Society of Wetland Scientists History
Narrative History of SWS
The following is a short history of the Society of Wetland Scientists, based on the recollections of members Charlie Newling, Frank Day, Mark Felton, Doug Wilcox, and myself. Please send further information to me, and I will update the text regularly.
Katherine Ewel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
University of Florida
The Society of Wetland Scientists was formed in March 1980. It was the inspiration of Richard Macomber, who was a biologist with the US Army Corps of Engineers Board of Rivers and Harbors. He taught a series of short courses on wetlands to other Corps employees, and colleagues who had taken his course helped him to bring this idea to fruition. Apparently, wetland ecologists at the Corps of Engineers in those days did not feel they had a suitable forum for discussing wetland science issues free from political concerns.
Because Richard did not have a PhD, he urged one of his contractors, James Parnell of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, to accept the nomination for the presidency; Richard agreed to serve as vice-president. Jim held the presidency for four years. Walter Glooschenko, the next president, was a Canadian, thereby establishing in 1983 the international scope of the society!
During the early years of the society, prospective members had to fill out an application form and be accepted into membership, demonstrating that they had some competency in wetlands. This requirement was eventually put aside so that anyone with an interest in wetlands could become a member.
The first issue of Wetlands appeared in September 1981, with Janie Harris, Paul Knutson, and Robert Soots, Jr., serving as editors of a journal that functioned primarily as a proceedings for the annual meeting. Soots was editor-in-chief of Vol. 2, Armando de la Cruz was editor-in-chief of Vol. 3, and Gene Silberhorn took over for Vols. 4-7. Douglas Wilcox assumed the post of editor-in-chief in 1986 for Vol. 8. By 1989, the journal was regularly publishing two issues a year; in 1993, it went to four issues per year. Under Doug's leadership, the journal grew from 1986, when 22 papers were submitted, to the point where 206 submissions were received in 2002. Doug continued to serve as editor through 2006, when Darold Batzer was designated as the next editor-in-chief, assuming full responsibility for the journal in 2007.
Most of the society's activities during the year are carried out by regional chapters. The South Atlantic Chapter got its start as the Southeastern Chapter (date uncertain), with Ronnie Best and Frank Day as the first co-chairs. The Central Chapter was organized in 1991. The Australia Chapter was established in 2002?, and its boundaries were amended in 2004 when it became the Australasia Chapter. The Colombia Chapter was established in 2003, the Europe Chapter in 2004, and the Asia Chapter in 2005. The first annual meeting to be held outside the US was in 2000, when it met in Quebec City, Québec, Canada, with INTECOL, and the first annual meeting to be held outside North America was the 2006 meeting in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.
The spoon that was used for many years to call meetings to order and now graces the plaque with the names of the presidents through 2006 was acquired by President Curtis Richardson at the Washington DC meeting in 1988.
In 1987, President Gene Silberhorn appointed a committee to start a professional certification program. With considerable background work by Harold Jones and others, the preliminary products and processes for certification were approved under President Lee Ischinger's term. The first certifications for Professional Wetland Scientist and Wetland Professional in Training were conferred in 1994.
Lee also began the process of having business management services taken over by professionals. Until that time, the membership lists had been maintained by Dave Dumond, but the job had become too onerous for a volunteer. Another important landmark during this time was the purchase of insurance coverage for the Board to protect the society and its officers from legal concerns. This began a period of steadily improved professionalism in the functioning of the society and chapters.
Allen Press, the publisher of Wetlands, originally conducted the business of the society. In 2002?, Burk and Associates (BAI) took over business management activities. By 2005, BAI had also taken responsibility for making logistic arrangements for the annual meetings.
The need for a strategic plan for the society was raised by President Barry Warner and supported by President Frank Day. President Mark Felton appointed a committee chaired by former President Janet Keough to prepare the plan, which was adopted by the society during Katherine Ewel's presidency in 2005.
From its inception, the Society of Wetland Scientists has been notable for providing a forum for scientists and managers to meet and work together. In 2005, the Society's membership was fairly evenly divided among government employees, academic scientists, and private consultants. In 2003, President Frank Day started the Human Diversity Committee to broaden further the background and experience of its membership, and Kelman Wieder obtained a National Science Foundation grant to bring US undergraduates from underrepresented ethnic groups to the annual meetings to help acquaint them with the possibility of a career in wetland ecology.
The SWS website was established during President William Mitsch's term in 1996. Jim Lynch was webmaster for many years, succeeded by Richard Chinn in 2005.