by the South East Asia Marine Mammal group was recently received by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.  The content of this letter will be part of the discussion during  our special panel on unpaid internships.  After some changes in participation we are looking to reschedule for late November.  More news soon.

To: The Board of the Society of Marine Mammal Science

From: The South East Asia Marine Mammal group (SEAMAMM)

14th October 2020

Unpaid Internships: A perspective from Asian Marine Mammal Researchers

What initiated this document

This document summarises the discussions of Asian marine mammal researchers in response to the recent petition sent on the MARMAMM list server requesting that the Society of Marine Mammalogy (SMM) stop advertising “unpaid internships” as these types of internships promote less diversity of researchers within the marine mammal science field and thus promotes exclusion. As a group of researchers from diverse national, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who are currently under-represented in the field of marine mammal science, we wish to share our opinions with the SMM Board on the value of volunteer positions and internships in Asia. We also suggest some actions that may more effectively improve diversity and inclusion within SMM.

Who we are
The South East Asian Marine Mammal group (SEAMAMM) is a research and conservation collective that includes all people, regardless of race, religion, culture or gender, based in Asia. Originally we focused on research within the waters of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the marine waters of China from the Yangtze River south (including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao), and the northern waters of Australia from Torres Strait west to Broome in Western Australia (approximately 122° E longitude), however, we welcome all Asian researchers and those working within Asia to our discussions and meetings. We have held regional meetings since 1995 and between these meetings, we arrange a variety of workshops to build capacity in Asian marine mammal research and conservation initiatives. We also contribute to global initiatives, such as the IUCN Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) project and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). We work within a variety of sectors, including academia, non-profit organisations, non-government organisations, consulting companies and individuals. The following is a summary of discussions held over the SEAMAMM chat group, an online meeting and additional contributions to an online document. Several of our group also serve on the board of SMM and on its sub-committees.

Discussion
Some members of our group’s initial reaction was that the petition, and the discussion surrounding it, did not impact Asian researchers, as “internships” in the sense that they were being discussed, are not common practise in this region. Indeed, in some Asian languages, there is no equivalent term for “internship”. Our discussions, therefore, first focused on the meanings of “intern”, “unpaid position” and “volunteer” and what these might mean in different Asian countries. It was generally
agreed that SMM should require that any requests posted on the SMM website for positions should clearly define what these position types are, as well as the scope of work expected from applicants, the source of funds and the nature of the entity the applicant would be working for. There was some discussion on what might differentiate a “work experience” or “volunteer” position from a position that should require remuneration. A working time frame of more than three months was generally agreed to be a period of work that should not be offered as an unpaid position and, in some Asian countries, three months unpaid work is the maximum time frame legally allowed. Most Asian countries have guidelines and regulations that advise how long unpaid positions might be and what work constitutes as reasonable within that position. SMM could develop better guidelines to assist potential students/graduates on how best to evaluate an unpaid position so that it is beneficial to future careers.

In several Asian countries, tertiary institute degrees require the student to complete two months “on the job training” (OJT) and institutes commonly approach NGO’s to request student placements. This provides NGO’s with support, in a region where resources are extremely limited, and it provides an insight to the work of marine mammal scientists and may encourage students to enter the field. It was noted that tertiary institutes do not provide financial support to either the student nor the entity which the students are placed in and it was commented that the responsibility for ensuring students were not exploited should befall to their institutes and ideally, universities or colleges should only place students with entities that can pay them. However, where marine mammal work is concerned in Asia, that narrows down the already few opportunities available. In Asia, NGOs welcome and are grateful for the assistance that OJT students and volunteers provide. During discussion, it was noted that all members of the group had either participated in OJT, or similar, and all had benefited from volunteer experiences and, as such, considered the opportunity to participate in active research and conservation programmes an essential stepping stone into the field. Group members’ experience varied from the mandatory requirements of their degrees as well as voluntary positions with local and regional NGOs or research programmes. Most members stayed within their own county, although some travelled regionally to volunteer and none felt they were exploited or taken advantage of. For those members of the groups that now accept volunteers, most requests come from students who know the work the group does. Rarely do these groups have to advertise and several receive unsolicited enquiries from overseas, requesting unpaid positions to assist the work being done. Both local and international volunteer contributions play an important role in achieving the research and conservation goals of these groups and, in some cases, highlight the work of the group internationally which benefits the group in additional ways. The solution to inequality of opportunity within the field of marine mammals science cannot come from small NGOs since their budgets are small and often restricted. It was agreed that donors and funding foundations must take more responsibility by providing funding for early career scientists.

Our discussions tried to identify real barriers to working in the field of marine mammal science in Asia. There are two main issues that SMM could provide support and assistance to.

1) Lack of Entry Level Job Opportunities
This is a huge gap which has to be overcome by Asian students. There are very few opportunities for new graduates, even if they have a lot of volunteer experience in the field. Without opportunities to start on the employment ladder, potential careers are thwarted from the onset. SMM could highlight this gap in job opportunities and actively promote, through the society and perhaps through their own institutes, and encourage the creation of more entry level opportunities.

2) Research Grant Rules Prohibiting Salaries
In general, most grants that are accessible to small Asian NGOs, exclude salaries as a component. This compounds the issue identified above and makes it extremely difficult for active Asian marine mammal research groups to provide career opportunities for graduates interested in working in this field. SMM could assess their own research grant processes and either remove restrictions on providing salaries or monetary support for research staff. In addition, for those grants that wish to advertise via SMM platforms, the board could assess the rules of that grant and ensure that the funding criteria do not restrict the ability of research projects to provide paid positions critical to the success of the research and which promote capacity building.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of receiving this letter the SMM Board had already moved to modify it’s small grants in aid of research program to allow for stipends.  Follow this link for more information.)

These are not the only barriers to a career in marine mammal science in Asia, however, these are issues that SMM could make a real contribution to.

Summary
It was agreed that the lack of diversity and the challenges encountered by some genders, cultures and nationalities in Asia entering the field of marine mammal science is little to do with unpaid internships. In fact, by restricting the ability of SMM to advertise any opportunity for work experience, paid or not, on its website creates additional barriers and reduces opportunities. Whereas this group empathises with the intention of the petition, to make the field of marine mammal science as inclusive as possible, it is tackling the issue from a very narrow point of view. Further, the petition authors did not consider the experience or reality of groups who do come from countries or cultures that are poorly represented within marine mammal science. Internships/volunteer or OJT positions are not obstacles to people who wish to enter the field of marine mammal science in Asia but instead provide opportunities that they would not otherwise have. The SMM website should be an open hub of information for all aspects of marine mammal science and not, in itself, exclude opportunities. The group concluded that the open letters written by Clapham and the SMM IRC committee articulated the feelings of this group well; if it was not for the opportunities provided by internships or volunteer positions, it would have been even harder for this group to enter the field of marine mammals science. The SMM can play a more active role in reducing obstacles by facilitating entry level job opportunities and promoting grants and awards that do not restrict salaries or stipends

We hope that you find our comments useful and we look forward to engaging in the proposed SMM online ‘townhall’ that will be dedicated to this topic.

Cindy Peter SMM Member at Large (Sarawak, Malaysia) cindycharity.peter@gmail.com
Lindsay Porter SMM Awards Committee (Hong Kong SAR) lindsay.jp@gmail.com Jo Marie Acebes, Balyena.org (The Philippines) Joey Gin Swen Ham (Brunei) Fairul Izmal, MareCet (Malaysia) Louisa Ponnampalam, MareCet (Malaysia) Danielle Kreb, Yayasan Konservasi RASI (Indonesia) Putu Liza Kusuma Mustika, (Indonesia) Mochamad Iqbal Herwata Putra, Reef Check Indonesia (Indonesia) Long Vu, Center for Biodiversity conservation and Endangered Species (Vietnam) Ruby Truong, Center for Biodiversity conservation and Endangered Species (Vietnam) Wint Hte, co-founder of Myanmar Coastal Conservation Lab (Myanmar) Yin Yin, co-founder of Myanmar Coastal Conservation Lab (Myanmar) Tara Sayuri Whitty, Keiruna Inc. (Myanmar) Naomi Brannan, SMRU Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Niki Yeung Choi Fung, SMRU Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Eszter Matrai, Ocean Park Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Shaw Ting, Kwok, Ocean Park Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Weerapong Mac Laovechprasit, University of Georgia (Thailand) Chalatip Junchompoo, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Rachawadee Chantra, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Oranee Jongkolpath, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Thanaphan Chomcheun, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Sunanthinee Phoonsawat, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Watchara Sakornwimon, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Pornthipa Hardwises, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Piyarat Khumraksa, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Patcharaporn Kaewmong, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Pathompong Jongjit, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand)

Reminder to submit your nominations for the inaugural class of SMM Fellows

A reminder that the SMM Fellows Program is now accepting nominations for its inaugural year. From our Constitution, a Fellow is a member who is being recognized by the Society and its membership as having “rendered conspicuous service or made truly notable contributions to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of marine mammal science or the fostering of its practical applications through conservation of marine mammals”. A nomination for advancement to Fellow is appropriate for any current Full member of the SMM after that individual has been a Full member for a minimum of five years.

If you are a current SMM member, you may nominate an eligible SMM member as a Fellow. We ask that you submit a complete dossier, described in detail below, to the Fellows Nomination web page by 18 November 2020. The dossier must be uploaded to the Fellows Nomination web page as a single .pdf document.

If you have any questions about the nomination process, please reach out to the Co-Chairs of the Fellows Committee, our Members-at-Large:

Cecile Vincent and Cindy Peter (fellows@marinemammalscience.org)

For any technical questions regarding the online application, please email admin@marinemammalscience.org.

Thank you in advance for your nominations!

Best regards,

Cecile Vincent and Cindy Peter

SMM Changing Policies to Allow for Stipends in Small Grant in Aid of Research Program

The Society for Marine Mammalogy is pleased to announce a substantive change to its Small Grant in Aid of Research (SGIAR) program. Beginning with the 2021 funding cycle, applicants can request a portion of the award to be allocated as a stipend. Specifically, SGIAR guidelines now allow applicants to provide “a detailed one-year, itemized budget identifying and justifying specific requests for equipment, supplies, travel to field site, operational expenses, and up to 25% of the total budget as stipend. Total budget is not to exceed US $2,000.”

The Society thanks SMM member Dr. Eiren Jacobson for raising the broader issue of unpaid internships. The petition she and other colleagues initiated was signed by a number of members of the Society, including several members of the Committee of Scientific Advisors which administers the SGIAR program.  As part of of a larger policy review being undertaken by the SMM Board,  the Committee of Scientific Advisors took up the discussion of allowing stipends to be included in SGIAR.  The goals of the SGIAR program is to provide both intellectual and financial support to early career marine mammal researchers in countries where they have less access to research funds, the committee decided 25% of the total budget was a reasonable first step, and one that will be reviewed after SGIAR funding cycles are completed in 2021-2022. The Committee takes very seriously its assignment to provide feedback to both successful and unsuccessful applicants on all components of the proposal—significance of the research to be performed, methods for conducting the research, proactive rather than post-hoc methods of analyzing the research, a clear understanding of where the proposed research fits in the broader scientific landscape, and a comprehensive budget for successful accomplishment. The Committee obviously wished that there were greater resources available with which to be even more responsive to the intent of the petition and the Board will be determining future funding levels as part its strategic planning process.  Note that while travel to conferences is not an acceptable component of the research budget, the Society has adopted a policy whereby any SGIAR recipient who is presenting the work supported by the SGIAR program at a subsequent SMM Biennial Conference will receive a minimum of $500 toward travel expenses to the conference.

The Society Board of Governors concurred with the recommendation of the Committee of Scientific Advisors and implemented the policy as stated above.  More information on the SGIAR can be found here.

SMM Strategic Planning

Aloha SMM Members-

The Society for Marine Mammalogy began its journey some five decades ago. Our first focus was bringing marine mammal professionals together on a regular basis to share our science- thus our biennial conferences were born. Following that publication of Marine Mammal Science, our flagship science product, was started to disseminate our science to the world. Over the years, our membership has grown as has the number of services we provide. These include small grants in aid of research, student and international researcher travel support, a variety of awards, presidential letters on conservation issues, ethics reviews on research, podcasts, and much more. All of these with the intent to improve the science and conservation we do, promote the exchange of ideas, and build a more global and inclusive membership.

The need for a strategic plan

This evolution has largely been organic and done one piece at a time. The SMM is now older and larger and we are facing a number of challenges, needs and opportunities that stand between us and being of greater value to our members and the animals that bring us all together. Many of these opportunities to improve or provide more support to our members require financial investment  of our relatively limited resources. So, we must be strategic and prioritize the most important actions moving forward. To do this we are going to tackle our first ever strategic plan. Some of you might not be familiar with what strategic plans look like. Here are examples from other scientific societies such as the Society for Conservation Biology or Ecological Society of America. Our ambitious plan will be to have a final draft of the strategic plan ready for membership vote for our April ballot.

Get involved

We want to include the membership in multiple steps of this strategic planning process. This has to be OUR plan so please help to shape it. Please share your ideas for goals and actions that the Society should undertake. Goals and actions are defined as:

Goal: This is generally a higher level objective that would have several more specific actions nested underneath.  While it should be broad it must be concrete and achievable.

        Example: Increase the accessibility of our Society and Science.

Action:  This is a very specific and measurable activity that helps to achieve the goal it is intended to support.

       Example:  Move all or part of the biennial conferences into a digital format to allow for greater participation globally.

We would like to capture a long list of ideas from the membership to help us find common themes and actions. You can submit your ideas in the comments below or by email. This page will always remain open for submission but we would like to encourage people to share their ideas by September 14, 2020.  

The second way to participate is to volunteer to help with the strategic planning team.  Once we have settled on some priority goals we will be identifying actions, measures of success, and timelines.  Many hands make light work and this is a great opportunity to help shape the future of the SMM.  For everyone that has been asking how to get involved, well here is your chance.  If you are interested in participating send me an email with a short description of your particular interests.  We may not be able to accommodate everyone depending on the level of response.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.  If you have any questions please comment below or email me.

Be safe, be well.

Charles

Twitter: @himonkseal

Update on the Society’s Virtual Conversation on Unpaid Internships

Aloha Everyone-

Just wanted to post a short update to let you know that the planning is still going on for the our digital meeting to continue the conversation on unpaid internships.  My original hope was to have it happen in August but we have passed that deadline. We have pulled together most of the panel who will cover several perspectives and now just finalizing details and timing.  The Board and our various committees have also been very busy reviewing and identifying updates for several of our policies.  We will be sharing those updates very soon.

I thank all of you that continue to discuss this and other challenging topics and our SMM board and committees who are approaching this so thoughtfully.

 

As always feel free to comment below or reach out to me with questions and comments.

Be safe, be well.

Charles

president@marinemammalscience.org

Twitter: @himonkseal

Inaugural Call for Nominations of Fellow Members

Inaugural Call for Nominations of Fellow Members

In 2019, the members of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) voted to establish a Fellows membership category. From our Constitution, a Fellow is a member who is being recognized by the Society and its membership as having “rendered conspicuous service or made truly notable contributions to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of marine mammal science or the fostering of its practical applications through conservation of marine mammals. Payment of dues to the Society by the Fellow would remain the same as for a normal Full member.”

We are pleased to announce our Society’s Inaugural call for nominations of Fellow Members.

ELIGIBILITY

A nomination for advancement to Fellow is appropriate for any current Full member of the SMM after that individual has been a Full member for a minimum of five years. These years do not have to be contiguous. Please confirm with the nominee that they meet the five-year eligibility criterion prior to submission. Note that current members of the SMM Board (which includes elected officers and committee chairs) are not eligible for consideration for Fellows status.

HOW TO NOMINATE

If you are a current SMM member, you may nominate an eligible SMM member as a Fellow. We ask that you submit a complete dossier, described in detail below, to the Fellows Nomination web page by 18 November 2020. The dossier must be uploaded to the Fellows Nomination web page as a single .pdf document.

Each dossier shall include the following elements.

(1) Letter of Nomination. This letter should provide insight into a nominee’s conspicuous service, notable contributions to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of marine mammal science, or the fostering of its practical applications through the conservation of marine mammals. The nominating letter can be no longer than one page (12 pt font).

The Committee will consider the following factors: (1) service to the Society; (2) contributions to marine mammal science including activities such as publications and presentations, field work, research and development, or administrative and logistical support; or (3) contributions to the teaching or dissemination of knowledge of marine mammal science and conservation. Due to the diversity of disciplines and activities of The Society for Marine Mammalogy members, the relative importance of these factors will differ from candidate to candidate. The Fellow candidate would be expected to be exemplary in, and have made substantial contributions to, at least one of these factors (e.g. be in the top 10% of the membership).

(2) Seconding letters. The dossier should also include two seconding letters, one of which must be from a current SMM member. Signed-in SMM members can search for all current members via the SMM Member Directory. Each seconding letter can be no longer than one page (12 pt font).

(3) Complete curriculum vitae of the nominee. The format and length of this document is unrestricted, as we are encouraging nominations of individuals from broadly different backgrounds and the standard CV formats across fields are likely different. Note that only text should be submitted as part of the CV. If audio or video files are relevant provide a link in the documents submitted.

(4) Proposed maximum 20-word citation for the Fellow (e.g., Kenneth S. Norris – for efforts to found the Society and contributions to the process of dolphin echolocation and hearing).

DOSSIER REVIEW PROCESS

The dossiers will be received by the committee Co-chairs, the SMM Members-at-Large. Identifying information about the nominator and seconders will be redacted from each dossier to ensure a blind review. During this inaugural Fellows nomination process, the review committee will be formed by the entire SMM Board. Future Fellows Committees will be Co-Chaired by the Members-at-Large, who will form a committee of seven members holding Fellow status, and at least one contributing, but not voting student member, with attention paid to diversity of representation. Members will serve staggered, four-year terms. Fellows Committee members may not submit nominations. For more information about the Fellows Committee, please see the General Operating Policies of our SMM governing documents.

QUESTIONS

If you have any questions about the nomination process, please reach out to the Co-Chairs of the Fellows Committee, our Members-at-Large:

Cecile Vincent and Cindy Peter (fellows@marinemammalscience.org)

For any technical questions regarding the online application, please email admin@marinemammalscience.org.

Update Regarding Petition Related to Unpaid Internships

I wanted to put out a quick update on behalf of the Society for Marine Mammalogy Board regarding the petition related to unpaid internships and the subsequent discussion on MARMAM and beyond.  

It is encouraging to see ongoing dialogue and the evolution of various positions as more voices and perspectives engage on the issue. At the core we all agree that our marine mammal community, and science in general, benefits from increased diversity. We all agree that barriers to diversity and inclusiveness, where they exist, should be dismantled. The challenge we face is finding agreement on what the ‘right’ course of action should be and which action should come first. The initial dialog on internships quickly moved to two perspectives: one being that unpaid internships were the barrier that needed addressing, and the other that a focus on underrepresented groups throughout the marine mammal science career pipeline was the necessary action.  Thankfully, the discussion has continued to grow in nuance with greater acknowledgment that the pipeline is broken in many places and each spot needs focused attention. This is an issue of “and” not “or” – it is both unpaid internships AND lack of access in early education (and so much more) that contribute to the struggle to achieve greater diversity in our field.  

The SMM has just received the petition, and it will feed into the Board’s ongoing deliberations on this important and multifarious issue. The Board is reviewing the online discussion and available literature, reaching out to a broader cohort of our community, and looking across other professional societies to see if and how they have addressed similar concerns. After this initial process we will work with our membership to find what action by the SMM is in our purview and could address this issue in a meaningful and responsible way.  

One thing is certain though: one of the most positive actions we can take is to facilitate this dialog further and include our membership to the greatest extent possible. To that end, we will soon host an online forum with a variety of participants and perspectives on this issue. This will be a moderated online discussion that will be archived for future watching.  Our intent is for this to happen in mid-August.

While across our community there may not be 100% agreement on the issues raised in the petition or some of the responses to it, I believe we should thank those who have started the discussion and those who have stepped up to respond. This is how our marine mammal society will grow and advance – by asking hard, and oftentimes uncomfortable questions and taking necessary steps to improve. We best serve our community and the animals we study by being open to these discussions, self reflective about our roles and perspectives, and willing to evolve when necessary.

More information, including ideas for specific actions, will be coming soon. If you have thoughts you would like to share directly with the Board please feel free to email me at president@marinemammalscience.org or contact our Diversity and Inclusion Committee co-chairs at diversity@marinemammalscience.org.

Be safe and well.

Charles