Saturday, July 20, 2019

Meet the 2019 ASIH Student Diversity and Inclusion Award winners!


Gabriela Arango: I’m a new PhD student at UCB and my main research interest is physiological adaptations for breath-hold diving, specifically those of sea turtles. Currently, I study the aerobic dive capacity of sea turtles, a critical feature in determining plasticity of foraging behavior and the ability of individual turtles to respond to changes in prey distribution and ocean climate. With this information, scientists, conservationists, and policy-makers can improve ocean conservation efforts. Since a key difference between air-breathing diving animals is to whether or not they use their lungs for oxygen storage when diving, I want to explore the underlaying mechanisms of that difference. To investigate that, my research will merge physiology and genetics, as to disseminate the basal adaptations that drive sea turtle’s oxygen storages when diving, as compared to diving mammals. As a first-generation student, I was able to attend college, but I spent many years taking classes without much guidance on how to fulfill my academic requirements. Until I had a support team from different programs, aimed at underrepresented students, and mentorship guidance, which helped me to become a competent student, I was finally able to find and follow my passion.

Suzana Bandeira: In my journey through Sciences, I have realized that working with nature and biodiversity is one of the more pleasant fields. I came to Biological Sciences after having an incredible biology teacher when I was in High School, and I knew that I wanted to be able to achieve my goals as a future biologist. I went to Faculty of Sciences to get my bachelor’s degree in biology, and in my fourth year I started working with sea turtle conservation and automatically Herps became my interesting group. Since that I have worked with other reptiles such as lizards and snakes. I am  currently a graduate student in master’s Program at Villanova University and my focus is in systematics and the diversity of reptiles in Angola. As an aspiring scientist, I am considering first continuing on a PhD program to further develop more skills as a herpetologist. I consider myself representative of an underrepresented group in science because, issues of cultural education, economic development, education system, government policies have made it difficult for African women and people of color to have the opportunity to do scientific research.

Emily DeArmon: After receiving my B.S. Biology from Bowling Green State University (BGSU), I worked with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as a fisheries observer in association with the National Marine Fisheries Services. These projects involving conservation and management of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Atlantic consisted of collecting and analyzing catch and bycatch data. These experiences at sea encouraged me to complete my M.S. at St. Cloud State University with my research focusing on the evolutionary relationships of deep-sea fishes. The knowledge that I have acquired through these experiences has helped me overcome obstacles and to reach my goal to become a professional in the ichthyology community. I am proud to be a collections manager and continue to research fish at the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Knowledge and experiences are transferable through different paths and each opportunity, big or small, will move the waves in the right direction.

Adania Flemming spent her formative years in Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island nation in the Caribbean. Fascinated by water and aquatic systems she earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of Tampa, followed by a Master of Science in zoology. Adania is interested in exploring the ecology of fishes, their role and niche in the environment, their life history as well as understanding how form relates to function. Adania is also interested in using natural history collections as a resource to introduce students of diverse backgrounds to the field of Ichthyology and other scientific fields. For her PhD she will combine her interest in education with Ichthyology, through an interdisciplinary research project where she will evaluate the impact of experiential learning within collections on students understanding of science and less known scientific fields as Ichthyology. Her ultimate goal is to work as a researcher and educator in a science center (museum/aquarium) in Trinidad and Tobago. However upon graduation she would like to work as museum faculty, between the intersection of the research collections and the education department. As an underrepresented person in STEM she would tell her younger self to get as much experience as possible to help realize one to two main interest and focus on developing her understanding of those interest. She would also encourage herself to always put her best foot forward, stay positive and just keep swimming.

Nureen Ghuznavi: I was always interested in nature and biology growing up, but I came from a family and community where these interests were actively discouraged. I had to find my own way to connect with my passion but I was hindered by physical inability from a lifetime spent indoors. In the past few years I have made huge improvements to my physical fitness by strength training and swimming, eventually comfortably enough to explore lakes in Michigan. Getting to observe fish up close in their natural habitat was an eye-opening experience that focused my interests. I’m unusual in many ways from most of my peers, being an LGBT person of color. But my struggle to overcome doubts from myself and others is what gives me a unique perspective and strengthens my resolve to become a successful biologist. If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be to forge my own path and not let anyone make me feel like I’m not capable of overcoming obstacles.

Bryan Juarez is a 4th year PhD student in  the EEB program at Iowa State University. In Mexican-American culture, family is above all else, and we treat other communities as our own. This means that we both suffer and celebrate together. I treat science and my colleagues as I treat mi familia, and because of this, I would tell my younger self to have even more empathy for the struggles of others. In science, I’ve seen and heard of selfish researchers which, for example, foster toxic environments and/or take ownership of “their” science/taxon/data at the cost of secluding others and hindering scientific progress. Science is not something we should keep from each other, instead, we should be sharing its wonders with the world. One of my goals is to apply this simple principle to my future research, teaching, and volunteering endeavors to create inclusive traditions as I pursue a post-doc and eventually a faculty position. Going forward, I hope to achieve the level of passion and dedication for herpetology first shown to me by the faculty and students at UC Santa Barbara, fostered in Dean Adams’ Lab, and instill this culture of passion and empathy in future mentees and colleagues.

Marina Luccioni is an undergraduate researcher at Stanford University interested in understanding source and synthesis of biologically derived toxins, and subsequent effects on human brain function. Growing up around the ocean, she used to create “1-hour aquariums” for her family on the beach using empty jam jars. She has since continued to be fascinated by fish, reptiles and amphibians, particularly poison frogs, which sparked her ongoing interest in toxicity.  Her current project investigates the "Chief of Ghosts" hallucinatory fish from Hawaii: how the fish comes to contain and accumulate this marine toxin, and how the molecules interact with human neural function to produce hallucinations. She aims to continue this project or related research to a graduate level.As an underrepresented person in STEM, I would advise my younger self to look out for ways to make science and scientific projects feel personal and related to her background and culture(s). Incorporating local knowledge and asking questions that could relate to home made my work more meaningful.

Lindsey Nelson: Since my first introduction to fish biology nearly 13 years ago, my interests have diversified to include fish and marine conservation, ecology, and impacts of human activities. I owe a depth of gratitude to the professors at Bellevue Community College and the University of Washington, who shared their passions and challenged me to develop observation and explore novel solutions. My work as a North Pacific Fisheries Observer for five years fed my sense of wonder for the natural world and travel. I also gained deeper understanding of how interconnected the ecosystems, industry, fishermen, and management are. The issues facing fisheries are enormously complex, but I choose to see them as an opportunity for technology integration, increasing stakeholder communication, and promoting education. In order to reach these goals, I aim to build my foundation as a researcher and use my knowledge for bridging gaps and influencing policy decision making. As an undergraduate who worked my way through school, I was unaware of many research, networking, and conference opportunities. Or I often convinced myself that I wasn’t qualified to participate. I would encourage my younger self: Do not underestimate yourself. Be confident. And do not be afraid to open yourself to unfamiliar environments, because the growth from these experiences will pay off in so many ways.

Natasha Stepanova: I am a bi herpetologist from the San Francisco Bay Area. Although I always wanted to work with animals, including a brief time as a child when I wanted to discover new frogs in the Amazon, it was only when I started working at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology that I focused my interests. Topping off specimen jars, my first responsibility, inspired a deep appreciation for herp diversity. Further work with Dr. Molly Womack on frog limbs cemented an interest in morphology, function, and the processes that drive trait variation. I am now a Master’s student at Villanova University with Dr. Aaron Bauer working on African burrowing skink skulls. My dream goal would be to work at a museum as they’re the perfect nexus of my interests: biodiversity research, a vibrant community, and outreach. As a queer woman, I would tell my younger self to never let fear hold me back and to seek out a community of LGBTQ+ scientists earlier.

Emily Virgin is a PhD Candidate at Utah State University studying the effects of urbanization on the reproductive physiology and ecology of Side-blotched lizards. Her passion for studying reptiles was cultivated at her undergraduate institution, Northern Illinois University, where she studied snake behavior and diet for her honors thesis. With skills gained from her doctoral degree, she plans to pursue a career intersecting herpetology and conservation physiology at either a small academic institution or a zoo. Emily is a first-generation college student who received her Bachelor of Science at twenty years old and began her Ph.D. afterwards. If given the opportunity to advise her younger self, Emily would encourage self-confidence in her own natural strengths and abilities.


The 2019 Student Diversity and Inclusion Awards (SDIAs) were designed and proposed as a major initiative of the 2018-19 Diversity Committee of ASIH and funded through the generosity and support provided by the Executive Committee of ASIH. The Diversity Committee also thanks the efforts of the SDIA reviewers for their effort and thoughtfulness in selecting this year’s recipients. The awards go directly to students (undergraduate and graduate alike) from underrepresented backgrounds in an effort to bring the best scientists to the Joint Meeting and support their cost of attendance, with the ultimate goal being the retention of these scientists in the study of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles. These awards arose as a result of analyzing and reflecting on annual membership survey data collected by ASIH and after examining models used by other scientific societies to transform the exclusive nature of STEM.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

ASIH Executive Committee Meeting Minutes, 2018

2018 ASIH Executive Committee Meeting Minutes
The ASIH Executive Committee Meeting was held on July 11, 2018.

Present: Brian Crother (Chair and President), Kathleen Cole (President-elect), Carole Baldwin (Past President), Maureen Donnelly (Prior Past President), Robert Espinoza (Chair of LRPP), Deanna Stouder (LRPP Co-Chair), Wm. Leo Smith (Editor), Adam Summers (Co-Chair of ENFC), F. Douglas Martin (Treasurer), Prosanta Chakrabarty (Secretary)

Absent: William Matthews (ENFC Co-Chair),

President Crother called the meeting to order promptly at 9:00 a.m.

Some new members of the Executive Committee were Introduced at the meeting including the Treasurer Designate, Katherine Maslenikov; New Copeia Editor Leo Smith; and ENFC Co-Chair William Matthews. Unfortunately, Dr. Matthews was unable to attend but he did send an email with his comments that were noted during the meeting.
Prior Past President Donnelly gave as an update on Stoye/Storer Judging Categories based on a request from Exec in 2017 on whether there needed to be a change. Dr. Donnelly reported that the data suggests that the categories should stay the same except that we should separate Ecology & Ethology (E&E). Dr. Donnelly then “Moved that Stoye E&E be split into E&E Ichthyology and E&E Herpetology.” The chair of LRPP Bobby Espinoza seconded.  The motion was approved unanimously be Exec.
Past President Baldwin brought up whether ASIH should have a cost sharing strategy for paying for the Names of Fishes Committee to meet. In February the ASIH granted this group, that was previously supported by American Fisheries Society (AFS), $5000 for a 3-day meeting. Dr. Baldwin noted that Larry Page has done a great job leading this group, and that nearly all members of that committee are members of ASIH. Because it was unclear who would “own” the list, the matter was tabled by President Crother.

President Crother than raised the issue of Eliminating the ASIH Closing Event. After some discussion it was decided that anything that didn’t require tickets and that was not exclusive or cost-inhibitive to students would be better for the last day of the meeting. After some discussion of options Past President Donnelly moved to ‘Eliminate the Closing Event, and to ask the Local Host to have an event either fully funded by that host, or to have a No-Host Social in its place on the last day of JMIH.” Dr. Stouder seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously.
President Crother noted that due to rising costs, including the cost of bringing people to the meeting, that we should increase Symposium support - which has always been $3,000. Dr. Donnelly made a motion to increase this amount to $5,000, seconded by Dr. Baldwin, and this motion passed unanimous.
Treasurer Martin then gave us an update on the ASIH Budget. He noted in this discussion that it was not a good idea to move General Endowment funds to the operating budget as is sometimes suggested. The Treasurer proposed instead that the $14,000 increase from this year’s General Endowment Fund be split between the under-funded Gaige and Raney Award funds. In addition, he proposed that $40,000K from the General Endowment be moved into Gaige and Raney (at $20K each) to support those important student research awards. The motion to transfer these funds passed unanimously.
Dr. Stouder then suggested perhaps combining some of the of these award funds into a single account.
After some discussion Dr. Donnelly moved to “Have the ‘Let the Students Ride’ fund be subsumed under the Clark Hubbs Student Travel Award.” Leo Smith seconded this motion and it was passed unanimously.
Dr. Donnelly then moved that Gaige and Raney funds be increased and given a hard cap of $8K to spend per year on student awards with a decree that this amount should be reexamined after five years in 2023. Dr. Stouder seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The Exec noted with great sadness the passing of Dr. Robert Cashner and noted his many efforts on behalf of the ASIH. We also thanked the Cashner family for its efforts in establishing the new ‘Cashner Student Assistance Fund’ to help pay for travel of ASIH students presenting their first JMIH paper. If you would like to donate to this fund please write a check to the ASIH with "Cashner Fund" in the Memo and give it to the Treasurer [Douglas Martin, Treasurer ASIH, 1609 Lions Den, Leander, TX 78641].
Secretary Chakrabarty then raised the problem of having more than one student presenter up for the same competition based on the same poster. He then made the motion that “Only one award competitor is allowed per student-award presentation.” This motion passed unanimously. 
The Long Range Planning and Policy Committee Co-Chairs Stouder & Espinoza then discussed much-needed updates to the ASIH Policy and Procedures Manual.  The Exec thanked Drs. Stouder and Espinoza for their hard work, noting that they didn’t even have a word document of the most recent version of the PPM to edit from. Drs. Stouder and Espinoza noted that there was still one more year of decisions to be made about this important document. Stouder and Espinoza thanked the other members of the committee singling out Margaret Neighbors as being particularly knowledgeable and helpful.
Among the changes to the PPM discussed was including standardized four letter acronyms for all committees. Several members of EXEC asked why the BOG must be listed as the BOFG and the BAM as BAAM, but all resolved to use the four-letter versions.
Other changes included having the full award names standardized and listed consistently; for instance the “Student Travel Fund” should always be listed under its official name the, “Clark Hubbs Student Travel Award.”
In discussing the Secretary Designate and Treasurer Designate positions – Secretary Chakrabarty moved that there should also be a Copeia Editor designate position created. Treasurer Martin seconded, and this item passed unanimously.
Dr. Donnelly then moved that “LRPP is charged with the annual upkeep of the Policy and Procedures” manual. Secretary Chakrabarty seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
The Co-Chair of ENFC Adam Summers noted that the PPM needs to be more visible on the ASIH website. President Crother noted that the Charge for each committee should be sent to the new chairs when they are elected or appointed and Dr. Donnelly added that “everyone needed to read the PPM.”
Editor Smith then noted that the Copeia Production Manager Katie Smith had volunteered to copyedit the PPM after she noted many spelling and grammatical mistakes. The Exec very much welcome her edits.  
The updated PPM will be sent to the BOFG by an email vote in the near future
Dr. Stouder then raised the question about whether the ASIH President can create co-chair position on standing committees. Dr. Donnelly noted that she created co-chairs for several committees as President in order to have one ichthyologist and one herpetologist leading these committees in order to show our combined interests and shared burden.
After some discussion a motion was passed that the “President shall appoint a co-chair for LRPP and ENFC and that each co-chair gets a full vote on Exec. It was added that there should be representation of both ichthyologists and herpetologists represented on those committees.” Dr. Baldwin seconded and the motion passed.
The Exec also asked the LRPP to look at the wording and different uses of the following committee terms: “standing, continuing, recurring, special purpose, and ad hoc committees.” The LRPP has decided that Ad Hoc committees will be removed from the PPM.
Dr. Stouder then explained that the European Union had new regulations called “General Data Protection Regulations.” Breaches of these regulations could have serious financial implications for ASIH. Editor Smith noted that he contacted Allen Press several times about this issue but had not received a response. President Crother will pursue Allen Press to better understand our liability under these new EU laws and asked Exec if we should retain a lawyer for better understanding these regulations. After some discussion President Elect Cole moved that “ASIH retain a lawyer for the purposes of discussing the General Data Protection Regulations,” this motion was seconded by Dr. Stouder and all were in favor.
President Crother noted that it would also be good to have an Ombudsmen under the services of ASIH because of our Code of Conduct (CoC) and because not all Exec members are trained under Title IX. President Elect Cole then moved that ‘ASIH participate in hiring a professional Ombudsmen service for future meetings.” Dr. Baldwin seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
It was noted that currently only the ASIH has a CoC and that members of Exec are the contact points for any violations. Dr. Espinoza is working with other societies to make the CoC JMIH wide.
We then went on discussing continuity planning for officers in the unfortunate situation where someone needs to take over a position suddenly. Dr. Donnelly recounted how she took over the Secretary Duties quite suddenly after the passing of Bob Johnson. It was decided that we should set up a cloud-based storage of data such as GoogleDrive for every committee. Dr. Summers noted that having a legacy email address for each committee chair and officer, such as would be a good decision. It was agreed that we need a blanket cloud platform to house our emails and data files. Editor Smith recommended Slack as an option and Dr. Summers noted that our new meeting management firm may be able to help us create this cloud back up.
Editor Smith then updated us on the state of Copeia. He noted he was unsure about several issues included how new Associate Editor’s can get reimbursements and how to deal with authors not paying publication related dues. These were addressed by members of Exec. Dr. Smith noted some new innovations including allowing authors to have 50 days of open access on new papers and Copeia becoming fully compliant with ICZN. He noted that the impact factor has gone up slightly from last year. Dr. Smith noted other innovations would be forthcoming.
We then moved on to items of New Business.
The Chair of the Meetings Management and Planning Committee, Henry Mushinsky, gave us a presentation that will be repeated at the BOFG and BAAM. He discussed our new meeting management company and future meetings. The Exec was very enthusiastic about the choices made by the MMPC, and we hope the BOFG will support these initiatives.
The EXEC formally welcomed the Treasurer Designate, Katherine Maslenikov and President Crother and the Exec thanked her for volunteering for this important position. Treasurer Martin said that in December he would transfer signatory rights from Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank over to the new Treasurer. Treasurer Martin noted that he still write next year’s Treasurer’s Report and that he and Ms. Maslenikov would be in contact about financial activities of ASIH.
Dr. Donnelly then raised the issue of having several important files and documents on the K-state run portion of the ASIH website – she noted that this content needs to be migrated to ASIH because we will no longer be affiliated with K-State. President Crother will discuss with our Webmaster how best to make that transition happen.
Editor Smith then noted that he and his wife Katie printed some Copeia Merchandise – including pint glasses, several hundred stickers, magnets and other items. Some of these will be available for the student auction. Leo and Katie’s kids, Milo and Betsy are walking around JMIH18 as the “Copeia Swag Team” with these items.
Dr. Donnelly then moved that “ASIH reimburse Editor Smith for the ASIH/Copeia merchandise he and Katie Smith created.”
As an item of new business President Elect Cole suggested that member of ENFC should be on the Audit committee. But Dr. Donnelly noted that the Audit committee was created to extend the official position of past presidents. It was noted that the Audit Committee is not part of the official audit of the ASIH Treasurer and finances and that it is really an oversight committee. Dr. Donnelly made a motion to kill the Audit Committee, that was seconded by Dr. Baldwin. The motion failed after discussion. It was noted that the committee was not in the constitution so the motion was modified to make the “Audit committee an Ad Hoc committee [instead of a standing committee]” This motion passed unanimously.
Treasurer Martin noted he had many paper copies of bank statements and other financial documents that needed to go to the new Treasurer. He noted that many of these were redundant with electronic documents and that some might be discarded. A motion to scan all the documents was tabled after the EXEC asked the Treasurer to first find out how Non-Profits are legally bound to handle these documents.  
President Elect Cole than requested that the Treasurer send financial reports to ENFC. Some members of EXEC thought that as a committee committed to long-term financial and endowment goals that these reports would not benefit the ENFC. Dr. Summers said he would add that idea to the ENFC agenda.
Dr. Cole also noted that some ASIH members had expressed concern that they were unable to comment on various BOG and EXEC decisions because of the short period of time between the BOFG book being released and the EXEC report. Secretary Chakrabarty noted that the BOFG report is sent to the entire membership, not just Governors, by email, Facebook, and Twitter by early June and that they have more than four weeks to comment. He then noted the EXEC minutes are read during BOFG and then again sent out to the entire society before the BAAM. He wanted to remind those that may be upset for any reason that he is sincerely happy to discuss the many ways in which he could improve his work for ASIH.
To close out the meeting the EXEC discussed that we do not need any additional ASIH postcards or pamphlets and that the JMIH postcard about the next meeting is sufficient. We also discussed the need to restart the conversation about an umbrella organization governing the various JMIH societies. The EXEC noted that we had not heard from the “JMIH Committee on creating an Umbrella Organization” in some time.
President Crother then called for a motion to adjourn, and we did so at 1:20 p.m

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Letter on The New ASIH Code of Conduct

Dear ASIH members,

The ASIH Board of Governors recently voted to approve a Code of Conduct for our annual meetings (see: As the principal “author” of that document, I was asked to provide some context regarding this new ASIH policy.

First some history. The Code of Conduct (CoC) that ASIH adopted was based on a similar document that was approved by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) in fall 2016. With permission from SICB, we used their document as our starting point. Subsequent drafts were revised based on suggestions from members of the ASIH Executive Committee (EXEC) and Board of Governors. An early draft of the CoC also received critical input from a Title IX Officer at California State University, Northridge. In total, the document went through six drafts before it was approved.

The most common question that has arisen has been why just an ASIH CoC policy given we share our meeting with other societies? From the moment we set out to develop this policy we had a JMIH-wide CoC in mind. However, we have no control over the policy decisions of the other JMIH societies, and at least one of them had attempted to create and approve its own CoC for more than two years without success. We also wanted ASIH to take the lead recognizing that it is generally easier to work from an existing and extensively vetted document. Recently, a committee that includes representatives from ASIH, AES, HL, and SSAR was formed and tasked by the respective society presidents to draft a CoC for JMIH. This document will ultimately be voted on by all JMIH societies. If you are interested in contributing to this discussion, please feel free to contact me.

Some members may wonder why we even need a CoC. In a perfect world we wouldn’t, but too many of us have heard about, been witness to, or personally experienced actions, behaviors, or comments at our meetings that were clearly unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated. In particular, we cannot tolerate offenses directed towards members of federally protected classes, which include: gender (or sex), gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability (physical or mental), genetic information, marital status, medical condition, nationality, country of origin, race or ethnicity (including color or ancestry), religion or religious belief, or military/veteran status. If we wish to continue to grow our society and respective disciplines, our student and junior members also deserve our sincere respect and protection. Members who experience CoC violations at our meetings (including witnesses) need to know they will receive prompt and confidential support from society leadership. Similarly, would-be perpetrators need to be aware that offensive actions, behaviors, and comments are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Another concern that has been expressed is the challenge of defining “offensive,” particularly because there is considerable variance in what our diverse members may deem offensive or consider warranting CoC action by EXEC. While we acknowledge that variance in perception will depend on the context, offender, and receiver, we hope that the membership can trust their elected officers to fairly investigate and consider all the evidence of each case before rendering a decision and associated consequences. Our EXEC officers may not be lawyers, but each will receive Title IX training so they can make decisions that are informed by federal law, while also taking into account broader ethical standards and simple common sense.

We wish to make it clear that this policy was not intended to protect us from everything we might deem offensive at our meetings. For example, although we expect our members to be respectful of one another, the CoC should play no role in stifling professional debate. Critical peer review and spirited discussions of data and ideas are hallmarks of science, and make us all better ichthyologists and herpetologists. Likewise, this policy was not intended to make our meetings less fun. Opportunities for socializing, imbibing, and playfully joking with our friends and colleagues make our annual meetings enjoyable events. This policy was not meant to interfere with these activities or others that consenting adults choose to do. At the same time, we need to be cognizant of professional and social hierarchies, and sensitive to how our actions, behaviors, and words may intentionally or unintentionally offend others, which fortunately very few of us ever set out to do.


Robert E. Espinoza

Co-Chair, Long Range Planning and Policy Committee

Saturday, March 18, 2017

On Diversity of the ASIH

Origins of the Diversity Committee of ASIH
At the 2016 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH), members of the Resolutions Committee called on the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) to make a stand for diversity in its membership. The first step toward this goal was the establishment of the Diversity Committee (introduced later in this post). The second step is the development and communication of the mission of the committee. The third, and most important, will be the development and deployment of programmatic components at JMIH and within ASIH to effectively diversify our membership.

Many members of ASIH attend other meetings where membership diversity has been identified as a crucial component to building society strength and effectiveness (e.g.,
SICB, ESA). Membership diversity is a principle characteristic in scientific research highlighted by AAAS. Therefore, the Diversity Committee of ASIH has formed to determine 1) the current makeup of the society at large, 2) how to build on and expand other societies’ efforts to support membership diversity, and 3) the directions in which ASIH specifically could and should improve in this regard.

 Need for diversity within ASIH

In both 2015 and 2016, ASIH conducted a survey of its membership identifying multiple metrics of diversity. Though we currently have basic information on our membership, we recognize the intersections of these diversity metrics and their often non-additive nature. The ethnicity of the membership between 2016 [N] and (2015 [N]) is divided into two categories: Hispanic/Latino 8.37% [42] (6.22% [27]) and non-Hispanic/Latino at 89.84% [451] (92.17% [400]).

In terms of racial composition of non-Hispanic/Latino members, the Society is
0.20% [1] (0.23% [1]) Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
0.80% [4] (0.46% [2]) Black/African American
1.20% [6] (0.93% [4]) American Indian/Alaska Native
4.6% [23] (3.71% [16]) Asian, and
91.60% [458] (93.74% [404]) White.
Suffice to say, the Society’s racial composition is, like most scientific societies, not reflective of the racial composition of the country. Based on the 2015 U.S. census, the U.S. is 17.6% Hispanic/Latino, and the composition of the non-Hispanic/Latino population is
0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
3.3% Black/African American
1.2% American Indian/Alaska Native
5.6% Asian, and
77.1% White.
The biggest underrepresentation in the Society is our Black/African American membership followed by our Hispanic/Latino membership.

From a STEM-wide perspective based on
2014 data from NSF, the Society’s membership is less ethnically and racially diverse than national trends for graduating STEM majors from 4-year institutions. For ethnicity, 12.1% of STEM majors are Hispanic/Latino. In terms of racial diversity among non-Hispanic/Latinos, STEM graduates are
0.30% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
8.7% Black/African American
0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native
9.5% Asian, and
61.5% White.
The most glaring disparity between STEM-wide demographics and the Society is, again, our underrepresentation—by an order of magnitude—of Black/African American scientists.

In terms of gender, the Society has a membership composed of 31.94% [160] (30.14% [129]) women and 67.07% [336] (68.69% [294]) men. This is in sharp contrast to the national average from the 2015 census data (50.8% women) and the proportion of women obtaining degrees in STEM in the U.S. in 2014 (50.0%).

In addition to considering the ethnic and gender composition of our membership, there is also a need to recognize the proportion of the Society with disabilities and the type of disability reported. Members reported impairments that were Mobility 1.61% [8] (2.8% [12]), Visual 2.21% [11] (0.93% [4]), and/or Hearing-based 5.42% [27] (5.14% [22]). Overall, 13.12% [58] (13.03% [49]) of the membership reported disabilities. We recognize that these summaries lack data on learning and psychiatric disabilities.

There are also no current survey data on sexual orientation or gender diversity for the Society. Similarly, we have no data on society members who are/were first generation college students. The Committee fully recognizes these dimensions of diversity and will request that future surveys of the Society incorporate them.

Between 2015 and 2016, the ASIH has neither lost nor gained diversity in its membership.

Plans for increasing diversity of the membership
The Committee is still in the process of determining the best routes for increasing membership diversity. Some societies use social events to link diverse members to peers as well as faculty mentors during their annual meetings (e.g., Broadening Participation events at SICB), and others have formal programs that integrate underrepresented students into the research process to help them cultivate potential careers in the discipline (e.g., ESA SEEDS program). The JMIH hosts an array of workshops every year that aim to dissolve the faculty-student divide and foster substantive mentoring interactions among its members. For example, Marlis Douglas and Michael Douglas co-organize a speed networking event at the JMIH to diversify students’ academic networks and facilitate dialogue. There is also a history of career-based workshops at the meeting to provide insider perspectives to students considering careers in academics. Perhaps workshops on strategies for diversifying our membership, led by nationally-recognized builders of STEM diversity, could equip the Society’s faculty with the skills and motivation to improve the composition of the Society.

A second solution to increasing diversity could focus on visibility. Many established scientists in ichthyological and herpetological research come from diverse backgrounds, and showcasing these scientists’ careers to prospective members would demonstrate that ASIH is a society they could make their home as well. The strong, emergent theme from the Centennial Symposium at the 2016 JMIH was that our members’ research interests have evolved and diverged since their early days in the Society, but they still considered the ASIH their home. It is what makes our Society special. We would do well to share this with as diverse a population of scientists as possible. The ASIH can and should be a scientific home for everyone.

Profiles of the members of the Diversity Committee
Michael P. Franklin (co-chair), faculty at California State University Northridge, member of ASIH since 1990, fish population dynamics. As an educator and investigator, I have been curious about the lack of diversity in the marine sciences for years. I frequently speak to diverse groups (career days, outreach events at community colleges, etc.) and while the interest is high, there remains little if any change in diversity numbers at CSUN or ASIH. I am looking forward to being part of a group that directly addresses these issues.

Rocky Parker (co-chair), faculty at James Madison University, member of ASIH since 2002, reptile pheromones and endocrinology. As an LGBTQ scientist, representation and diversity in the professional scientific world is deeply important to me. I have been involved with diversity recruitment and training in STEM since 2010, and I am highly motivated to do what I can to create a more representative membership in the ASIH.

Melanie Stiassny, faculty and curator at the Richard Gilder Graduate School and Ichthyology Department of the American Museum of Natural History, member of ASIH since the early 1990s, fish systematics and evolutionary biology. Opening the doors of our society to a fully diverse and engaged membership is a long held aspiration and I very much look forward to working together to realize this goal.  

Norma Salcedo
, faculty at Francis Marion University, member of ASIH since 2001, fish systematics and vertebrate morphology. I have taught at liberal arts colleges for 10 years now. Since I joined FMU, until recently considered a minority serving institution, I’ve had the opportunity to interact closely with a highly diverse student body, including first-generation students. I want to bring my experience regarding retention in academia to the ASIH, and thus help increase the diversity of its members.

Christopher Martinez, postdoctoral fellow at University of California Davis, member of ASIH since 2015, fish morphological diversity. As a Chicano, I have long had a passion for fostering diversity in STEM and I am eager to continue my outreach efforts as a member of the ASIH diversity committee.

Beck Wehrle, Ph.D. candidate at University of California Irvine, member of ASIH since 2009, lizard digestive physiology. I wanted to be a part of this committee because I know the factors that hinder diversity are deep rooted in science and in society as a whole and require active work to overcome. I have an interest in promoting diversity in all parts of my life and especially making sure the complexity of intersections of identity/experiences are recognized.

Kimberly Foster, Ph.D. student at Western Michigan University, member of ASIH since 2013, fish morphology and phylogenetics. Growing up in the South I have always been acutely aware of diversity issues within the scientific community. As an LGBTQ student and scientist, I strive to make daily choices that lead to the incorporation of people from all walks of life. I am advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights and have been campaigning for those rights since 2005. I am stoked to be a part of the ASIH diversity committee, and look forward to bringing about change.