Fenske “Firsts”

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Nerves

If you had asked me, Molly J. Good, how I was feeling on Monday, March 3, 2014 I would have said, “underprepared and very – actually, no – extremely nervous.” Monday, March 3, 2014 was the day before my first encounter with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and set of GLFC meetings.

On Tuesday morning, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I sheepishly walked into a meeting room and observed an arrangement of long tables and many people, each situated appropriately behind individual name cards. Fortunately, two familiar faces stood out to me. I recognized Dr. Bill Taylor, my graduate advisor at Michigan State University, and my Fenske Fellowship “mentor,” Bob Lambe, Executive Secretary of the GLFC. It was then that my initial nerves transformed into a sense of curiosity and excitement about this new experience. I was eager to learn…

The GLFC

The GLFC was first established by the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries between the U.S. and Canada (more on that in “Retreat to Reflect”) in 1955. It is composed of eight Commissioners – four from the U.S. and four from Canada – and there is one U.S. Alternate Commissioner, a position filled by Dr. Bill Taylor (Table 1). The President appoints U.S. Commissioners for six-year terms. The Privy Council appoints the Canadian Commissioners, who serve at the Council’s pleasure.

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The Commission’s main responsibilities include the development and conduction of research in the Great Lakes Basin, the maximum sustained productivity of fish stocks, and the implementation of research programs to eradicate or minimize sea lamprey.

The GLFC Secretariat

The GLFC runs on the power of a Secretariat staff located at the main GLFC office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Secretariat is relatively small, composed of approximately twenty-five individuals that serve as the interface between the GLFC and those with whom the GLFC frequently interacts.

Thus far, I have been appreciative of my interactions with many Secretariat members, including Bob Lambe (Executive Secretary), Dr. John Dettmers (Director of Fisheries Management), Dr. Marc Gaden (Communications Director and Legislative Liaison), Dr. Chris Goddard (Policy Advisor), Ted Lawrence (Communications and Policy Associate), Dr. Andrew Muir (Science Director), Kevin Ramsey (Law Enforcement Specialist), Dr. Mike Siefkes (Sea Lamprey Control Program Manager), Jill Wingfield (Communications Program Manager), and Nick Ebinger, Leah Gerweck, Julie Hinderer, and Jess Ives (Program Associates).

Board of Technical Experts Meeting: Pre-Proposals, Round 1

…So, from Tuesday, March 4 – Wednesday, March 5, 2014 I joined the Board of Technical Experts (BOTE, for short) for their winter meeting. BOTE is a group of individuals that, broadly, advise the GLFC about scientific and technical matters relevant to the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries. This group of individuals is led by a chair, Dr. Bill Taylor, and divided into a Core Group and Members-at-Large. The core group is composed of five or more members and the members-at-large, which are term-appointed, include individuals who lead key research themes.

BOTE has a critical role to play in the solicitation, review, and approval/disapproval of fishery research proposals submitted to the GLFC Fishery Research Program. In March of every year, members of BOTE convene to hear oral presentations of fishery research program pre-proposals and, through consensus, make decisions about which fishery research pre-proposals should be advanced as full proposals in the future.

The BOTE meeting was long and intense.

The majority of the first day was set aside for pre-proposal presentations. Each presenter – whether it was a student, fisheries biologist, academic, fisheries manager, etc. – had 20 minutes to pitch their research plan to BOTE in hopes of securing funding for their proposed project. Some of this meeting’s pre-proposal research topics ranged from measuring policy success and quantifying quagga mussel populations to developing smartphone apps and analyzing warming effects on yellow perch recruitment. By the end of the first day, I had a better idea of the breadth and scope of fisheries research occurring throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

The second day of the BOTE meeting was reserved for discussion among BOTE members only. BOTE members discussed their comments and shared feedback on the pre-proposals that were heard on the day prior. These comments and feedback were collected in the meeting minutes, and they will be provided to the presenter to encourage them to modify or improve their pre-proposals for a future submission. I was particularly engaged in the discussion component of the meeting because BOTE members were not afraid to share their true feelings and opinions; there was a lot of conversation. After this period of discussion, the BOTE core group assembled to make a final selection of those pre-proposals they wished to see advance as full proposals. The final selection of pre-proposals was much more quantitative than I had originally imagined; the core group used an index (i.e., the Ciborowski Index), created by one of the current BOTE core group members, to mathematically rank each pre-proposal based on the collected comments and feedback. Cool, huh? Once the pre-proposals had been ranked as moving forward, the core group organized a peer review process for each full proposal; three BOTE members were assigned as leaders or readers to provide more feedback for each full proposal.

Sea Lamprey Research Board Meeting: Pre-Proposals, Round 1

From Thursday, March 6 (my birthday!) to Friday, March 7, 2014 I joined the Sea Lamprey Research Board (SLRB, for short) for their winter meeting. SLRB is similar to BOTE, and is a group of individuals that, broadly, advise the GLFC scientific and technical matters relevant to the GLFC Sea Lamprey Research Program. This group is also led by a chair, Dr. Steve Cooke (Carleton University), and divided into a Core Group and Members-at-Large. The SLRB core group is composed of eight or more members and the members-at-large, which are also term-appointed, include individuals who are directors of sea lamprey research units and lead key research themes.

The SLRB and BOTE meeting formats are the same. Therefore, the majority of the first day was set aside for more pre-proposal presentations. This meeting’s pre-proposal research topics ranged from sea lamprey pheromone structure and evaluation of downstream passage designs to sea lamprey genome information and effects of lampricides on target and non-target species.

As in the BOTE meeting, the second day of the SLRB meeting was reserved for discussion among SLRB members. The SLRB core group assembled to make a final selection of those pre-proposals they wished to see advance as full proposals. The core group used the Ciborowski Index to rank each pre-proposal based on the collected comments and feedback. The core group also assigned SLRB members (i.e., leaders and readers) to each full proposal for the peer review process.

LESSON #1: The GLFC is a complex organization, with many people, parts, and functions.

LESSON #2: In my opinion, the process outlined for investigators (i.e., students, fisheries biologists, academics, fisheries managers, etc.) who wish to seek funding from the GLFC for their research projects is clear and transparent.

LESSON #3: In my opinion, BOTE and SLRB put a tremendous amount of time and thoughtfulness into providing constructive feedback on each pre-proposal, and their final, ranked decisions are fair.

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