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Freshwater Meetings

The Freshwater Working Group endeavors to meet annually in conjunction with the SCB's annual meeting. Minutes are taken at each meeting and listed below. Messages and information for planning upcoming meetings is also listed.

Tennessee, United States - 2008
Port Elizabeth, South Africa - 2007
California, United States - 2006
Brasilia, Brazil - 2005
New York, United States - 2004
Minnesota, United States - 2003

Tennessee, United States - 2008

FWWG annual meeting, 14 July 2008


Review of past year’s achievements:

  • Recruited 104 new members in 2007 through The Nature Conservancy sponsorships for developing country members.
  • For the 2007 Annual Meeting we:
    Helped coordinate a pre-conference workshop in Stellenbosch using a catchment-to-coast perspective on vineyard biodiversity;
    Made freshwater presentations in Bob Pressey’s pre-conference short course on conservation planning;
    Coordinated a freshwater field trip to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area;
    Presented five freshwater policy priorities during Policy Director John Fitzgerald’s policy workshop;
    Organized a freshwater conservation symposium;
    Participated in the SCB education committee meeting;
    Met with the 2008 Meeting organizers to discuss our participation;
    Organized a 5-km fun run, sold FWWG t-shirts, and held a FWWG dinner and Board meeting.Revised our bylaws to include our past President as an ex officio Board Member.
  • Presented overview of FWWG activities at the  2007 International Conference on Ecology & Transportation (Little Rock, Arkanasas, USA).
  • Began developing a college-level freshwater conservation course for the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP) website (
  • Continued providing monthly lists of citations for new freshwater papers via the FreshWater list and the FWWG website.
  • Continued submitting a Freshwater article for each quarterly SCB newsletter.
  • Held elections in November, 2007, electing Board Members from India, South Africa, and the U.S.
  • Organized a symposium titled “Advances in freshwater conservation planning” for the 2008 Annual Meeting.
  • Organized a joint Marine Section and FWWG evening social held at the Tennessee Aquarium during the Chattanooga Meeting.
  • Organized a field trip to the Duck River for the 2008 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the Freshwater Mussel Conservation Society.

Brainstorming session for the  project –  ‘An Assessment of the 100 Questions of Greatest Importance to the Conservation of Global Biological Diversity’

Presentation by Bill Sutherland (Cambridge U.) on project background
Expanding a previous very successful UK exercise to the global scale
Bill is currently trawling for questions from all sources; questions will as be archived in an on-line appendix to a paper to be published in Conservation Biology.  A September workshop in Cambridge will reduce the full list of several hundred down to 100 questions.
looking at questions for which there’s an answer (imagine what the answer would be), and answer should be summarizable in sentence or two.


  • Is it feasible to balance the desire for interbasin and regional groundwater and surface water transfers with their potential effects on freshwater biodiversity? (Jon Sjoberg, NDOW)
  • How do we balance all the complex factors that affect the determination and implementation of fisheries sustainable yield? (Dismas Mbabaz, National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, Uganda)
  • How can we accurately value ecosystem services that aquatic ecosystems provide? (Brenda Rashleigh, EPA)
  • How much water does a system need; how can environmental flows be incorporated into design of freshwater interventions? (Mao Amis, Univ. of Capetown; WWF)
  • What are the major variables influencing recovery time of freshwater systems following removal of sources of stress? (Peter Esselman, UMich)
  • How can we measure the relative functional integrity of flowing water ecosystems (functional IBI), moving beyond tax to function? (Peter Esselman, UMich)
  • How can we incorporate resilience conferred by rapid evoluation into our thinking about freshwater biodiversity conservation? (Peter Esselman, Umich)
  • Do ecosystem services change in predictable ways upon removal of a dam? (Duncan Elkins, UGA)
  • What types of erosion control mechanisms are most effective for maintaining biodiversity in freshwater systems? (Jennifer Pinkley, N/A)
  • What are the key elements in public perception of value of freshwaters, and how do we enhance those? (Peter McIntyre, UMich)
  • What is the role of zoos and aquariums in freshwater conservation? 
  • What is the relative impact of pharmaceutical inputs to freshwater systems compared to other stressors? (Duncan Elkins, UGA)
  • What are the limits to the effectiveness of stormwater management in maintaining urban aquatic ecosystems? (Seth Wenger, UGA)

Brasilia, Brazil - 2005

Minutes from the 3rd Annual Working Group meeting in Brasilia

Approximately 40 people, most of them new to the Freshwater Working Group, attended the hour-long evening meeting. FWWG coordinator Robin Abell led the meeting, beginning by asking people to introduce themselves and tell of one activity they would like the Group to undertake to become more relevant. The many excellent suggestions included:

  • Capacity building in the developing world
  • Cross-geographic information sharing
  • Increasing the global perspective of the Group
  • Raising the profile of freshwater biodiversity
  • Catalyzing interest in other professional societies
  • Linking with other sections and groups
  • Promoting freshwater-marine-terrestrial integration
  • Sponsoring dedicated symposia

We then brainstormed the following potential themes for future symposia:

  • Land use change impacts on freshwater systems
  • Alien and invasive species
  • Flood plain management
  • Sustainable use
  • Freshwater conservation genetics
  • Co-management
  • Fisheries ecology
  • Freshwater services and livelihoods
  • Restoration
  • Salmon conservation

A few people even volunteered to organize symposia proposals for the 2006 meeting in San Jose! Also suggested were workshops or short courses on: freshwater and remote sensing; valuation of freshwater ecosystem goods and services; freshwater conservation planning; and freshwater species identification.

Since the buses taking participants from the University to the hotel districts were about to leave, Robin brought the meeting to a swift conclusion. But not before resigning as FWG coordinator, a position she held for two years. Thank you Robin for all your hard work! She suggested Ken Vance-Borland replace her as coordinator, the meeting participants soundly seconded her idea, and Ken accepted.

New York, United States - 2004

Minutes from 2nd Annual Working Group meeting in NYC

We had a very short (~40 minutes) but good meeting at the SCB annual conference in NYC. We had 38 people in attendance, and 28 of those individuals were new to the group. While we didn't have time to develop any firm plans for the coming year, we did reach general consensus on some topics and several individuals volunteered for future roles. A brief summary follows:

Suggestions that met with general approval:

  • Have a quarterly electronic newsletter, sent out to the FW list serve., with items submitted via The newsletter would also be posted on the working group web site
  • Add some structure to the FW working group (see below)
  • Have a social at subsequent SCB conferences
  • Continue to develop and submit FW symposium proposals for annual conferences
  • Liaise more formally with other societies
  • Sponsor SCB membership for international colleagues
  • First suggestions for symposium topics:

          Terrestrial-freshwater integration
          Ecological assessment methodologies

Volunteers (thank you!):

Patty Zaradic, Ken Vance-Borland, David Allan, and Chris Frissell- symposium topics (please remind me who volunteered for 2005 vs. 2006)
Michele Thieme and Trey Simmons- social
Trey Simmons, Simon Linke, and Ken Vance-Borland- liaise with NABS and develop proposal for symposium/workshop on a freshwater conservation topic at the 2005 NABS conference in New Orleans (23-27 May)
What follows are my own ideas, developed post-conference.
In terms of providing structure to the group- which should help to maintain momentum and expand our activities- here is a proposal.
I volunteer to continue overall coordination of the working group for the next year, unless someone else would like to take the lead. Next year we can have either formal elections (on-line, since many people won't be going to Brasilia), or a less formal changing of the guard
I suggest that Mary Khoury continues in her role of listserv moderator.
It would be great if someone would volunteer to be the group's secretary. If that person couldn't attend the annual conference, he/she would be responsible for finding someone to take notes in his/her place.
I propose the formation of a number of committees for getting various tasks done. These committees could include:
Symposia & Workshops
Communications [Mary Khoury has already volunteered to lead this group]
Inter-SCB outreach (with sections, committees, individual members)
Extra-SCB outreach (with other societies, etc.)
Student affairs

Please let me know if you would like to serve on one or more of these committees for a minimum of one year. I will compile responses and select a temporary leader from each group. That person will then be responsible for working with others in the group to choose a committee chair, define the committee's mission, and identify roles/responsibilities and goals for the near and longer term.

Other ideas:

At future SCB conferences I will reserve a longer time slot for the FWWG meeting. Anyone with artistic ability is encouraged to design a logo for the freshwater working group. Many SCB members remain unaware of the Freshwater Working Group. Please send any ideas for spreading the word to individuals who may not have attended either of the past two conferences. One idea is to send an announcement to the local SCB chapters, whose members may be unable to attend the annual conference on a regular basis.

I think it would be great to explore not just FW-focused symposia for upcoming annual conferences, but also workshops. Workshops can be scheduled at times that don't conflict with paper sessions, and they can be more interactive. The Social Science Working Group is organized far more formally than the FW working group (see SSWG bylaws). I don't sense that the FW working group is quite ready for this level of organization, but if I'm wrong, let me know. One thing that the social science working group has done that we may want to explore is having our group represented on the SCB Board of Governors through a member-at-large. If there is enthusiasm for this idea, I can explore it further. This could help us access some SCB funds, but I could be entirely wrong about that.

Minnesota, United States - 2003

Minutes from first meeting (Duluth, 1 July 2003)

At the SCB Annual Meeting in Duluth, Robin Abell (World Wildlife Fund) and Jonathan Higgins (The Nature Conservancy) organized an evening session to discuss creating a formal freshwater group within SCB. Over forty people attended, and several others who were unable to come to Duluth expressed their interest in advance. We had a lively and interactive discussion and generated an ambitious list of ideas for moving forward. Below is a summary of that discussion.

There was consensus among the participants that there was a need to create a freshwater group within SCB. We discussed the options available to us for forming a group. Alan Thornhill, Executive Director of SCB, explained that we could not form a freshwater section at this time, but that we could form either a chapter or a working group. A chapter would require elections, whereas a working group would not. Both would receive the same types of support from SCB. Presently, all chapters have a geographic focus (e.g. Colorado Plateau), and there is no precedent for working groups. Seeing no need for a formal structure and elected positions at this time, the participants decided to form a freshwater working group. The group will revisit the need for a formal structure after about one year.

Before the meeting, Robin and Jonathan drafted a list of potential goals for a freshwater group. During the meeting the participants reviewed the goals and developed additional ones. Some goals were identified as overarching outcomes of the working group, and others required specific actions for either the near or long term.

Overarching goals

  • Increasing representation of freshwater issues in SCB’s activities and publications
  • Bringing new members into SCB
  • Stimulating freshwater-related contributions and participation from current and new members

Near-term action-specific goals

  • Serving as a contact network for SCB members.
  • Action: Create and ‘staff’ an email address for general inquiries regarding freshwater group.
  • Alan Thornhill to create email, Mary Khoury to read and respond to messages.
  • Action: Create bulletin board for freshwater postings, and explore creating web site, newsletter, and information sheet.
  • Communications team (Carl Richards, Leslie Tewinkle, Raphael Mazor, & Robin Abell), in coordination with Alan Thornhill.
  • Action: Explore creation of ‘expert locator.’
  • Jane Elder, in coordination with Alan Thornhill.
  • Highlighting freshwater research and issues at SCB’s annual meetings
  • Action: Identify themes for special symposia, contributed sessions, or workshops at SCB’s 2004 meeting and identify interested members to follow through with planning
  • Ken Vance-Borland, Jason Taylor, & David Allan
  • Linking with other initiatives (e.g. World Parks Congress, Ramsar, CBD, Red List).
  • Action: Explore organizing workshop on international initiatives at SCB’s 2004 conference.
  • Robin Abell & Michele Thieme
  • Promoting integration of freshwater work with that in the marine realm.
  • Action: Liaise with communications point person of SCB’s Marine Section.
  • Chuck DeCurtis.
  • Promoting integration of freshwater work with that in the terrestrial realm.
  • Action: Liaise with communications point persons of SCB’s international sections.
  • Africa – Aventino Kasangaki & Michele Thieme. ANA – Carlos Carrera. Europe – Ken Vance-Borland. Asia – David Dudgeon. North America – no volunteers yet. Australasia – no volunteers yet.
  • Identifying key research questions and stimulating programs to address them.
  • Action: Submission of manuscript to Conservation Biology for Editorial or Diversity sections.
  • Kelly Burnett & Jonathan Higgins
  • Promoting learning related to freshwater issues
  • Action: Liaise with SCB’s Education Committee
  • Jane Elder
  • Promoting coordination on freshwater conservation/science among academia, government agencies, and NGO's
  • Action: Plan workshop for 2004 SCB meeting
  • Jonathan Higgins

Longer-term action-specific goals

  • Promoting the integration of physical sciences into freshwater conservation science, including water resource management fields
  • Linking with other societies (e.g. ASIH, NABS, AFS, FBA, SIL, IWRA, AWRS, ESA).
  • Action: Explore organizing SCB-sponsored freshwater symposia at other societies’ annual meetings.
  • Action: Explore manning SCB booth at other conferences
  • Advocating inclusion of freshwater science in biodiversity policy, decision-making, & management, & developing policy-issue criteria
  • Action: Alert freshwater group & Alan Thornhill of emerging or urgent policy issues and form ad hoc group to address issue if needed
  • Fostering collaborations
  • Promoting global representation of freshwater issues within SCB’s publications and activities, and raising awareness about global freshwater issues outside SCB (?)

Robin volunteered to write a short summary of the meeting for inclusion in SCB’s next member’s newsletter. This piece will also invite additional SCB members to join the freshwater group by signing up for the list serve. Several people expressed reservations about a list serve., considering everyone’s inundation with e-mails. We agreed that the list serve. would be used sparingly, and that most notices would be posted instead on an electronic bulletin board. The communications committee will decide if a periodic e-mail newsletter summarizing bulletin board items should be sent via the list serve. The communications committee will also consider developing a web site, to be housed on the SCB server, as well as an information sheet about the freshwater group that could be inserted into general SCB literature.

Gary Meffe, editor of Conservation Biology, encouraged members of the group to submit pieces to the journal and noted that a review of the journal’s past content is underway. Gary noted that special issues on particular themes are possible, but that they require volunteer editors and that authors must pay page charges ($150/page). Although Gary could not represent the editorial staff of Conservation magazine, he suggested contacting those editors to discuss future development of one or more freshwater stories.

Although the freshwater group has no by-laws, David Dudgeon advocated for developing a mission statement, to communicate the group’s broad goals. *The Communications Team will work on generating this statement and will vet it with the entire group.

Everyone agreed that simply forming this group was a small accomplishment in itself, and that in the next year we should focus on basic activities that will establish the group and communicate its goals widely. As the group gets up and running, Robin and Jonathan will continue to maintain communication with Alan Thornhill.