Australian Rangeland Society

The 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Rangeland Society was held on 22 May 2017.  Highlights of the major reports presented at the meeting, the President’s (Directors’) Report and the Financial Report, are given below:

President’s Report – David Phelps

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

  • David George Phelps (Senior Scientist, DAF, Qld, Age 49) – 1/1/16 to 31/12/16;
  • Carolyn Ireland (Principal, Ireland Resource Management, Age 69) – 1/1/16 to 31/12/16; and
  • Donald Grosvenor Burnside (Director, DG Burnside & Associates, Age 66) – 1/1/16 to 31/12/16.

The Society’s operations for the year resulted in a loss of $39,499.

The Society publishes and circulates three issues of the Range Management Newsletter 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, provides social media platforms, 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.  The on-line services were upgraded to improve networking between members and non-members and to enhance the delivery of these activities in 2016.

Review of operations

The Society’s governing Council met 5 times by teleconference, and held an Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 25 May 2016 (a total of 6 meetings).

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 25 May 2016, the Office-Bearers and general Council members were ratified to continue.

  • President – David Phelps – continuing Member – re-appointed as Director and President
  • Secretary – Carolyn Ireland – continuing Member – re-appointed as Director and Secretary
  • Finance and Audit Officer – Donald Burnside – continuing Member – re-appointed as Director and Finance and Audit Officer
  • General Council Members 

Andrew Ash – continuing as a General Council Member

Dionne Walsh – continuing as a General Council Member

Cathy Waters – continuing as a General Council Member

Angus Whyte – continuing as a General Council Member

Megan Munchenberg – continuing as a General Council Member

 

The following were members of the ARS Council, and attended meetings during 2016.

 

Name

Meetings attended (including AGM)

Meetings eligible to attend (including AGM)

David Phelps

6

6

Carolyn Ireland

5

6

Don Burnside

6

6

Andrew Ash

4

6

Dionne Walsh

5

6

Cathy Waters

5

6

Angus Whyte

6

6

Megan Munchenberg

4

6

 

Major Council activities during 2016 are presented below.

  • Strategic Planning is an on-going agenda item, following the completion of a SWOT analysis and review of previous strategic and business plans in 2015.  Council continues to explore ways to improve services to members, to grow membership and to broaden the membership base, especially to attract a larger number of pastoralists.
  • 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 and the Publications Committee changed web-site providers to Fat Beehive following a comprehensive tender process, including the integration of the Conference website into a single location.  Previously the Conference website had been separate, fracturing traffic and incurring additional costs.
  • Graeme Tupper, Subscription Officer for many years handed over responsibility for membership services to Annabel Walsh in early 2016.  Graeme was thanked for his many years of fine service to the Society.  In 2016, membership entries and renewals were shifted to a paper-less system operating through the new website.  There were unexpected teething problems involved in making the change, with Council members and the Subscription Officer required to undertake considerable trouble shooting in conjunction with Fat Beehive.  However, by year’s end the system was operating smoothly in taking the 2017 renewals.
  • In 2016, Council decided to offer three-year memberships at a slight discount in addition to standard annual renewals.  This is proving to be attractive with about 14 per cent of renewing members taking up this option, which will help secure the Society’s membership for the future.  Membership categories were refined and a modest increase was applied to off-set declining membership numbers.
  • With Council’s approval, the Publications Committee committed funds to the development of the Society’s social media.  External assistance was sought to establish a Society Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram facilities.  Amber Marshall was engaged on an honorarium as the Society’s Social Media Editor to manage social media traffic and attract a new generation of rangeland users.  Over the course of the year, social media activity increased significantly, involving Society members and others.
  • In keeping with a stronger, integrated, on-line presence, the Range Management Newsletter was transitioned to an on-line only publication.  This allows greater circulation, allows for greater flexibility in the number of pages within the publication, and is fiscally responsible within the challenge of a reducing membership by reducing the cost of production and distribution.
  • Planning for the 19th Biennial Conference continued.  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 (see further details below).
  • Three applications were received for 2016 ARS Travel Grants.  The successful applicant was Dr Peter O’Reagain, who attended the Society for Range Management’s Annual Meeting in St George, Utah in February 2017.
  • The Society was well represented at the Xth International Rangeland Congress (IRC), held in July 2016 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The President promoted the Society and The Rangeland Journal at a Plenary Session co-sponsored with CSIRO Publishing, and a stand shared with the Australian NRM Rangeland Alliance was manned throughout the Congress to promote the Society, The Rangeland Journal and the 19th Biennial Conference to be held in September 2017.  There was strong interest in complimentary copies of The Rangeland Journal provided by CSIRO Publishing.  A laptop to facilitate new memberships was placed at the stand, but despite interest no new memberships were taken.  As part of the promotion of the Society, eight students presenting posters at the Xth IRC were awarded complimentary memberships of the Society for 2016-2017.
  • Nominations were called for representation on the International Rangeland Congress Continuing Committee during the Xth International Rangeland Congress, with Drs Dana Kelly and David Phelps elected by congress attendees to represent Australasia. Dr Kelly was subsequently elected by the committee as Chair of the International Rangeland Congress Continuing Committee.
  • The Australian Rangeland Society is working with groups from 50 countries to encourage the United Nations to create an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.  The ARS effort is being led by Dr Dana Kelly.  State and Commonwealth Ministers for Agriculture and the Environment are being asked to support the initiative and encourage Australian Government support through the United Nations.  As at December 2016, favourable responses have been received from Ministers in Queensland and South Australia.
  • The sponsoring organisation, host nation and venue for the 2024 International Rangeland Congress will be decided at the Nairobi Congress in 2020, and the Australian Rangeland Society is keen to put in a bid for it to be held in Australia.  Past International Rangeland Congresses in Australia were held in Adelaide (1984) and Townsville (1999), both of which were successful events attracting over 500 delegates.  The host nation nomination and selection process is managed by the IRC Continuing Committee which has representatives from all rangeland regions of the world.
  • At Council Meeting 254 in December 2016, Council resolved that Dr Margaret Friedel be appointed as a Fellow of the ARS on the basis of her long and distinguished service to the rangeland science profession and to the Australian Rangeland Society.  Public announcements will be made by publishing the Citation for her fellowship on the website and in social media in early 2017.  She will be presented formally with her award at the 19thBiennial Conference at Port Augusta in September 2017.
  • Council charged the Publications Committee to call for Expressions of Interest in publishing The Rangeland Journal for the period 2018-2022.  There was interest from six international publishing houses and a detailed Information Package was distributed to these companies in November 2016.

 

Membership

Membership numbers have declined over the past five years, as shown in the table below.

Category

December 2012*

December 2013

December 2014

December 2015*

December 2016

ARS members at 31 December

260

246

220

221

182**

Members joined during year

44

26

22

37

38

Members left during year

81

40

48

36

77

Institutional subscribers to TRJ

94

90

91

95

90

  • * conference year
  • ** this number included 33 people eligible for complimentary membership (recipients of honoraria, Associate Editors and Fellows)

Of the 182 members at 31 December 2016, 33 were eligible for complimentary membership, although some of these continue to pay subscriptions.  Complimentary members include the Chair of the Publications Committee, the Editor in Chief and Associate Editors of The Rangeland Journal, editors of the website and social media, Fellows of the ARS, and those students awarded complimentary memberships at recent conferences.

Of the total of 149 fee-paying members, 127 were standard members, 14 were concessional members (older than 65 years and retired from active employment), 4 were company members and 4 were student members.  Of the total membership, 116 members received both hard and electronic copies of The Rangeland Journal, 57 members received electronic-only copies, and 9 members received only the Range Management Newsletter, which is distributed only in electronic format.

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.  There were 90 institutional subscribers to The Rangeland Journal in 2016.

There was a significant reduction in the number of members in 2016, with a net loss of 39 between December 2015 (221) and December 2016 (182).  We believe this primarily was due to the unexpected teething problems involved in changing from paper invoicing and renewal to completely electronic membership renewal through the Society’s website.  The feedback received by the Society’s Membership Officer and Council members was that members found the new system hard to access, and it is likely that some members gave up trying to renew.  Action has been taken to remedy the situation and recover some of these former members through the first quarter of 2017.

Awards

In 2016, three members of the Society, Ms Kate Forrest, Mr John Gavin and Ms Sarah McDonald undertook Travel Grants (awarded in 2015) to attend the Xth International Rangeland Congress, held in July 2016 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The awardees contributed articles about their experiences and impressions to the Range Management Newsletter.

As part of promoting the Society internationally, eight students presenting posters at the Xth IRC were awarded complimentary memberships of the Society for 2016-2017, including access to electronic copies of The Rangeland Journal.  Council is considering extending this style of promotion to further conferences, and within under-graduate programs to promote rangelands and the Society to a larger audience.

Committees

In addition to Council, the Society continues to rely heavily on volunteers who fulfil vital roles.  As of 31 December 2016, these are:

 

Organising Committee – 19th Biennial Conference, Port Augusta 25-28 September 2017

The Organising Committee for the 19th Biennial Conference, Port Augusta 25-28 September 2017 comprised the following people at 31 December 2016.

 

Name Role

Dr Jen Cleary*  ***

Chair, Organising Committee

Jodie Gregg-Smith

Secretary

Peter Marin

Treasurer

John Gavin**

Chair, Tours Sub-Committee

Dr Martin Andrew

Co-Chair. Program Sub-Committee

Paul Erkelenz

Co-Chair. Program Sub-Committee

Kate Forrest

Chair, Sponsorship Sub-Committee

Lisa Pearson

Pure Outback, Professional Conference Organiser

Dr Donald Burnside

Council representative

Anita Crisp

Dr Carol Ireland Council representative
Andrew Johnson***
Brendan Lay
John Maconochie
Stuart Paul
Dr John Taylor Student liaison
Cecilia Woolford

*  resigned in January 2017 due to other commitments

** took over role of Chair, Organising Committee in January 2017

*** No longer on the Committee but will assist if needed

 

 

 

 

The Organising Committee met bi-monthly in 2016.  By December 2016, the venue in Port Augusta was booked, Lisa Pearson (Pure Outback) was engaged as Professional Conference Organiser, a draft program was established with most key note speakers secured, draft tours had been identified, the Australian Rangeland Society website was modified to enable conference requirements and a sponsorship prospectus finalised.

The Call for Abstracts occurred in November 2016, and the conference was promoted widely.  At December 2016, $9,363 in cash sponsorship was secured, with in-kind sponsorship for a Mayoral reception agreed.

In 2017, the Organising Committee will move to monthly meetings.

 

Publications Committee

The Publications Committee comprises the following members as at 31 December 2016.  The committee, which is chaired by Dr Ron Hacker, meets between Council meetings, and provides a report to the subsequent Council meeting with recommendations for Council’s consideration.

 

Name Role
Adj. Prof. Ron Hacker Chair
Dr Andrew Ash
Dr Donald Burnside
Dr Jocelyn Davies
Dr Noelene Duckett Editor, Range Management Newsletter
Prof. David Eldridge
Dr Ken Hodgkinson
Dr Paul Novelly Editor-in-Chief, The Rangeland Journal
Ms Camilla Osborn Website Editor
Dr Amber Marshall Social Media Editor
Adj. Assoc. Prof. R.D.B. (Wal) Whalley

Dr Steve Blake, a member of the Publications Committee, passed away on 3 August 2016.  As of 31 December 2016, this vacancy had not been filled.  Dr Ken Hodgkinson indicated his intention not to accept an extension of his appointment beyond its termination date of 31 December 2016.

 

Associate Editors of The Rangeland Journal

There were 15 Associate Editors of the journal at 31 December 2016, as shown below.  Dr A. W. Mugera and Dr M Tighe were appointed during the year.  Council approved the appointment of Dr S.R. McLeod as an Associate Editor during 2016, with effect from 1 January 2017.

 

Name Country
Dr  B. T. Bestelmeyer USA
Prof. A. Cingolani Argentina
Dr  O. P. Dube Botswana
Prof. F. Hou China
Dr  B. Hubert France
Mr N. D. MacLeod Australia
Dr A. W. Mugera Australia
Dr A. J. Pressland Australia
Dr D. Race Australia
Dr D. M. Stafford-Smith Australia
Dr. M. Tighe Australia
Prof. Ling Wang China
Prof. G. M. Wardle Australia
Dr I. W. Watson Australia
Adj. Assoc. Prof. R. D. B. Whalley Australia

 

Advisory Editors of The Rangeland Journal

There were eight Advisory Editors of the journal at 31 December 2016, as shown below.  Replacements for Prof. Z Nan and Dr B. H. Walker, who retired in September 2015, were not made during the year.

 

Name Country
Dr J. R. Brown USA
Dr M.H. Friedel Australia
Prof. I. Gordon Australia
Prof. J. Huang China
Prof. 0. E.. Sala USA
Prof. D. Wang China
Dr A. Waters-Bayer The Netherlands
Dr I. Wright Ethiopia

 

Publications

The Rangeland Journal (TRJ)

Volume 38 of The Rangeland Journal was published in 2016, comprising six issues and 618 journal pages.  This compares with 635 pages in 2015 and 610 in 2014.  Prior to 2014 the journal published only four issues per year and the number of pages ranged from 417-455 (2010-2013).  Only one open access paper was published (two in 2015).

The journal received 131 submissions (127 in 2015) with a rejection rate of 50% (55% in 2015).  Submissions were received from Australia (28), Asia-Pacific (42), Middle East (17), Europe (15), North America (6) South America (11) and the ‘rest of the world’ (12). Compared to 2015 the number of papers from Australia was substantially reduced (52 to 28) and the number from the Asia-Pacific region substantially increased (24 to 42).  This probably reflects the nature of the special issues published in 2016 and planned for 2017.

Two Special Issues were published in the year (issues 2 and 3). These were:

  • Managing the Impacts of Feral Camels across the Rangelands: Results of the Australian Feral Camel Management project;
  • Climate Clever Beef: practical measures to improve business performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in northern Australia.

The journal’s Impact Factor (IF) rose slightly from 1.096 in 2014 to 1.194 in 2015 (figures are released mid-year for the previous calendar year), with the corresponding 5-yearly IFs of 1.261 and 1.281.  The journal was ranked 107 out of 150 journals in the Ecology category in 2015 (comparable to the 2014 ranking of 103 out of 145).  Papers from the two special issues published in 2016 are being widely cited (several papers from the feral camel issue have been awarded Highly Cited Paper trophies from the Web of Science) and this can be expected to boost the IF in 2016 and 2017.

The following table shows the number of copies of the six issues of the Journal printed and distributed in 2016.

 

The Rangeland Journal Volume 38, 2016

Volume/

Issue No

Standard Print run

No. of copies for members

No. of copies for institutional subscriptions

No. of copies for ARS 2

No. of advances 3

No. of copies for store

Total copies distributed

Approx. No. of Spares4

38/1

170

92

15

20

6

30

163

13

38/21

170

101

11

20

6

30

168

8

38/31

170

122

12

20

6

21

181

n/a

38/4

170

122

13

20

6

20

181

n/a

38/5

170

131

14

5

6

20

176

0

38/6

170

131

14

5

6

24

180

n/a

Additional 50 copies ordered separately for special issue sponsors.

2 Number of copies for ARS decreased from 20 to 5 from 38/5 at the request of ARS.

3 Printed in addition to standard print run for Production Editor (1), reception display (1), journal publisher (1), marketing/internal use (3)

4 No. of spares cannot be accurately determined as the printer usually delivers about 5% more than the standard print run at no extra cost.  Figures given are calculated on the basis of 176 (std. print run + advances) copies received.

The journal created its first virtual issue Managing the World’s Rangelands: Future Strategies and Socio-economic Implications in July 2016.  Papers in this compilation, drawn from previous issues of the journal, were made available free to download for six months.  The compilation was widely promoted by CSIRO Publishing, as well as through eight international rangeland societies and the International Rangeland Congress.  Papers in the compilation were downloaded at more than five times the average rate for papers published in 2016.  This contributed to a substantial increase in downloads for the year (34,681 compared to 29,201 in 2015 and 27,262 in 2014).

The experience during the year has highlighted the importance of good quality Special Issues and virtual issues in raising the profile of the journal.  Two special issues are contracted for 2017 and work is in progress to ensure that a further two will be available for 2018.

There were no Rangeland Journal Lectures during the year.

Dr Paul Novelly took over the role of Editor-in-Chief in March 2016 from Adj. Assoc. Prof. Wal Whalley who had acted as Editor-in-Chief from the time of Prof. John Milne’s death in September 2015.  The Society is greatly indebted to both of these individuals for ensuring that the continuity of the journal was maintained in what could otherwise have been a period of hiatus.

The publishing contract with CSIRO Publishing was extended to December 2017 (from its original termination date in December 2016) to allow the new Editor-in-Chief to settle in before contributing to the selection of a publisher for the next contract period.  A call for Expressions of Interest in publishing the journal for the period 2018-2022 was distributed to six international publishing houses in November 2016.  Companies expressing interest were provided with a detailed Information Package, and subsequently a Supplementary Information Package in response to questions from potential tenderers.  An important task for 2017 will be the selection of the successful tenderer from among the three formal tenders received early in 2017.

While the journal has had a successful year it may prove difficult to maintain publication of two special issues each year at a contract price of $10,000 (excl. GST) per issue.  Already a number of potential special issues have not proceeded because the proposers have not been able to raise the fee.

 

The Society Website (https://www.austrangesoc.com.au/)

The Bee Keeper content management system, on which the society’s web site is based, is proving intuitive and simple to use, and the support provided by the designers and hosts, Fat Beehive, has been very helpful when needed.  For the first time the web site will be used as the portal for the society’s Biennial Conference (in September 2017), in keeping with the Council’s intention for the redesigned site.  Previously, conference organisers have established an independent conference site. The conference page is managed by the conference organisers, with some assistance from the Website Editor and Fat Beehive as required.  By the end of 2016 only basic conference information and a link to the abstract submission portal had been posted.  More detailed program information will be posted in early 2017 and registration facilities will be established.

The News area on the home page was updated as stories became available and several advertisements have also been posted.  Abstracts of papers from the latest issue of The Rangeland Journal are posted as soon as they are available and are accessible by a link on the home page.  All minutes for both the Council and the Publications Committee are available in the Members Area of the site.

The Resources page was updated in on ongoing effort to make this a ‘one stop shop’ for rangeland-related websites and information.  The aim is for each link to have a short paragraph underneath summarising the organisation’s purpose, to assist web site discovery and navigation.  There are still many web sites that could be added or better described and the Website Editor would welcome any additional information from members.  This project will continue in 2017.

From January 2016, the most visited pages were the 2017 conference page (1,273 visits), conference papers (676 visits), renew membership (675 visits), the log in page (601 visits) and membership costs (559 visits).  The average amount of time spent on a page within the website was 1 minute and 24 seconds.  These statistics do not differentiate between multiple visits by the same person.

Apart from ongoing improvements to the Resources page the major project for 2017 will be the completion of the Biennial Conference Proceedings archive.

 

The Range Management Newsletter

In 2016, the Range Management Newsletter (RMN) became an on-line only (no print copies) publication for the first time.  Three issues of the newsletter were produced and these were made available to readers in March, early September and November.  The mid-year issue (Issue 16/2) was intentionally delayed to allow two articles from the Xth International Rangeland Congress, held in Canada in July 2016, to be included.  A third IRC report was included in the November issue.

Each newsletter contained at least 12 articles from a variety of sources.  While there were less research-type reports contributed than in previous years, it was pleasing to see a number of conference reports submitted and also a good flow of information from the ARS Council, the Publications Committee and the ARS Biennial Conference Organising Committee.

A major goal for early 2017 is to have the complete RMN archive uploaded to the website. The Editor will continue to seek a wide variety of articles for the newsletter, particularly encouraging the submission of topical research reports and conference/meeting feedback.

 

Social Media

The ARS social media presence continued to grow steadily over the year.  The growth in the number of followers from January to December 2016 was:

  • Facebook: 512 to 663
  • Twitter: 450 (approx.) to 691;
  • Instagram: 50 (approx.) to 159.

(Approximate figures reflect the limitations of the package or the version being run by the Society).

The material posted continues to draw positive sentiment from audiences across all platforms.  The Social Media Editor made approximately three posts per week on average to Facebook and Instagram that reflected the three ‘pillars’ of the Society’s social media strategy: helpful & educational, fun & inspiring, and ARS-centric.  Twitter has many more posts comprising both original tweets and re-tweets.

Several campaigns were run alongside the regular posts which drew attention to an issue/story over several posts, allowing deeper insight and sustained audience attention.  The most successful of these was a 6-post story ‘Road to Saskatoon’ which followed the ARS President’s journey through Canada to the IRC Congress.

In December 2016, the Social Media Editor sought support to sustain the considerable work load involved in maintaining the ARS social media presence.  The Council contracted Heidi Wright of Wright Social (who managed the launch of the Society’s social media presence) to produce one Facebook/Twitter post each week for the next 12 months.  This arrangement is working well.

It is unclear if, or to what extent, the social media presence has resulted in new memberships.  A dedicated campaign run in conjunction with the 2017 Conference may help boost membership.

 

Financial Report – Don Burnside

The financial affairs of the Society remain on an adequate footing with a loss from ordinary activities of $39,499 (2015: loss of $32,428) and total equity/accumulated surplus of $83,034 at 31 December 2016 (2015: $125,533).

The Society’s total equity is $86,034 which is considered adequate to cover any liabilities.

Unusual (one-off) expenses in 2016 included costs associated with website development ($2,801), the awarding of three Travel Grants ($5,818) in 2015 to allow members to attend the Xth International Rangeland Congress (IRC) in Saskatoon, Canada in 2016 (normally only two grants are awarded), development of the Society’s social media ($4,250), travel costs for the induction of Dr Paul Novelly as the new editor-in-Chief of TRJ ($1,095) and promotion of the Society at the Xth IRC in Canada ($1,000).

The auditor has noted that the company has made losses for the previous 4 years and while there are no immediate going concerns issues as part of the audit the auditor has suggested that remedial steps should be taken to prevent any going concern issues in the future.  Addressing this situation and moving to year-in-year-out financial surpluses includes the following actions.

  • Increases in membership fees in 2017 ranging from 16 per cent for standard full members to 6 per cent for concessional members receiving the Range Management Newsletter only.  The intent of the differential rate of increase recognises the high cost of printing hard copies of The Rangeland Journal (agreed by Council at Meeting 254, 5 October 2016).
  • Initiating a system of three-year memberships at a slightly discounted rate as a means of ‘locking in’ members for coming years (agreed by Council at Meeting 254, 5 October 2016).
  • Awarding only one Travel Grant for 2017 to a value of $1,500 instead of the normal two grants awarded.
  • Investigating cheaper options for tele-conferencing than the current system, which is costing about $4,000 per year.
  • Establishing a higher target for the profit from the 19th Biennial Conference to be held in September 2017.
  • Renegotiating the contract for publishing The Rangeland Journal with a view to making the production of TRJ at least revenue neutral (current net loss is about $13,000 pa).
  • Approaching former members of ARS through social media and direct contact 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.