For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member Tiffany Bougie interviewed Greg Watkins-Colwell, current chair of the Membership Committee, to better understand the committee’s activities.
The Membership Committee recruits new members and keeps track of the membership as a whole.
Activities throughout the year
The Membership Committee holds monthly online discussions about increasing membership numbers and diversity. These discussions are generally focused on tapping into new audiences, brainstorming different ways to reach such audiences, and working alongside the SSAR board to identify possible SSAR member-only activities, such as an SSAR member’s only reception at JMIH or other annual conferences in which the society participates.
The committee works to continually determine who makes up the SSAR membership (e.g. students, professional herpetologists, general public) in order to guide decisions on how to increase member numbers and who to target for new membership. Additionally, committee members investigate SSAR member renewals and attempt to understand why certain groups of members aren’t renewing so that they can identify strategies to prevent membership drop-off.
Recruiting efforts include working with the graphics department at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to design flyers for distribution at herp-related conferences. The SSAR Membership Committee has also set up a table at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Chicago where folks hand out flyers and SSAR publications, run book raffles, and work to increase exposure of herpetology as a scientific field, especially to kids who may not otherwise know the field exists.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and committees of other organizations
The Membership Committee has previously helped the Student Participation Committee design a survey to gather information about SSAR student members. Additionally, some members of the SSAR Membership Committee also serve on the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee for the Herpetologists’ League, as the two committees share a common goal of welcoming all herpetologists into our professional societies, regardless of identity.
Path to joining the Membership Committee
Watkins-Colwell became a member of SSAR in middle school, but lost track of the society during high school as he focused more on local herpetology groups. He rejoined as a member of SSAR during grad school in 1991 and served on the Membership Committee multiple times before becoming chair approximately 3 years ago. He joined the Membership Committee to learn more about the SSAR members as a whole and to get an idea of what the SSAR needs to do to meet the needs of those members.
Prior to chairing the Membership Committee, Watkins-Colwell helped run the SSAR Live Auction for almost 20 years, which he says taught him to work well with other people. Additionally, his career managing museum collections has honed his planning skills. Both of these attributes promote success as the chair of the Membership Committee. He emphasized that it really makes a difference when you can plot your next steps to get you where you want to be, and to have a diverse group of people helping reach that goal.
Future of the committee
The Membership Committee will continue to identify neglected audiences and determine how to best reach them. Watkins-Colwell suggests that many groups (e.g. pet traders, bird watchers, zoo patrons) aren’t currently targeted for membership, but could be interested in joining if they become aware of SSAR’s existence and the benefits membership offers.
Additionally, the future of the committee will likely involve more long-term joint activities with the Herpetologists’ League as well as a greater presence at the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH). Although JMIH already provides a great opportunity for people to meet face-to-face, increased Membership Committee presence could further promote interactions among SSAR members. Watkins-Colwell envisions a collaboration of the Membership Committee with the SSAR Mentorship Committee to help herpetologists earlier in their career better understand what SSAR is and how to be involved within the herpetological community.
How to get involved
The Membership Committee always welcomes folks with ideas and willingness to follow through. A diverse team can approach problems and initiatives from varying perspectives, which provides a large benefit to the Membership Committee and, by extension, to SSAR members as a whole. Therefore, we strive to include people from a variety of backgrounds and career stages (including students).
If you’re interested in joining the committee, send Greg Watkins-Colwell an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information about Watkins-Colwell’s career path check out the #ThisIsSSAR series where he published a piece about his interest in herps and how he got where he is today.