8 Questions for the 2023 Presidential Candidates of the American Fisheries Society

By Patrick Cooney

I asked 8 questions to Margaret Murphy and Patrick Shirey, the two Candidates for the position of 2nd Vice President of the American Fisheries Society (AFS). The person who prevails in the election will serve on the Governing Board of AFS for at least 5 years and will Ascend to serve as the President of AFS in 4 years.

Margaret Murphy and Patrick Shirey. 2023 AFS Candidates for 2nd Vice President.

As a lifetime member of the American Fisheries Society, I can attest to the strong benefits of being a member. If you are interested in voting for one of these candidates and joining the American Fisheries Society, please follow this link.

Question 1: What is your earliest memory with a fish?

Margaret Murphy: Oh boy – pretty young (I am attaching a picture for you – you can see my sister isn’t happy that she isn’t fishing 😊).  But age 4 or 5.  Fishing for perch and sunfish at our family camp in the Adirondacks.

Patrick Shirey: Winning a Goldfish at the local firemen’s fundraising carnival ping-pong-ball game as a kid. 

Question 2: What is your favorite fish and why?

Margaret Murphy: Since I have to choose I would say Atlantic Salmon. It was the first fish I studied in depth and learned all I could about it, especially related to restoring it to native range in Lake Ontario (and now Lake Champlain).  It was what put me on the career path I am on.  And it’s the only fish tattoo I have…..   But there are so many others I love as well.

Patrick Shirey: My answer to this question changes based on where I’m working. I appreciate when I have the opportunity to work in eastern North America streams inhabited by Brook Trout, but my current favorite fish is the Creek Chub as it is a resilient fish found in many stream systems from healthy streams to streams degraded severely by pollution like the streams where I am working in Western Pennsylvania that are impacted by urbanization and Acid Mine Drainage. About a decade ago, a writer, L. Scott Parkinson, helped me and Mike Brueseke sample an urban stream site, wrote a poem, “Ode to the Creek Chub”, and dubbed it “America’s Fish”. 

Question 3: What is the piece of fish research you have conducted that you are most proud of?

Margaret Murphy: I am pretty proud of the overwintering work I did to understand juvenile Atlantic salmon survival and growth during their first winter.  Winter work has it’s challenges – especially in the Tug Hill Plateau of NY which gets a ton of snow every winter. But some of my more favorite field experiences. It took one season to work out the kinks, but then had two successful seasons of study – and while I couldn’t actually look at survival as the fish were placed in cages, which limited interactions with the rest of the stream ecosystem, but I did document some interesting growth patterns based on winter severity. It has highlighted for me the need to study fish in those harder to sample seasons as well as the warmer ones.

Patrick Shirey: My recent research summarizing species recovery and management policies, recovery plan criteria, and drivers of expenditures for imperiled fish species.

Question 4: What is your favorite role you have played in AFS and why?

Margaret Murphy: I have enjoyed all the roles I have taken on in AFS from leadership of two Chapters, Northeastern Division, and Water Quality Section to student subunit advisor as well as many others.  At this point I would say my favorite would be as a member and chair of the Strategic Plan Committee (last 3 rounds).  I remember after my first time on the committee I commented on how much fun the whole process was and how it was really great to think about how AFS will move forward for the next five years.  I then became chair (note – if anyone notes a hint of excitement from someone – they might be asked to jump right in!) and helped lead the next revision of the strategic plan. I really enjoyed hearing from the diversity of voices on the committee and their strategies for achieving the overall vision for AFS. My third time I was a member and again loved to see how the process unfolded.  It was different each time – with the understanding that after 5 years we learn a lot, we accomplish a lot, and we may need to make small adjustments to reach those next 5 year goals.  All members were willing to put the time in to finish with a document that resonated with membership and that governing board members could refer to as they developed plans of work for the respective units. Over those three iterations the strategic plan has also been streamlined with many fewer pages today than when I first became involved.

Patrick Shirey: I enjoy helping connect individual AFS members to one another throughout my volunteer positions within AFS.

Question 5: What is one accomplishment you hope to make in your time as AFS President?

Margaret Murphy: I really hope to move the needle further on membership of all members – especially those chapter members that aren’t AFS members.  I think many of us are introduced to AFS at the Chapter level, and I was no different.  I did become an AFS member pretty quickly as I became the SUNY-ESF Chapter president in graduate school.  As a chapter member, I experienced the welcoming environment at the local scale; as an AFS member that expanded to a national and international level.  While many argue their focus is only on their state or region and that they don’t need to be “national” members, this is a short-sighted argument. AFS is one entity comprised of chapters, sections, and divisions and our issues and concerns cross chapter lines. We are all interested in maintaining fisheries for current and future generations and AFS as a whole becomes that voice for all the parts – succeeding in ways the individual units cannot.  And – units can succeed at the local and regional level knowing they have the support of AFS.  I think it is critical that AFS portrays itself as something greater than the sum of its units – and help transition those chapter only members by providing examples of the work being done in support of them. Compared to other professional organizations, AFS is affordable and offers great benefits to its membership. Check out some of my strategies to achieve this in my candidate statement (or listen to the fisheries podcast interview).

Patrick Shirey: Based on input and conversations with AFS members, I want to see our membership launch a journal focused on Fisheries Conservation akin to new journals launched by peer professional societies within the last 15 years, including the Society for Conservation Biology (Conservation Letters) and the Ecological Society of America (Ecosphere). Wiley Publishing recently launched a potential competing journal (Aquaculture, Fish and Fisheries) to our publications. We need to keep pace with the broader publishing landscape whether we (AFS members) maintain Wiley as our publisher in our next contract or not. 

Question 6: What would you say to someone who asks you why they should join AFS?

Margaret Murphy: If you are involved in fisheries related work – I would say why not?  AFS has always been a voice for research and sustainable management of fisheries resources.  It’s an organization that truly represents fisheries – people, fish, and habitats.  Where else can you find the diversity of expertise we have in AFS? If I have a fish culture question – there’s a section I can contact, fisheries management – there are experts there; water quality – yup – that is covered too, and even socioeconomics! And so many more!  The people themselves are great too and really want you to succeed.  I love introducing students or new members to leadership and other members when I interact with them at meetings – it has such an impact – and it let’s them know we are all here to support each other. 

Patrick Shirey: For a membership (annually $115 regular, $55 early career, $55 retired, or $30 student), you get 1) the opportunity to build professional relationships with other AFS members, 2) a monthly magazine (Fisheries) with peer-reviewed articles and updates on the latest fisheries science, management, communications, and policy delivered to your mailbox (what would someone pay for an equivalent per month at a news/magazine stand?) 3) discounts on professional conferences that are more than the cost of membership, 4) access to webinars and other exclusive online content, 5) discounts on books published by AFS, and 6) online access to all AFS journals. 

Question 7: What would you say to a long time AFS member who asks what they could do to get more involved and have a big impact on AFS?

Margaret Murphy: I would recommend they volunteer on a committee or even chair a committee for their local chapter or for a section within their expertise.  We always need more people to step up and fill these positions – and it can grow from there.  Each position has a bit of impact on AFS – without the parts all functioning well, the whole will not be as strong. It’s never too late to get involved.

Patrick Shirey: Our AFS chapters, divisions, and sections are looking for people to build new skills and contribute their existing skills to ongoing efforts that keep our membership informed and connected. This includes committee roles for meeting planning, creating webinars and workshops for continuing education, financial planning and oversight, communications, resource policy, awards, among other examples of opportunities to contribute. We can learn from one another while contributing to the AFS mission “to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals.” 

Question 8: What question should I have asked but didn’t, and what is your answer? 

Margaret Murphy: I can’t think of any right now!

Patrick Shirey: How else might our members help or get more involved? Please consider gifting a student membership for $30 (https://fisheries.org/gift/) and connecting with a student within your chapter to serve as a mentor. If you are a student, please consider volunteering for service within the society (https://fisheries.org/about/committees/).  

More Information

If you are seeking more information on these candidates, please check out the links to the following

Link to AFS Candidate Statement with Patrick Shirey

Link to AFS Candidate Statement with Margaret Murphy

Link to The Fisheries Podcast interview with Margaret Murphy

Thank you

A huge thank you to Patrick Shirey and Margaret Murphy for their time answering these questions as well as their time and commitment to the American Fisheries Society.

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