From poetry to ‘verbal judo’

The American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society 2019 Joint Conference wrapped up on Thursday. Here are some of the day’s highlights. Thanks to everyone for making it a great event in Reno, Nevada. Now, who’s ready for next year in Louisville, Kentucky? For photos from the day’s events, scroll down below.

The successful communication of conservation science involves understanding your audience — particularly if they don’t agree with you.

‘A new way of talking’

“Communicating is a two-way street and listening is a good place to start,” said Forest

Service liaison officer Serra Hoagland, at the Thursday joint plenary session on communicating conservation to diverse audiences at the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society 2019 Joint Annual Conference in Reno.

When dealing with conflicting viewpoints and contested issues, she said, try to open up to people. “Show up with a sincere level of respect,” Hoagland said.

Drew Lanham, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University, said it takes different messaging and different packaging to move forward with a changing demographic. “It’s also time for us to understand a new way of communicating. A new way of talking,” he said after doing just that with a poem called “What is Wild?”

“How much do we care for those things flying in the dark above our dreams?” he asked. “It is legal everywhere to find the wild and roll yourself up in it?”

Scott Bonar, the incoming AFS president, who works with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, spoke about “verbal judo,” a series of techniques to improve communicating with people who don’t agree with you. After using the technique with a group of people who didn’t believe in climate change, he said, he was able to change some minds. It’s important to understand where they’re coming from and empathize, he said, but also to be honest.

Welcome President Gary White

TWS President Gary White took up the gavel at his first council meeting on Thursday. “We’ve got to push for science because we’re a science-based organization,” White said after accepting the presidency Thursday morning. “Unfortunately in the last few years there’s been this massive attack on science,” he said, noting the “dismissal of climate change” and decreased protections for sage-grouse, endangered species and migratory birds and other issues.

White said his goals included emphasizing peer review and pushing for the passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would increase funding for states to protect imperiled species. “The Society’s got to stand up, take stands and show that we’re interested,” he said.

The state of TWS

The Wildlife Society is doing well when it comes to finances and membership, TWS CEO Ed Thompson shared at the Annual Members Meeting. The Society is up in income, including a 12% increase in net assets from last year. Thompson reported a $160,000 net income, with the two-year total topping $400,000. “That’s a long cry from where the organization used to be and I am very proud of the fact that we’re on very solid financial footing now and really poised for success,” he said.

Membership increased by 454 to bring total paid members to 10,601, parting the fourth consecutive year of 4% growth. Thompson said he is most proud of the increase in student membership, which is now up to 3,000 plus students. The Society has recently launched a Student Connections Initiative sponsored by the Boone and Crockett Club, involving a $5 discount on membership for students as well as weekly student/early-career professional versions of the eWildlifer and TWS student events at the conference. Thompson touted the new single sign on access to journals, making them more accessible for members.

Congratulations to our awards recipients

Jodie Provost, TWS McDonough Award

Rena Borkhataria, TWS Diversity Award

Jon Swenson, TWS Honorary Membership

Let’s do this again

Get ready for next year! The 2020 TWS Annual Conference will take place in Louisville, Kentucky from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1.