SNEC 50th Recap

Past presidents of SNEC and NED.

For the first time in its 50-year history the Southern New England Chapter held a multi-day winter meeting and graciously did so in conjunction with the AFS Northeastern Division, creating a regional flair for the conference. The Chapter’s Golden Anniversary meeting took place during February 26-28 in Mystic, CT. The first day was devoted to two workshops and the following two days consisted of paper and poster presentations, two plenary talks, a keynote address, Chapter and Division business meetings, and various social events. Ample time was allotted for breaks and social events, which facilitated peer-to- peer communications. An off-site student-mentor lunch was also set up, allowing for professionals to give advice to future working fisheries scientists. Total attendance was 185, which included 36 students. Among the attendees were members of the AFS Governing Board, including Joe Margraf (AFS President), Ron Essig (Past President), Steve McMullin (President-Elect), Doug Austen (Executive Director), Jason Vokoun (NED President), Justin Davis (NED President-Elect), Julie Claussen (International Fisheries Section President), and Sara Turner (Emerging Leader).

Meeting workshops included “Communicating and Grant Writing for Science Professionals” presented by Rich McBride, Syma Ebbin, and Michelle Staudinger, and “Adaptive Fisheries Management” by Steve Cadrin, Katie Kennedy, and Fred Mattera. The two workshops attracted 29 participants. The Chapter would like to hold additional workshops, perhaps as soon as this coming summer. Anyone having workshop suggestions or would like to assist in their implementation should contact Bill Duffy at william.duffy@noaa.gov.

Two invited speakers gave plenary addresses, Jon Hare, Director of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, spoke about science in support of living marine resource management in the northeastern U.S. shelf ecosystem. Ron Essig of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service connected significant events occurring in federal fisheries legislation over the past 50 years with each of the Chapter Presidents serving during the same time period. The keynote speaker was Julie Claussen of the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, who gave a fascinating talk on her work in Bhutan on the conservation of a large, riverine cyprinid, the Mahseer.

There were 48 oral paper presentations given in two or three concurrent sessions as well as a Chapter-record of 21 poster presentations. One-third of the oral and two-thirds of the poster presentations were made by students. Presentations included diverse subject matter in fisheries, aquatic sciences, and technology. Abstracts may be found here.

During the Chapter Business Meeting, President-Elect Eric Schultz noted that he is reluctantly resigning his position due to his increasing responsibilities at the University of Connecticut. The Chapter is therefore looking for a person to fill this slot as well as the incoming Secretary-Treasurer position, now held by Sara Turner, who will move up to President in the officer progression. Because the 2017 Business Meeting was held at this winter meeting rather than at the upcoming summer meeting, an electronic vote for the election of these two officers will be held sometime this spring. Anyone interested in being nominated for either of these two positions is urged to contact a member of the Chapter’s Board of Directors.

Bill Hyatt received the Chapter’s Award of Excellence for his distinguished career and achievements within the CT DEEP Bureau of Natural Resources.

Brent Schirmer, President of the UConn Student Sub-chapter reported on their activities, including plans to host a “Fishy 5K” on campus in April (with the hope that advisor Jason Vokoun will run in a fish costume). Matt Devine, President of the newly formed University of Massachusetts-Amherst Student Sub-chapter, briefly addressed business meeting attendees. This sub-unit has 21 members, including 12 undergraduates and 9 graduate students, and is advised by Dr. Adrian Jordaan. Events held so far have included “Life in the Day of a Fisheries Scientist”, which was  presented to 5th grade students. The student chapter is looking forward to holding a children’s fishing derby, assisting in stream clean-ups, and hosting a fisheries science panel night on the university campus.

The Chapter’s 2017 Award of Excellence was presented to Bill Hyatt, currently the Chief of CT DEEP’s Bureau of Natural Resources, for his lifetime contributions in all fields of fisheries science, including administration, education, management, and research. Joe Pereira of NOAA Fisheries-Milford received the Irwin Alperin Outstanding Member Award for his many years as a mentor, teacher, and sponsor to students, particularly those in high school and college undergraduates. The Lesa Meng Aquatic Conservation Award was given to Paul Ducheney and Rich Murray of Holyoke Gas & Electric for advancing the knowledge of sturgeon passage at Connecticut River dams through a long-term collaborative process supportive of aquatic resource agencies goals. The Outstanding Organization Award went to the Friends of Pleasant Bay, which is an environmental organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing this biologically diverse and productive estuary, the largest on Cape Cod. Renee Mercaldo-Allen was presented a Special Achievement Award for her efforts over many years in overseeing the Steering Committee of the  Flatfish Biology Conference.  Lucas Nathan of the University of Connecticut won the Saul B. Saila Best Student Paper Award for his presentation at the 2016 Chapter summer meeting entitled “Evaluating the effects of culverts on fine scale genetic structuring of Brook Trout”. This was Nathan’s second such award in the last 3 years.

At the NED Business Meeting, Curt Orvis, recently retired from the USFWS, was presented the Dwight Webster Award for his career accomplishments in fish passage, which has benefitted the Northeast region and beyond. The President’s Award went to Margaret Murphy of the New York Chapter for all of her contributions to AFS over many years. John Cooper received a Meritorious Service Award for decades of support to the NED and its members. Justin Davis ascended as NED President with many thanks given to outgoing President Jason Vokoun. The
NED is currently looking for candidates for Vice President. Interested parties are encouraged to contact NED Pat President Kristen Ferry at kristen.ferry@state.ma.us.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the banquet held in the nearby Mystic Aquarium, where attendees were able to view fish and other aquatic animals from all over the world before and during dinner. And, we had a SNEC 50th anniversary cake to cap off the celebration! It appears that the multi-day meeting was very well received by all and similar meetings in the future may be considered by the Chapter.

Banquet at the Mystic Aquarium