For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee Member John Bellah interviewed Dr. Samantha Kahl, the current chair of the Live Auction Committee.
Dr. Kahl is looking for someone to help run the auction this year, as she will be unable to attend JMIH. This is a great opportunity for particularly well-organized individuals looking to gain valuable committee experience, so please contact Dr. Kahl ASAP (email@example.com) if that’s you!
The Live Auction Committee organizes and runs the SSAR/Herpetologist’s League (HL) Live Auction during the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH). The live auction helps fund student travel awards to JMIH. The committee chair takes care of most of the Live Auction Committee’s duties for the majority of the year, with other volunteers getting involved at JMIH to ensure the auction runs smoothly.
Activities throughout the year, including at the annual meeting
The main responsibility of this position is to correspond with people who want to donate items to the live auction. SSAR accepts a wide range of herp-related donations, including books, t-shirts, memorabilia, art, and field equipment such as hooks and tongs. Anyone with questions about whether something is suitable for donation, planning to deduct the donation on their taxes, or interested in donating a high value item should check with SSAR first, however. It is the responsibility of the chair of the Live Auction Committee to keep track of these many items. They must also find someone who lives near the meeting venue to store and transport donations that year. Additional responsibilities include securing an auctioneer to run the auction and recruiting volunteers. Volunteer recruitment occurs mostly at the meeting, and the volunteers are responsible for keeping track of the items to be auctioned.
The majority of this committee’s work takes place at JMIH. The chair meets with hotel management prior to the auction to inspect the room for appropriate layout (i.e. table and podium location). They also coordinate with hotel management regarding food and beverages during the auction and make sure the microphone and sound system are working correctly. Once the room is ready, the chair then organizes donations to auction off in ways that are most likely to entice bidders, for example by combining shirts with books. The chair also considers the order in which items will be auctioned off. During the auction, volunteers help ensure it runs smoothly. Their duties include advertising and delivering items to winning bidders (similar to being Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune!) and making sure the crowd doesn’t get too rowdy. The committee’s biggest accomplishment on a year-to-year basis is successfully organizing and running the auction to raise funds for student travel awards.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and leaders
The Live Auction Committee works closely with the chair of the Student Travel Award Committee, who runs the Silent Auction, as proceeds from both auctions support the student travel grants offered by SSAR and HL. The Live Auction Committee also works closely with the treasurer, who handles the all financial dealings of SSAR.
Path to joining the Live Auction Committee
Dr. Kahl volunteered at the live auction while attending her first JMIH, an experience she enjoyed so much she continued to do it while pursuing both her master’s and PhD. Around 2013 she officially took over as chair of the Live Auction Committee and has been in that role ever since. Dr. Kahl advises people interested in this committee to contact her, as she is always looking for volunteers. Chairing this committee requires a high degree of organization, and it also requires experience in seeing how the auction is planned and organized. Students who volunteer at the live auction learn how the committee operates, gaining experience that can allow them to eventually chair the Live Auction Committee. Prior to taking over as Live Auction Committee chair, Dr. Kahl served on the Presidential Nominations Committee.
Future of the committee
Overall, Dr. Kahl doesn’t see any major changes in the committee occurring in the near future. The main goal will always be to organize and run the auction as successfully as possible to ensure the availability of student travel awards. These awards are typically divided between SSAR and HL, so a successful auction benefits students from both organizations. The live auction is typically held on Sunday night of JMIH. However, the SSAR and HL leadership may look into changing it to Saturday night to accommodate people who have to travel home on Sunday evening.
If you would like to volunteer for the live auction, please contact Samantha Kahl (firstname.lastname@example.org). Anyone interested in donating items for the live auction can find more information near the bottom of the General Information page of the JMIH website.