Advancing AOS’s Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Justice

In October, we shared with you some of the exciting work AOS is doing to become a more inclusive, welcoming, and representative Society. Today, we are pleased to update you on the progress of those initiatives.

Diversity Strategic Planning

As you read in October, AOS is working with Diversity Crew to identify where and how to make lasting change that will result in a more diverse and inclusive community. Based on a thorough evaluation of AOS’s governing documents, policies, procedures, member surveys, and communications, Diversity Crew developed a draft Diversity Audit for AOS. This audit includes guidance on:

  • elements to include in the next major revision of our Bylaws, scheduled for 2022;
  • how to improve and better communicate AOS’s diversity statement;
  • strengthening our Code of Conduct and Ethics; 
  • developing a list of core values to serve as a guideline for AOS’s culture and identity; and
  • improving our communications about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.

We have already begun to incorporate many of Diversity Crew’s insightful suggestions into our ongoing work. We will be submitting a comprehensive revision of the AOS Code of Conduct and Ethics for Council’s final approval this month, and our long-term strategic planning efforts will be kicking into high gear in 2022; one step in this initiative will be to develop AOS’s core values.

In December, Diversity Crew sent a survey to all AOS members and meeting attendees to collect demographic information and identify volunteers for focus groups, which will be organized this month. If you missed the initial survey, don’t worry—we’ll be sending out a second, more in-depth survey in March to follow up on member feedback and concerns. Keep your eye out for this survey, which will come directly from Diversity Crew, and AOS will follow up to publicize that survey widely within our membership.

English Bird Names

Following up on our September report, AOS leaders have worked with representatives from our Diversity and Inclusion Committee to identify a broad list of candidates for a team that will develop a process for changing harmful and exclusionary English Bird Names. We have confirmed two of the three leadership positions on this team and are interviewing candidates for the third and final slot; we will announce all three leaders once we confirm the full slate. In October, AOS Council approved funding for a facilitator to support this team and ensure that all voices are heard, and we will engage this facilitator once our English Bird Names leadership team identifies a general guiding process for the group. Also, in November 2021, AOS and English Bird Name team leads met with leadership from Bird Names for Birds to identify opportunities for collaboration moving forward and to discuss strategies for advancing and communicating our efforts.

Celebrating and Encouraging Work to Increase Inclusion

In October 2021, the AOS Council approved funding for an annual award recognizing an individual whose work has advanced diversity and inclusion within the field of ornithology. AOS’s new Centralized Awards Committee will identify an appropriate Committee to administer this award and further develop criteria for it; AOS will present this award beginning in 2023.

Expanding AOS’s Leadership Pipeline

To continue our efforts to expand AOS’s leadership pipeline and make leadership recruitment more transparent and accessible, AOS President Mike Webster, President-Elect Colleen Handel, Membership Committee Chair Sara Kaiser, Nominations of Fellows and Elective Members Committee Chair Lauryn Benedict, and Early Professionals Committee Chair Nick Mason provided an overview of different leadership opportunities within AOS and shared the stories of their own pathways to leadership within our Society during our 2 December Community Forum. Based on participant polls and insights, it’s clear that there is a lot of interest in volunteering and leadership opportunities with AOS, and we can do an even better job of communicating what opportunities are available. Look for our new Membership Packet in early 2022; this incredible resource, developed by the AOS Membership Committee, will outline several leadership opportunities within AOS.

Diversity, inclusion, equity, justice, and belonging are top priorities for AOS leadership, and we are excited to share these tangible ways in which we are improving the AOS. Thank you for joining us on this path to make our community more welcoming to all ornithologists.

Mike Webster
AOS President

Colleen Handel
AOS President-Elect

Judith Scarl
AOS Executive Director


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