The Most Important Benefit of SCB – Lasting Joy

I am always flummoxed when someone asks me what the benefits are of being an SCB member. Clearly, I am too close to the subject to answer this question and here is why. I joined SCB during its earliest days in 1986 when Michael Soulé and other faculty at the University of California, San Diego were part of starting the Society. My identity as a conservation biologist only grew stronger as I pursued field research in Madagascar with Andrew Dobson, and then in the Western US with Peter Brussard and Paul Ehrlich – all early leaders in the Society. One day at the end of a regional SCB conference, Tom Sisk told me that he decided to serve on the global SCB board because he was going to stick with conservation biology so he wanted to help the Society, for better or worse … people like Tom definitely make it better! I ran for the global board shortly thereafter.

Sure, my research is stronger thanks to new methods and analyses that I learned about at SCB conferences and from papers published in the Society’s journals. But the real benefit of being part of SCB are the connections with colleagues that have broadened and deepened over my 30+ years in the Society, and those cannot be measured or monetized. Professional success can bring periods of happiness, but it is interconnectedness across a community that brings lasting joy.  My interconnections with colleagues, many of whom are dear friends, grew from my participation in what SCB does: conferences, journals, Sections, Chapters, Smith Fellows, and more.

I have presented research at as many SCB conferences as I could manage to get to over the years. Sometimes successfully and other times less so, like the time I threw out the crappy slide set I put together on the plane and instead talked without slides and managed to lose the audience entirely. Nevertheless, I appreciate the energy gained through participation and continue to speak at SCB regional and global conferences whenever I can. I went on to chair the first regional NACCB conference in 2012, bringing together chapter leaders, board members, and colleagues to build a successful conference and help kickstart the NA Section enterprise.

After attending some amazing post-conference field trips, I vowed to always make time for a field trip. The trips exploring a multitude of freshwater mussels, birds, and other species are memorable, but it’s the friendships forged on these trips that continue until this day.  I got to know Bill Sutherland and Colleen St Clair on a trip to the Canadian Rockies that Colleen led after ICCB 2010. Seven years later in front of a rum bar in Cartagena, Columbia (ICCB 2017), I asked Bill if I could come to the University of Cambridge for a sabbatical, and he graciously agreed. My time in Cambridge was amazing and I forged new connections with more conservation scientists. This is just one of many examples of one SCB connection snowballing into many – all building on that lasting feeling of being part of something much bigger than myself.

Publishing in Conservation Biology, Conservation Letters, and Conservation Science and Practice is always worth celebrating, and my lab has had its share of celebrations. Of course, there is a stack of rejections, too, but the value of failure is widely appreciated at SCB. I know I am in good company with many other researchers who submitted their papers only to find them in need of major revision and sometimes a different outlet. These journals offer us more than a chance to share our research, and I get a lot out of the time I spend volunteering to be a handling editor, review papers, and assist with other journal management business. Doing that work gave me the chance to get to know and appreciate SCB’s amazing editors and staff from around the world.

Jodi Hilty, my first PhD student and lifelong friend, started the Berkeley SCB Chapter in the 90s, and my love for Chapters continued when I served as global Chapters Chair. I was fortunate to host Paul Elsen as a SCB Smith Fellow in my lab, and together we investigated landscape-scale phenomena and came up with concrete ways of improving climate resilience.

As I rotate on to Past-President, I am excited to see efforts underway to increase support for Africa, Asia, and LACA Sections to better serve conservation scientists in the global south. Thank you all for engaging with SCB and helping build a more diverse society with opportunities to befriend colleagues from around the world. 

Why join SCB? For the joy of it.

Adina Merenlender, signing off as SCB President.