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SVS Impact Highlights: Changing the Dynamic at the American Fisheries Society



This past weekend, SVS’s own Jessica Batson was involved with hosting the annual conference for the Ontario Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. As co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, Jess implemented changes to the conference to incorporate more diverse perspectives. Here is her reflection.


In 2022 I attended a conference with the Ontario Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and noticed the conference’s lack of diversity in the audience and presenters. I also noted that the fisheries project highlights did not include Indigenous communities or representation in any capacity. Since then, I have taken on a role as co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee (a branch of the Executive Committee of the chapter). My intention with the role is to work with like-minded colleagues to improve the chapter, the conference, and our impact in the Fisheries world by improving the space and providing support to diverse fisheries professionals.


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Diversity in fisheries science is critical to successful research and decision making to protect fish. We are striving to be a chapter that fosters diverse perspectives, strong relationships, and supports current and future generations of fisheries professionals across the province.


Removing Barriers to Attendance


As a committee we reached out and invited as many folks as we could to attend the conference to enrich the space with diverse experiences and perspectives in fisheries so AFS OC can better support the wider network of fisheries professionals that exist outside of academia, government, and industry.


The largest barrier many of our diverse members and peers face is currently financial. SVS as well as some other conference sponsors, are participating in our chapter’s growth by sponsoring participants to attend D&I sessions.


Sharing Circle Sessions


Amercian Fisheries Conference-3To help improve the annual conference this year, our committee hosted a non-Western centered session each day called the Sharing Circle Sessions. Intended to present fisheries science in a different way, they were rich with personal stories of fisheries experiences, research, and work in projects with diverse groups of researchers, scientists and community members. Stories highlighted work that was a success, was challenging, and/or had lessons our professional community can apply to our own fisheries careers, passions, and interactions with others.


Day 2 of the Sharing Circle Sessions hosted breakout groups to discuss how the Ontario Chapter can better support diversity and inclusion in the fisheries space to set our calls to action going forward.


Mind-Mapping Major Questions


We rotated to mind-maps around the room to discuss the following questions:


  1. Who is missing from our chapter and conference room? How can we /should we get in touch with them to invite them to come, speak/present, and join the chapter in general?
  2. What are some barriers our current and future members face in becoming an American Fisheries Society Ontario Chapter Member, and attending our conference?
  3. What resources can we as the D&I committee try to gather from sponsors, industry, the AFS parent society, and other members to help interested parties over come those barriers?

Changing the Dynamic


The changes we implemented were very impactful in creating a trustworthy network among the fisheriesImage (2) students and professionals that attended, and we received a lot of feedback that it immediately changed the dynamic of the conference. We also heard that members who have been attending for over 40 years were proud to see the evolution of the conference by including the sharing circle. It was a really powerful "ice breaker" to bridge the social in-person-networking gap between students and fisheries professionals already established in their careers. The breakout discussions gave us a lot of valuable data to start setting our D&I committee priority list for the short term and long term. We also had a number of folks who are involved in other societies and chapters as well that want to collaborate on establishing their own D&I committees, then design and facilitate bigger scale initiatives across Canada.


I was thrilled to see the impact these sessions made and can’t wait to see how our future initiatives continue to create more space for positive change!



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This post is part of our 2023 Impact Highlight blog series


SVS has a long track record of volunteering for initiatives both close to home and in the communities we work with, and a yearly company-wide target of 400 hours of volunteer time.  The policy exists to enable and encourage SVS employees to contribute and support initiatives that have direct social and environmental impacts in both our local and client communities. 


We hope you will find inspiration in these stories!


Today's story was contributed by Jessica Batson.

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Jessica Batson, B.Sc.

Intermediate Biologist – Fish and Aquatic Ecosystems

Jessica’s passion for people and the environment led her to study in a relatively new sector that combines Traditional Ecological Knowledge with contemporary environmental issues surrounding aquatic systems. She pursued this path through a joint program between Fleming College and Trent University.  Jessica graduated with an Ontario College Diploma and Honours Bachelor of Science Degree in Ecological Restoration.


Jessica’s diverse background in ecological restoration and aquatic ecosystems informed her work as a private consultant focused on the mining and pulp and paper sectors. In that role, she conducted downstream environmental effects monitoring, water quality and quantity monitoring, and aquatic habitat assessments. At SVS, Jessica will continue her work in the preservation of aquatic systems using a Two-Eyed approach and through continuous learning with her clients and team.


Jessica’s experience includes technical report writing, fish sampling and processing methodologies, benthic invertebrate sampling methodologies, and project coordination.


Over the past 10 years, Jessica has spent time as a wilderness canoe trip guide, backcountry park facility operator, tree planter, aquatic research assistant, outdoor-ed teaching assistant, and field biologist. When she is not working, you will find her outside—camping, canoeing, fishing, foraging, hiking, or reading in her hammock.


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