A statement from the Western Society of Naturalists Secretariat and leadership:

A naturalist is any person who studies patterns in nature. Though this may seem accessible to anyone who enjoys being outside, observing the natural world around them, our academic societies, including the Western Society of Naturalists, have not been equally accessible or welcoming to a great many people who have much to contribute to our understanding of nature. Our failure to cultivate diversity and equity in our society, and in academia, has meant we have missed countless opportunities to learn, to collaborate, to mentor, and to see our world around us. 

WSN has an opportunity to become a more inclusive society, a more diverse society, and a more welcoming society to all naturalists. We are listening to the experiences and ideas shared by our membership, our students, and our community. We are continuing these conversations. We invite you to share your ideas and vision for a more inclusive society with us by reaching out to the Secretariat directly (secretariat@wsn-online.org), to the Student Committee (students@wsn-online.org), to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (deic@wsn-online.org), via Twitter (Secretariat, Student Committee), or at the meeting.

We envision a WSN with a large membership of naturalists with diverse races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, disability status, socioeconomic status, languages, abilities, ages, and political perspectives, united by their passion for understanding and protecting nature. We envision every single member feeling safe in our society, connected to other members and issues in the society, and empowered with agency to influence the directions we take both individually and collectively. 

How do we get to this future WSN? We are proud to share with you, below, some of the steps we have taken i) in recent years, ii) in planning the 2020 meeting, and iii) as part of longer-term efforts to continue to make progress in the future. We invite everyone to join us in this effort, and help to make our society as inclusive as can be.



Mary O’Connor, Secretariat

Chris Harley, Secretariat

Patrick Martone, Secretariat

Francis Juanes, Secretariat

Daneille Zacherl, President

Mike Gil, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Member

Corey Garza Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair


The Secretariat is the group of people that plans the annual meeting each year. The Secretariat is a group of 3-6 people elected by the society to serve a 3 year term. Along with the elected President and Treasurer of the Society, the Secretariat is the governing body.

i) Recent progress in WSN

  • The WSN Constitution was amended in 2017 such that Article 1, the Statement of Purpose, now includes specific language confirming our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • In addition, Article 12 was added to the WSN Constitution to establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC). The DEIC was formed in 2018.
  • Further, Article 17 was ratified in 2017 to mandate the development and maintenance of a Code of Conduct to promote “an environment in which all attendees can participate without harassment, discrimination, or violence of any type.” The code of conduct is now included in the Annual Meeting program every year.
  • At the Tacoma, WA, meeting in 2018 and thereafter, we modified nametags to invite the use of preferred pronouns along with participants name and institutional affiliation.
  • Since 2018, the society includes the chair of the DEIC on Secretariat meetings and communications.
  • In the spring of 2019, we conducted the first annual survey of demographic data from our membership. This began a long-term time series that will allow us to quantify the demographic makeup of our society (including our diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and career stage) and how this shifts over time.
  • At the 2019 meeting in Ensenada, Mexico, we held a DEI brunch for open conversation, discussion and feedback to the secretariat on DEI topics. 
  • The society released a statement on racial inequity in June 2020.
  • In 2019-2020, a DEIC member was present during the student committee selection process meetings and was part of the decision making process. They offered input and provided a DEI perspective.
  • We supported an ASL interpreter at WSN 2019, building on previous support for participation of members using ASL.
  • The student committee revised fundraising activities to be more inclusive of all members


ii) The 2020 virtual meeting. Our decisions about the 2020 meeting were guided by the philosophy that we want every aspect of the WSN meeting experience to be inclusive and equitable.

  • We are offering a Mentoring program.
  • When announcing the opportunity to propose special sessions and symposia, the Secretariat encouraged organizers to follow specific guidelines for assembling a diverse panel of speakers.
  • The DEIC planned and will host a DEI special plenary session.
  • The society integrated members of the DEIC into every WSN committee (student and communications, in addition to the Secretariat).
  • The society is increasing communication between the DEIC and the Secretariat by having meetings between the two full committees.
  • The society is updating the WSN master planning document to include explicit attention to DEI issues and opportunities in the year leading up to the annual November meeting.
  • The Society added fields to the registration page to begin collecting demographic data of meeting registrants in a systematic way.


iii) Moving forward. 

  • The incoming Secretariat has expressed their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in WSN. 
  • The structural changes to committees, planning documents and timelines will carry forward. 
  • We will continue to collect demographic data at each conference registration.  
  • The DEIC will continue to conduct a post-meeting survey to membership to assess our successes and failures to instill a sense of belonging in all of our members, and to hear DEI-related ideas and concerns
  • The DEIC will continue to build the WSN mentorship program.
  • The conversation continues, and we are always looking for additional opportunities to improve our society!


Progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion in science is a process, and it takes all of us. Your ideas and feedback are both welcomed and encouraged. You can reach us via email (Secretariat: secretariat@wsn-online.org, DEIC: deic@wsn-online.org, Student Commitee: students@wsn-online.org) or Twitter (Secretariat, Student Committee).