Member discussion groups to keep updated on the latest research
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Posted by: Laura Capponi
SER recently sat down with SER member Matt McCaw, Secretary of SER Texas and Senior Biologist for the City of Austin Water Quality Protection Lands program to learn about Austin’s (notorious) Ecological Restoration Discussion (n)ERD group and opportunities to adapt this program to SER membership across the globe.
What is the (n)ERD group? How did it get started?
(n)ERD is a monthly ecological restoration journal review discussion group. It was started in 2014 by Kevin Thuesen with the City of Austin's Water Quality Protection Lands and we hold monthly meetings to discuss usually two journal articles on a variety of restoration-related topics. Some of our recent articles and discussions have focused on "novel" ecosystems, geology, invasives, anthropogenic transformations, and even feral cats.
What are the meetings like -- how many people participate and how are the articles selected?
Most meetings have been held in a comfortable conference room sort of location, but we’ll be taking (n)ERD on the road to local restaurants, coffee shops, and even field sites. Typically there are 8-12 participants from about 20-30 regulars. Ahead of time, one or two members select a recent journal article which Kevin or I then send to the entire group. At the meeting, those who selected the papers lead the group discussion. Leading the discussion doesn’t involve a ton of heavy lifting - generally, the group lead simply offers why the article was selected, or asks a few questions to get the discussion started. The general rules of the discussion are that everyone must read the articles, participate in the discussion, and be polite.
What do you think is most valuable about these discussion groups?
The goals are to keep up on the science and to build relationships with other restoration professionals in the area. Being part of the discussion makes me think harder about the topics as they apply to my work on the job. The design of the group is much like a book club (see the article on how book clubs develop leadership skills). It’s a great way to hear about new perspectives and spark new ideas from other SER members.
Want to start your own (n)ERD group?
SER Texas is looking to expand this program to other cities in Texas, and it would be great to see them pop up in other parts of the world. Other SER chapters offer similar programs via pub talks. If you are interested in hosting a “live” group in your area, please contact SER Membership Director Laura Capponi or Matt McCaw for advice and tips on how to get started.
Why Businesspeople Should Join Book Clubs, Harvard Business Review, February 26, 2016