ESA’s Fourth Decade: The Post-War Years

By Kiyoko Miyanishi
Reprinted from the ESA Bulletin, Vol 95(4), October 2014, pp 303-317.

ESA’s fourth decade (1946–1955) coincided with the start of the Cold War, and the Society was not immune to its impact. The September 1951 Bulletin reported that ESA had received a request (from whom wasn’t stated) for “a definition of its field of activity suitable for establishing its military essentiality and its place in the civilian economy.” In response, a Committee on the National Scientific Roster and Related Problems was duly appointed “to take care of demands resulting from the present national emergency.” The Committee in turn asked ESA members for information on “services which ecologists can render the military establishment or civilian economy under peacetime mobilization or actual warfare.” Subsequently, in the March 1952 issue, the Committee presented its report: “A Statement of the Scope and Activities of the Profession and the Role of Ecologists in the Military Program.” The report included sections on: professional qualifications of ecologists; criteria for competence of personnel; services which ecologists can render the military establishment (such as development and application of camouflage methods, planning and supervision of crop and livestock production, land improvement and rehabilitation programs in occupied areas under military government); services which ecologists can render civilian economy under peacetime mobilization or actual warfare; and classification of activities of ecologists into categories of essentiality. Another indication of the Cold War’s impact was the formation in 1954 of a Committee on the Effect of Radioactivity on Natural Populations.

The fourth decade was also a period of significant organizational changes within the Society. The first of these resulted from the previously reported contentious vote at the end of 1945 on a by-law to restrict the Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions from carrying out any conservation advocacy. The by-law change did not preclude providing information and advice on ecological implications of any preservation-related proposals, but did prohibit any “direct action designed to influence legislation” on the Society’s behalf. As a result, the Preservation Committee upon their own request was discontinued. ESA members who were in favor of taking “direct action” then formed a separate organization, the Ecologists’ Union, which held its first business meeting in conjunction with ESA’s 1946 annual meeting. The Ecologists’ Union changed its name in 1950 to The Nature Conservancy and continued to meet annually with ESA. At the end of the decade in 1955, when ESA’s constitution was revised, the by-law on limitation made it clear to members that: “Lobbying or activities specifically designed to influence legislation are not among the objectives of the Society and no official group within the Society shall engage in such activity.” Although not discussed in the Bulletin, it might be interesting to know the extent to which ESA’s limitation on lobbying and advocacy was driven by rules or regulations governing the acceptable activities of non-profit organizations who can issue tax-deductible receipts for donations, or by the Society’s desire to maintain its scientific credibility.

A second change for ESA was in the timing and affiliation of its annual meeting, a result of a vote in 1948 in favor of full membership in the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), an organization that was intended to represent the biological sciences in national and international matters and that had replaced its predecessors, the American Biological Society and the Union of American Biological Societies. Having previously held all but one of its annual meetings with AAAS in late December, ESA decided in 1949 henceforth to meet with AIBS in early September. Unlike the AAAS meetings that were held in hotels in large cities, AIBS had made the decision to hold their meetings on university campuses, the rationale being the increasingly prohibitive costs of projection equipment rentals and professional projectionists. In fact, for ESA’s final meeting with AAAS in New York in 1949, AAAS had announced that it was no longer paying these costs and was passing them on to participating societies. In response, ESA asked its members to severely limit their use of projectors in presentations and instead to prepare mimeograph copies (a pre-Xerox duplicating method which our senior members might recall using) of their tables and figures as handouts. Aside from financial considerations, it was pointed out in the Bulletin that the handouts were “more effective than figures thrown on a screen where they are often legible only to those seated in the first few rows.” Previously, in the March 1948 Bulletin, the ESA Secretary had commented on “the considerable unfavorable comments on the use of lantern slides” in oral presentations at meetings. (Keep in mind that, at that time, tables would have been prepared either by hand or by typewriter in 12-point font.)

The third significant change resulted from a concern raised by ESA’s Committee on Coordination in 1954 about the increasingly divergent interests among ESA members and potential splintering within the discipline of ecology that could lead to loss of members to more specialized societies. The Committee proposed that ESA take steps “to promote establishment and growth of special interest sections within the framework of the Society to combat any tendencies toward separation.” In its report, the Committee presented a case study of the structural organization of the Entomological Society of America with its Governing Board composed of a President, President-Elect, Past-President, Secretary, and representatives elected by and from each branch and section. Branches represented geographic regions while sections represented disciplinary subdivisions. Sections functioned in arranging meeting programs and in facilitating the work of the Society. The Committee report concluded that: “growth of a scientific society inevitably makes for patterns of division in terms of geography and areas of special interest. Organizational unity is achieved by a common annual meeting, a broadly representative council, by a balanced editorial board and set of officers, and by a common treasury. Recognition of new and specialized fields of interest culminate in formal constitutional recognition of sections, and in detailed provision for their representation on governing boards, editorial committees and in the responsibility to arrange for specialized paper sessions.” The response of ESA to the Committee’s report was a major revision of ESA’s constitution in 1955 that, among other changes, allowed for any group of ten or more members to petition for the establishment of a special section. While at that time, the only geographically based group recognized in the constitution was the Western Section, we know that ESA eventually also adopted the idea of the Entomological Society’s “branches,” recognizing them in the constitution as the current ESA Chapters.

ESA membership dues during this decade went up to $7.50. Membership numbers from 1942 to 1947 had stagnated at ~700 despite regular calls in the Bulletin for the recruitment of new members: “The Society wants and needs more members. Let every member get a new member.” In 1948 a Membership Committee was appointed to address this concern. Likely due to the efforts of the committee, in 1952 ESA’s membership for the first time exceeded 1000. By the end of the fourth decade, membership had reached 1248 with 32 life members. However, female representation remained stuck at ~7%. Each issue of the Bulletin continued to list the names of new members, resignations, and deceased. New members joining during this decade included: Nelson G. Hairston (1947), Jean Langenheim (1948), Robert H. Whittaker, F. Herbert Bormann, and Robert McIntosh (1949), Arthur D. Hasler (1950), A. W. Kuchler, Robert H. MacArthur, and William H. Drury (1952), Lawrence B. Slobodkin and George M. Woodwell (1953), David Pimentel and Jonathan D. Sauer (1954), Frank B. Golley, Jr. and Miron L. Heinselman (1955).

Although brief obituaries had at times appeared in the Bulletin, the first Resolutions of Respect prepared by the Committee on Resolutions appeared in the March 1951 Bulletin for Ada Hayden and Forrest Shreve, followed by one for E. A. Birge in June. In total, nine Resolutions of Respect were published in 1951, including ones for members who were amateur collectors, conservationists, teachers, natural historians, etc., not necessarily notable people who had made significant or lasting contributions to ecology. The Committee on Resolutions continued for several years preparing Resolutions of Respect for various deceased members but began to realize they had a problem in lacking any guidelines on who should be accorded a Resolution of Respect. By 1955, in frustration, the Committee reported that they were being sent names of deceased members who had not done any work in ecology and about whom they could find nothing to write and therefore requested from the Society clarification on the intent of these resolutions to enable them to set some guidelines.

ESA’s leadership was somewhat re-organized and expanded during this decade. Prior to 1945, there had been no continuity in the positions of President and Vice-President. Starting in 1945, the Vice-President automatically became President. Also, in accordance with the 1946 revision of the constitution, four council members at large were appointed and this expanded leadership of Executive Committee and Council met for the first time in 1947. Regarding elections, the normal procedure during this period was for the Nominating Committee to put forward a slate of candidates for all executive and council positions unopposed. The slate also included nominations of editors and editorial boards. Then, at the annual ESA business meeting, probably after a call for nominations from the floor had elicited no response, the Secretary would move that the slate be accepted as a unanimous ballot and the motion would pass. ESA’s first award, the George Mercer Award, was announced in the March 1948 Bulletin and presented in 1949 to Henry P. Hansen. Subsequent winners during this decade included Frank Pitelka (1953) and F. Herbert Bormann (1954). Initially, the Mercer Award was presented to the recipient by the president of his institution rather than at the annual meeting. This decade saw ESA elect its first female president, E. Lucy Braun, in 1950 as well as recognize its first Eminent Ecologist, Henry S. Conard, in 1954. The second Eminent Ecologist was A. H. Wright in 1955.

ESA’s 35th annual meeting was its first with AIBS at Ohio State University in September 1950 (ESA continued to meet with AIBS off and on until 1998.) AIBS charged a registration fee of $3 and “wives of members” were given complimentary badges admitting them to all activities. (No similar consideration was offered to the husbands of members.) The registration fee covered publication and mailing of the general program, refreshments and facilities for the Biologists’ Smoker, projection equipment and operators, as well as “tea and entertainment for the ladies and other guests.” The local committee that year also had a “ladies’ committee to plan such a program as might interest the wives and daughters of members” including “an afternoon tea and a trip to nearby localities of historic interest.” Attendance was ~200. Despite the move of ESA’s annual meetings to AIBS, members continued to organize sessions and present their research at the December AAAS meetings, and the Bulletin continued to publish the relevant portions of the AAAS meeting programs. Also, although regular June meetings of ESA’s Western Section had been discontinued during the war years (1943–1945); they resumed in 1946 and continued through this decade. An interesting comment in the Bulletin indicating the usual dress code at meetings was the exception made for the 1954 meeting in Gainesville: “Since the weather may be hot, open-collared sport shirts are the accepted garb except for banquets, etc.”

Through the fourth decade, ESA annual meetings continued in much the same format with generally 3–5 symposia and 4–7 contributed sessions. No mention appears in the meeting programs of any poster-type sessions during this period. Contributed oral sessions had 5–14 talks, and presentation times remained variable and at the discretion of the presenter. Although the majority appeared to be 10 or 15 minutes, there were also some that were 5, 7, 8, 12, 20, or 25 minutes. Visual aids were undergoing a transition through this decade, and both the old 3¼ × 4 inch glass lantern slides and the new 2 × 2 inch transparency slides were being used in oral presentations. While concurrent sessions were now a regular meeting feature (to a maximum of 3), contributed session titles remained for the most part very general: Plant Ecology, Animal Ecology, Limnology and Oceanography, Animal Behavior, General Ecology. By the end of the decade, the revised 1955 constitution for the first time recognized a standing Committee on Meetings that was “responsible for arranging programs at the annual meeting.”

The ESA Bulletin was also adopting some new technology. The September 1952 issue was the first to use on its cover a color reproduction made “from 35-mm kodachrome by new, inexpensive method.” It generated sufficient excitement among Bulletin readers that the following December issue included an article “A Simplified System of Color Printing” by H. C. Staehle, one of the developers of this new technology. Ever mindful of publishing costs, however, the editors of Ecology and Ecological Monographs indicated that they were “prepared to consider inclusion of Kodachrome reproductions in papers whenever the authors can furnish the cost of the plates.”

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