The AOS Announces Our New Strategic Plan

We are excited to introduce the new strategic plan for the American Ornithological Society (AOS), a guiding document that will help us meet the needs of our community now and into the future. 

Cover image of the AOS Strategic Plan includes an Acorn Woodpecker on tree trunk with the AOS Mission and Vision text overlayed on bird image

Your feedback has been an essential, directional force for honing our Society’s vision and mission statements and for developing the goals and strategies in our new plan. As you may remember, in early 2022 the AOS leadership worked with external consultants to conduct a survey of our members and others in the ornithological community that focused on our Society’s culture, and results from that survey have guided our priorities relative to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice (DEIBJ). In early 2023, we worked with another team of consultants to conduct a strategic planning survey of our members to understand what you need and deem to be priorities for the AOS. During the past year, several former and current AOS leaders worked together as teams to formulate the new strategic plan based on your guidance.

Under this strategic plan, the AOS will continue to emphasize and improve the core programs that you identified as our highest priorities—our top-ranked scientific journals, our productive annual meetings, and our grants for ornithological research. Our strategic plan also guides us to integrate elements of DEIBJ throughout our goals and across our programs, a critical step in ensuring that we are serving and engaging ornithologists from different backgrounds, geographies, identities, and abilities. Finally, the AOS has experienced many transitions over the last decade, including a merger between two scientific societies, significant growth in our endowment, and the hiring of professional staff to support the organization. Our strategic plan calls on us to ensure that our organizational foundation remains solid, financially secure, and structured efficiently to support our priority work.

The goals in our strategic plan are ambitious, and we’ll focus on a subset of the strategies each year. In 2024, we’ll continue to support rigorous and impactful ornithological science through our research grants, Kessel Fellowships, and Latin American and Caribbean Conservation Research Grants. The AOS will continue to publish articles of the highest quality in our top-ranked journals, Ornithology and Ornithological Applications, allowing us to effectively communicate and provide broad access to ornithological science. Our 2024 annual meeting in Estes Park, Colorado, will feature a strong scientific program, career development opportunities, and events that highlight different perspectives within ornithology. Our travel grant program will help defray the costs for students and early-career professionals from across the globe to participate in the conference, helping us reduce barriers to participation and engagement. 

This year we will continue our efforts to foster an inclusive ornithological community, working with other ornithological societies through an NSF BIO-LEAPS grant to support the creation of affinity groups, identity-based subcommunities created by and for members of historically marginalized groups. We will also be launching a pilot project to change exclusionary English bird names. Internally, we’ll be focusing on excellence in governance and operations—aligning staff support with needs across the organization, documenting our procedures to guide staff and volunteers, and constructing our budget to ensure we are balancing fiscal responsibility and program investment, so we can best serve our members now and into the future.

A strong strategic plan will guide the AOS to focus on programs that are most important to our members and to tailor our work to ensure we are meeting the needs of ornithologists across different career stages, geographies, backgrounds, and identities. Our strategic plan will also help us to work together—to coordinate across committees, programs, and initiatives so that we are moving in the same direction. 

We thank you, our members, for your valuable feedback in our two surveys, and we thank the AOS leaders that we worked closely with to develop our current strategic plan: Chris Balakrishnan, Daniel Cadena, Anna Chalfoun, Jenn Houtz, Scott Lanyon, Dai Shizuka, Allison Shultz, Morgan Tingley, and Mike Webster. We also thank Scott Lanyon and the other leaders who, in 2019, guided the AOS through an earlier long-range planning process that helped set the trajectory for our more recent planning efforts.

The AOS is now more than 140 years old, and our Society has grown and changed in many ways over that period. Our core commitments have not wavered: to support strong ornithological science and to support ornithologists. We are excited to be working together with you to advance our shared vision for the AOS: a broad and engaged ornithological community that advances the understanding and conservation of birds. This new strategic plan should help ensure that the AOS serves all our members in the best possible way, long into the future.

Colleen Handel
AOS President
Sara Morris
AOS President-Elect
Judith Scarl
AOS Executive Director

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