Australian Rangeland Society

The Australian Rangeland Society held its Annual General Meeting via teleconference on Wednesday 25th May, 2016.

The Financial Report for the year ended 31st December 2015 was tabled at the meeting. This report includes the Directors’ Report as well as the major financial statements for the Society (Statement of Comprehensive Income, Statement of Financial Position, Cash Flow Statement and Notes to the Financial Statements).

Highlights from the Directors’ Report is given below.  For those interested, more detailed financial records for the Society can be viiewed by clicking the following link – 2016 ARS AGM Financial Statements.

 

Highlights from the Directors Report

Your directors present their report on The Australian Rangeland Society – hereafter “the Society” or “ARS” – for the year ended 31st December 2015.

The names of directors in office at any time during year are:

  • J.A. Taylor (Principal, TaylorMob RD&E Services, Age 65) – 1/1/15 to 27/5/15
  • P.F. Marin (Senior Consultant, MLCS Corporate Pty Ltd, Age 42) – 1/1/15 to 27/5/15
  • C. Ireland (Principal, Ireland Resource Management, Age 68) – 1/1/15 to 31/12/15
  • D.G. Phelps (Senior Scientist, DPIF, Qld), Age 48) – 27/5/15 to 31/12/15
  • D.G. Burnside (Director, DG Burnside & Associates, Age 65) – 27/5/15 to 31/12/15

The Society’s operations for the year resulted in a loss of $32,428.

The Society publishes and circulates three issues of the Range Management Newsletter newsletters and six issues of The Rangeland Journal to the members annually, runs a biennial conference, provides grants to assist members with travel and research, maintains a publicly accessible website and social media and promotes the advancement of the science and art of using Australia’s rangeland resources for all purposes commensurate with their continued sustainability and productivity. There were no significant changes in the nature of these activities in the 2015 Year.

Review of operations

The Society’s governing Council met 4 times by teleconference, and once face-to-face during 2015 and held an Annual General Meeting on 27 May 2015 (a total of 6 meetings). A further “out of session” meeting was held as a face-to-face joint meeting of the Council and the Publications Committee in Alice Springs (held during the Alice Springs Biennial Conference).

The agenda for every scheduled meeting included discussion of membership, finance and Publication Committee reports, and matters related to the Biennial Conferences of the Society.

At the AGM, held on 27 May 2015, the following changes to the Office-Bearers and general Council members were accepted.

President                                 John Taylor – retired (completed two four-year terms)
David Phelps – continuing Member – appointed as President

Secretary                                Carolyn Ireland – continuing Member – re-appointed as Secretary

Finance and Audit Officer       Peter Marin – retired (completed two four-year terms)
                                                Donald Burnside – appointed as Finance and Audit Officer

General Council Members       Annabel Walsh – retired (completed two four-year terms)
Graeme Tupper – retired (completed two four-year terms)
Ben Forsyth – retired (completed one four-year term)
                                                Andrew Ash – continuing General Council Member
                                                Dionne Walsh – appointed as a General Council Member
                                                Cathy Waters – appointed as a General Council Member
                                                Angus Whyte – appointed as a General Council Member
                                                Megan Munchenberg – appointed as a General Council Member

 

The following were members of the ARS Council, and attended meetings during 2015.

Name

Meetings attended (including AGM)

Meetings eligible to attend (including AGM) 

John Taylor

3

3

Carol Ireland

6

6

David Phelps

6

6

Andrew Ash

5

6

Peter Marin

3

3

Annabel Walsh

2

3

Graeme Tupper

2

3

Ben Forsyth

3

4

Dionne Walsh

4

4

Cathy Waters

3

4

Angus Whyte

4

4

Megan Munchenberg

3

4

Don Burnside

2

4

 

Major Council activities during 2015 are presented below.

  • An audit of governance training and experience among Council members was completed. The completed audit showed a good range of governance, scientific, practical and organisational skills appropriate for the Society’s needs.
  • Strategic Planning. The SWOT commenced in 2014 was completed and in 2015, work commenced on the development and implementation of strategies to progress opportunities and address the Society’s weaknesses and threats.
  • Advocacy activities in urging the continuation of the Rangelands Australia educational initiative, and training in range management generally, in requesting the Commonwealth Government to continue the Australian Collaborative Rangeland Information System (ACRIS), and in supporting public sector investment in rangeland research and development.
  • Implementing plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Society in 2015. These included a special article in the Range Management Newsletter, specialist labelling on merchandise distributed at the 18th Biennial Conference in Alice Springs, and announcements during the conference and at the associated general meeting.
  • The Society’s website was upgraded in 2015 with a contract let to Fat Beehive Pty Ltd for a redesign of the website, and on-going maintenance. A new system for paying subscriptions via an electronic gateway was introduced. Scanning of past issues of the Range Management Newsletter (RMN) was completed and all past issues will be publicly available when loaded onto the new site. Only access to the most recent issue of the RMN will be restricted to members. Scanning of past proceedings of the Biennial Conferences was completed by staff of the Global Rangelands Repository at the University of Arizona and will be publicly available when loaded onto the new website. (Additional details are provided in the Publications Committee Report).
  • Consideration of recommendations from the Publications Committee for appointments and renewal of appointments of Associate Editors, Advisory Editors and the Editor-in-Chief of The Rangeland Journal. Council accepted the recommendation from the Publications Committee that the Rangeland Journal Lecture delivered at each subsequent Biennial Conference be re-named the John Milne Memorial Rangeland Journal Lecture. (Additional details are provided in the Publications Committee Report).
  • Planning for the 19th Biennial Conference commenced, with a bid for the conference to be held in Port Augusta in September 2017 presented to Council by an Organising Committee chaired by Dr Jen Cleary. The ARS Conference Proposal was accepted with a recommendation passed onto the Organising Committee emphasising the need for the conference to generate a significant financial return. The Council is represented on the Organising Committee by the ARS Secretary, Dr Carol Ireland and the ARS Finance and Audit Officer, Dr Donald Burnside. The 2017 Organising Committee subsequently sent out tenders for the Professional Conference organiser to four possible bidders.
  • Revisions of the guidelines for ARS travel grants and scholarships to clarify the maximum amount to be offered to individuals and the total annual allocation were ratified at the 2015 AGM.
  • Three applicants were received and approved for 2015 ARS Travel Grants. The successful applicants, Kate Forrest, John Gavin and Sarah McDonald are all planning to attend the International Rangeland Congress in Saskatoon, Canada in July 2016.
  • Council let a contract to Heidi Wright for initial management of the Society’s social media accounts. Policy documents drafted by Ms Wright for the operation of these accounts were considered by the Publications Committee. Ms Amber Marshall, appointed as Social Media Editor (SME) assumed full responsibility for all social media accounts from 5 December 2015. The number of Facebook likes has been steadily rising and the Society appears to have built a firm foundation for its social media activity. Council approved a role statement for the SME indicating that the line of responsibility is directly to the PC rather than to the Web Site Editor. (Additional details are provided in the Publications Committee Report).
  • Given that there has been no substantial rise in membership fees for many years, Council resolved to increase membership fees for 2016 by approximately 25 per cent. A new category of “concessional member” was introduced for members over 65 years and not gainfully employed. Council also decided to explore the opportunities for life or multi-year memberships.

 

Committees

In addition to Council, the Society continues to rely heavily on volunteers who fulfil vital roles. As of 31 December 2015 these are:

 

Publications Committee

Dr A. J. Ash
Professor S. Blake
Dr D.G. Burnside
Dr J. Davies
Dr N.J. Duckett Editor, Range Management Newsletter
Professor D.J. Eldridge
Mr R. Grant Editor ARS web site
Dr R.B. Hacker Chair
Dr K.C. Hodgkinson
Ms A.H. Marshall Social Media Editor
A/Assoc. Professor R.D.B. Whalley A/Editor-in-Chief, The Rangeland Journal

 

Sadly Dr J. A. Milne, Editor-in-Chief of The Rangeland Journal, passed away in September 2015. Associate Professor R.D.B. Whalley assumed this role in an acting capacity pending appointment of a new Editor-in-Chief. Ms A.H. Marshall was appointed to the new role of Social Media Editor during the year. Mr R Grant did not accept extension of his appointment beyond 31 December 2015 and was replaced by Ms C Osborn from 1 January 2016. Dr P. E. Novelly was appointed Editor-in-Chief from 1 March 2016.

 

Associate editors of The Rangeland Journal

Dr A. Ash Australia
Professor A. Cingolani Argentina
Dr B.T. Bestelmeyer USA
Dr B. Cooke Australia
Professor O.P. Dube Botswana
Dr F. Hou China
Professor B. Hubert France
Mr N.D. Macleod Australia
Dr A.J. Pressland Australia
Dr D. Race Australia
Dr D.M. Stafford-Smith Australia
Dr L. Wang China
Dr G. M. Wardle Australia
Dr I.W. Watson Australia
A/Assoc, Professor R.D.B. Whalley Australia

 

The terms of Drs Ash and Cooke terminated on 31 December 2015 and they did not accept reappointment. Prof. Cingolani and Drs Hou, Wang and Watson were appointed as Associate Editors during the year.

 

Advisory Editors of The Rangeland Journal

Dr J. R. Brown USA
Dr M.H. Friedel Australia
Professor I. Gordon Australia (formerly Scotland)
Professor J. Huang China
Professor 0. Sala USA
Professor D. Wang China
Dr A. Waters-Bayer The Netherlands
Dr I. Wright Ethiopia

 

Both Dr B. H. Walker and Prof Z. Nan declined to extend their appointments beyond September 2015. Replacements have not been appointed at the time of writing.

 

Publications

The Rangeland Journal (TRJ)

The Journal received 127 manuscripts in 2015, representing a steady level of submission compared to 2014 and 2013 (125 and 127 submissions, respectively), and an upward trend from 2009 (81 submissions). The increase in submissions reflects a healthy interest in the Journal together with the decision to move to publication of six issues per annum from 2014, two of which are Special Issues dedicated to particular themes and which are able to draw on substantial bodies of work. The Special Issues published in 2015 were entitled:

  • Enhancing the Resilience of Coupled Human and Natural Systems of Alpine Rangelands on the QinghaiTibetan Plateau(Guest Editors: Shikui Dong and Ruth Sherman)
  • Innovation in Australian Rangelands. A special issue from the 18th Biennial Conference of the Australian Rangeland Society (Guest Editors: Jocelyn Davies, Digby Race and Boyd Wright)

The Journal published 635 pages in 2015 (610 in 2014), compared to a range of 417-455 from 2010-2013 when only four issues per annum were being published. Only two papers were published as Open Access, which is consistent with previous years apart from one Special Issue in 2014. There was a significant increase in the number of papers submitted from Australia (52 in 2015, 31 in 2014) and the Middle East (17 in 2015, 7 in 2014), and a sharp decrease in papers from the Asia‐Pacific region (24 in 2015, 60 in 2014). Consistent with the increased rate of submission the rejection rate has also increased to 55% (53% 2014; 41-42% for the period 2010-2012).

The Journal has a significant web presence on the CSIRO Publishing site. Archival back content (all Volumes to date) is available to all subscribers and this capacity has been increasingly used by subscribers/ARS members over the last two years. Individual TRJ papers were downloaded 29,204 times (approx. 80 papers per day) in 2015 compared to 27,262 (approx. 75 papers per day) in 2014. As at 31 December 2015, there were 1,716 subscribersto the free Early Alert Service.

The Impact Factor (IF – based on the ratio of citations to papers published in the previous two years) increased only marginally to 1.096 for 2014 compared to 1.064 for 2013. (As the IF for each year is published in June of the following year, data for 2015 are not yet available). This IF places the Journal in rank 103 out of 145  journals listed in the Ecology category, a slight improvement on the ranking for 2013 (109/141).

The following table shows the number of copies of the six issues of the Journal printed and distributed in 2015.

Issue No

Print run

No. of copies for members

No. of copies for institutional subscriptions

No. of advances

No. of copies for store

Total copies

Spares

Issue 37/1

320

196

35

6

30

267

53

Issue 37/2

270

178

36

6

30

250

20

Issue 37/3

270

185

36

6

30

257

13

Issue 37/4

270

196

26

6

30

258

12

Issue 37/5

270

194

26

6

30

256

14

Issue 37/6

280

200

26

6

30

262

18

 

Two Rangeland Journal lectures were delivered during the year:

  • Prof Stuart Bunn – Challenges for sustainable water management in the rangelands.  This lecture was a keynote paper delivered at the Biennial Conference in Alice Springs in April.
  • Dr Phillip Thornton – Rangeland systems in Africa: what might they look like in 2050?   This lecture was delivered at the Queensland Bioscience Precinct at the University of Queensland on 15 September and was well received by an audience of about 40.

At Council’s request the Publications Committee developed a paper on the implications of open access (OA) publication for the future finances of the Journal. The recommendation, adopted by Council, was to monitor the level of OA publication, and adjust institutional subscriptions, membership fees and the OA publishing fee in order to maintain revenue neutrality. As noted above the level of OA publication, with the occasional exception, remains very low.

In September the Journal was deprived of the services of an excellent Editor-in-Chief with the untimely death of Prof. John Milne. Prof Milne was largely responsible for the success which the journal has enjoyed in recent years, and particularly for the successful move to publication of six issues per year. A world-wide search for a replacement was initiated and in the interim the previous Editor-in-Chief A/Assoc. Prof. Wal Whalley agreed to act in this role until a permanent replacement could be found. The Society owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Assoc. Prof. Whalley for the manner in which he readily stepped back into this role, avoiding a potentially disastrous situation. A new Editor-in-Chief, Dr Paul Novelly, was appointed with effect from 1 March 2016.

The future for The Rangeland Journal looks bright. Two Special Issues are under contract for 2016 and prospects are developing for 2017. Indications are thus that the current rate of publication should be sustainable in the short-medium term. An issue that will require attention in the coming year is the termination of the current contract with CSIRO Publishing in December 2016.

 

The Society Website

Development of the new web site, launched in August, has been outlined above. Design of the site was intended to make it more engaging for visitors and to make the content more readily visible. Interest is provided particularly by the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds that appear on the home page and have largely replaced the ‘Latest news’ feature as a means of conveying recent developments. Feedback from members has been limited but positive.

The website continues to be the Society’s flagship communications channel. Activity in the social media space is designed in part to attract members and others to the web site and encourage non-members to join via the ‘Join now’ tab on the home page. It is intended that the ‘Biennial conference’ tab on the home page will serve as the web site for future conference organising committees, avoiding the need to maintain separate web sites. The new social media accounts will also be at the service of future conference organising committees.

Uploading of past issues of the Range Management Newsletter and biennial conference proceedings was not completed by the end of the year and will be finalised in 2016. The decision not to upload this material to the old site meant that uploading could not proceed until after the launch of the new site in August.

The commitment of Website Editor Mr Russell Grant in maintaining the site for over four years, to 31 December 2015, is gratefully acknowledged.

 

The Range Management Newsletter

This year saw two notable events for the Range Management Newsletter.  In July, the first newsletter to be uploaded using the new website framework was completed.  The new system is more user-friendly for uploading and editing articles and includes several new features.  Feedback from readers has been positive with a number of comments indicating that the newsletter now looks more contemporary and professional.

In November, we reached the end of an era with the printing of the last hard-copy issue of the newsletter; all future issues will be published in electronic form only.  Many thanks must go to Graeme Tupper for his diligent work organizing the printing and posting of each issue again this year.   Graeme has been managing this job since 2008 and he should be thanked for all his efforts in doing this very mundane task for such a long time.

Three issues of the newsletter were produced in 2015 as usual.  Whilst the submission rate of both long and short articles was similar to that of previous years, the Editor would be more than happy to receive more contributions.  The flow of information about ARS business from Council and from the Publications Committee has remained excellent, and John Taylor, David Phelps and Ron Hacker should be thanked for their help in this regard.

A major goal for the newsletter for 2016 is to increase the promotion of newsletter articles through the various ARS social media platforms – hopefully this may lead to an increase in both the number and diversity of articles submitted for publication in future issues!

 

Social Media

This year saw the launch of the Society’s active engagement in social media with the establishment of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts linked to the new web site. The Society’s objective for use of social media is to:

Promote the ARS as a primary source of current information relevant to the use and management of Australian rangelands, and as an organisation providing attractive benefits to members.

Because of the novelty of this medium of communication Council elected to employ a professional social media consultant to undertake the initial management of the accounts, define the strategies necessary to achieve the objective, draft a role statement for a volunteer Social Media Editor (SME), and hand over the management of the accounts to the SME as a ‘going concern’.

This contract was let to Wright Social and Ms Heidi Wright assumed the management of the accounts for a period of 16 weeks from 17 August to 4 December. In addition to active management of the accounts Ms Wright produced the documents ‘Social Media Engagement Strategy 2015-17’, ‘Social Media Policy and Guidelines 2015’, and ’Conditions of Use’ which have subsequently been combined into the ‘Social Media Users’ Manual’ which now guides all social media activity and management. This contract was successful in establishing a viable social media presence, with just over 500 Facebook likes (the minimum considered desirable for a viable site) recorded by early December.

The newly appointed SME, Ms Amber Marshall, assumed responsibility for the accounts on 5 December. She has subsequently progressed the Society’s social media presence along the three key pillars of the social media strategy: 1) ARS-centric stories, 2) Helpful and educational resources, and 3) Fun, relevant and inspiring content. As of 12/4/16 the ARS had 585 Facebook likes, 535 Twitter followers, and 91 Instagram followers.

 

18th Biennial Conference – Alice Springs, April 2015

The biennial conference is a significant event in the Society’s calendar and provides the main mechanism for members and guests to interact and exchange ideas about the use and management of Australia’s rangelands.

An active Organising Committee chaired by Dr Pieter Conradie designed and ran the 18th Biennial Conference, held in Alice Springs in April 2015.

The Organising Committee members were:

  • Mr Pieter Conradie (Chairperson), NT Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries
  • Ms Michelle Armistead, CSIRO
  • Mr Gary Bastin, FARS
  • Mr David Campbell
  • Dr Margaret Friedel, Honorary Fellow, CSIRO (Chair, Program Sub-committee)
  • Ms Sally Leigo, NT Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries
  • Dr Bill Low, Low Ecological Services
  • Ms Camilla Osborn, Centralian Land Management Association
  • Dr John Taylor, President, Australian Rangeland Society
  • Mr Chris Watson
  • Mr Ray Bird (Co-ordinator), Meeting Masters
  • Dr Steve Morton, Honorary Fellow, CSIRO
  • Dr Diane Pearson, Territory Natural Resource Management
  • Ms Michelle Rodrigo, NT Department of Land Resource Management
  • Dr Dionne Walsh, NT Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries

Ms Coral Allan, Mr Jimmy Cocking, Ms Ros Consoli, Mr Angus Duguid, Mr Jock Duncan, Mr Ben Forsyth, Ms Heidi Groffen and Ms Ilse Pickerd also contributed to the development of the Conference.

The conference was very successful, attracting a record 339 delegates from all jurisdictions in Australia, and several international locations. In particular, the conference was attended by a large number of people local to the Alice Springs area.

The key note speakers, especially Fred Chaney AO, were exceptional and gave the audience much to consider. It is a great achievement when the opening address can stimulate discussion for the rest of the conference, and beyond.

The theme of “Innovation in the Rangelands” was adopted by the Committee and applied during the conference in the legacy it leaves. The use of technology was outstanding in both concept and application, with the twitter live-feed inviting and stimulating much discussion across the globe in a seamless and integrated fashion. At one stage the ARS conference was the highest trending conference in Australia, which is testimony to the success of this initiative. The posting of key addresses on YouTube was superb, with over 1,270 views of the videos. Up until June 2015, there were 275 views of Fred Chaney’s opening address, further supporting the choice of a prominent and outspoken public figure. These videos have allowed engagement of an audience far beyond the conference attendees, providing a valuable source of information to rangeland stakeholders around the world, provide a legacy product where speakers were not able to provide a written paper, and also promoting the valuable role that the ARS performs.

The spoken and poster sessions were all well run, well attended and presented a stimulating range of topics that represented the diverse range of people working within the rangelands. The Program Sub-committee is congratulated for their hard work and efforts in bringing together these sessions and the publication of a high quality set of proceedings. The Field Tours were also well-run, interesting and enjoyable. Finally, the social events, especially the Final Conference Dinner held in a spectacular Old Quarry location was an exciting and memorable evening.

Total conference income (spread over the 2014 and 2015 years) was $261,030 comprising registrations of $205,390 and sponsorship of $55,640. The total cost (also spread over the 2014 and 2015 years) was $249,571, and there was a modest profit of $11,459. However, the costs of the conference did not include the expense ($9,091) of publishing a special issue of The Rangeland Journal that featured papers delivered at the conference.

As noted in previous years, it is becoming more difficult to achieve the high profits from the Biennial Conferences that were realised in the years before 2010, mainly due to the difficulties in attracting sponsorship, but also because of the fewer number of rangeland scientists and extension officers employed by state and territory agencies, who have in the past been strong supporters of the conferences. This issue is being partly offset by the inclusion in conference programs of a wider range of topics outside of traditional rangeland ecology and grazing management, which is increasing the appeal of the conference to other disciplines and rangeland interests.

As shown elsewhere, an Organising Committee is planning the 19th Biennial Conference to be held in Port Augusta SA in September 2017.

 

Membership

Membership numbers for the years ending 2012 through to 2015 are shown in the table below. Membership has continued to decline over recent years, with members failing to rejoin out-numbering new members in most years. Membership has stabilised in 2015, with the number of new members being just above the number failing to rejoin. This was due to people joining who attended the 18th Biennial Conference in Alice Springs.

Category

December 2012*

December 2013

December 2014

December 2015*

ARS members at 31 December

260

246

220

221**

Members joined during year

44

26

22

37

Members left during year

81

40

48

36

Institutional subscribers to TRJ

94

90

91

95

* conference year  ** this number includes 20 people eligible for complimentary membership (recipients of honoraria and Associate Editors)

Of the 221 members at 31 December 2015, 20 were eligible for complimentary membership, although some of these continue to pay subscriptions. There were 169 standard fee-paying members, 22 members receiving only the RMN and 12 students.

In addition to publishing The Rangeland Journal, CSIRO Publishing manages subscriptions for the Society’s “Library” subscribers as well as some of its “Institutional/Corporate” subscribers. Mailing labels were prepared for 95 CSIRO subscribers for the last hard copy Newsletter of 2015.

 

Financial

The financial affairs of the Society remain on an adequate footing with a loss from ordinary activities of $32,428 (2014: loss of $42,730) and total equity/accumulated surplus of $125,533 at 31 December 2015 (2014: $157,961).

The Society’s total equity is $125,533 which is considered adequate to cover any liabilities.

Unusual (one-off) expenses in 2015 included costs associated with the set-up of a new website and the design and launch of the Society’s Social Media. Not-withstanding these one-off expenses, the loss of $32,428 for the Society in 2015 was less than the loss in 2014 because the 2015 Alice Springs Conference made a modest operating profit, given that most of the Conference income was received in calendar 2015. However, it is concerning that recent Biennial Conferences have not been able to make sufficient profits every second year to cover the normal operating losses from the rest of the ARS activities.

Addressing this situation and moving to year-in-year-out financial surpluses has commenced as follows:

  • A 25 per cent increase in subscriptions in 2016 (agreed by Council in December 2015);
  • Moving from hard copy to electronic distribution of the Range Management Newsletter, with savings in printing and postage;
  • Moving to payment of subscriptions via a website gateway which will reduce bank fees and costs associated with membership management;
  • Establishing a higher target for the profit from the 19th Biennial Conference to be held in September 2017;
  • Preparation for renegotiating the contract for publishing The Rangeland Journal; and
  • Approaching former members of ARS to encourage them to re-join.

The Society maintains appropriate systems and protocols to allow it to complete its commitments to standard reporting of its financial position as required under law.