New Board Members, Enhanced Diversity and Inclusion, and the 2023 Conference Venue Highlights 

New Board Members, Enhanced Diversity and Inclusion, and the 2023 Conference Venue Highlights 

The results from the Society of Marine Mammalogy’s 2020 election are in. On this ballot, our members were asked to select new board officers (President-Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, Member-at-Large, and two Student Members-at-Large), approve changes to our governing documents, and choose the host city for the SMM 2023 biennial conference.

Our new President-elect, Simon Goldsworthy, is a scientist at the South Australian Research and Development Institute in Adelaide, focused on mitigating marine mammal interactions with fisheries and aquaculture. Simon will be joining the Board for a four-year term beginning in July 2020 and has previously served as Member-at-Large for the Society. This previous experience will allow him to hit the ground running as President-Elect. Upon receiving the election news he expressed his willingness to do just that, “‘I’m delighted to have been elected and look forward to immediately start working with the Board and help lead the Society over the next four years.”

Tara Cox and Katie Moore will be continuing their Board responsibilities as Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. The ongoing commitment by these two members on tasks vital to the Society not only provide much needed stability to our SMM functionality but their professional interests also bring a greater depth to the Board and the decisions made there. Incoming President, Charles Littnan, applauded their return, “We as a Society are incredibly lucky to have Tara and Katie returning for another term. Their commitment to the SMM is unflagging but they bring so much more. They are strong voices on our Board for critical issues such as animal welfare, diversity and inclusion and conservation and also striving to find how we can best serve our global marine mammal community.”

Cindy Peter was the successful candidate for our Member-at-Large seat. Cindy is the Coordinator of the Sarawak Dolphin Research Project, based at the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, University of Malaysia Sarawak, where she is also a Lecturer. Her response to learning of her selection to the Board: “I’m so grateful that the SMM board gave this tiny island researcher all the way in Borneo a chance to run for the election,” speaks to the positive energy she will bring to the committee while pushing for her priorities of “ being a voice for developing country members, especially students, and to promote their inclusion in the society, thus advancing marine mammal science globally”.

Two student Members-at-Large were elected to the SMM Board on this ballot. The first successful candidate was Ayça Eleman who recently started her doctorate program in biology at the University of Iceland studying killer whale foraging ecology and habitat use in Icelandic waters. The other successful candidate was Theresa Tatom-Naecker, a second-year PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) studying the foraging of common bottlenose dolphins. Both our new Student Members-at-Large will be focused on improving the support provided to our student members through a variety of initiatives and engaging students from underrepresented regions.

Acknowledging the Vital Importance of Diversity and Inclusion and the Service of Our Student Members

There were two amendments to the Society’s Constitution that required support by two-thirds of votes cast by the membership. The first amendment was to formally recognize promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in membership, leadership, and readership as one of the SMM’s four principle objectives. The SMM Ad hoc committee on Diversity and Inclusion co-chairs Tara Cox and Eric Archer led the effort to craft this addition to the constitution. The importance of this amendment was emphasized by Eric, “Enshrining this statement in our constitution highlights the SMM’s commitment to ensuring that the field of marine mammal science is open and welcoming to everyone who wishes to participate. The Society will continue to work to identify and actively address barriers experienced by members from all walks of life.”

Our student Members-at-Large (SMaLs) are dedicated to helping the Society’s students, especially in the lead up to and during our biennial conference. Due to the duration and  staggered nature of the terms, the most experienced SMaLs would rotate off just prior to the conference. The newly approved amendment extends SMaL terms another six months, enabling an experienced SMaL to facilitate conference organizing and execution in the following biennial. 

2023 Biennial is Going Down Under

Three delegations offered proposals to host the 25th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Marine Mammals scheduled to occur in 2023. The three locales: Perth, Sanya and Singapore, all offered state-of-the-art conference facilities and rich cultural and scientific experiences. Perth received the most votes from the membership and the Australian host committee is excited to welcome the SMM in three years. “We are honoured and absolutely delighted to host the SMM conference in Perth in 2023. We will work hard to reduce the environmental impact of the conference, and make opportunities to attend as equal as possible by securing funds to support students and delegates from low income countries. As we hope that you will combine your attendance with a holiday, we will aim to provide childcare and a program for older children so that you can enjoy the scientific program while your kids also have a great time. We will introduce you to the Australian way of life and our cultural and natural heritage, while firing up the BBQ and offering a cold beverage over a summer sunset. We can’t wait to have you over! Until then, please enjoy this Wanju nitja Noongar boodja (Welcome to Country) film that we have prepared for you.”