Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies (CASS) 2019: Teamwork on Multiple Fronts

The Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies, or CASS, includes 9 member societies:

  • American Fisheries Society (AFS)
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF)
  • Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society (FMCS)
  • International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR)
  • North American Lake Management Society (NALMS)
  • Phycological Society of America (PSA)
  • Society for Freshwater Science (SFS)
  • Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS)

The societies believe that working together broadens our scope and strengthens our impact, particularly in the areas of promoting the advancement of aquatic sciences and promoting scientifically sound policy. We also learn from one another with respect to common society functions through our sustained group engagement.

This year, proposed changes to WOTUS (defining Waters of the United States) provided only an abbreviated comment period compared to what was given in 2015, and CASS societies signed a letter requesting a 200-day comment period (which did not happen) in addition to submitting a detailed comment letter on the proposed changes which stressed the need for making decisions based on sound science and economic analysis (see opinion piece “The Proposed Change to the Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Flouts Sound Science” by S. Mazeika, P. Sullivan, M.C. Rains, and A.D. Rodewald, in PNAS, 6/11/19 for a review of the topic).

Additional efforts to provide comments and support on the issue by CASS societies have resulted from a legal challenge to a situation in Maui, Hawaii, in which wastewater is contaminating groundwater, which then leaches into the ocean. The argument equates this situation to “a functional equivalent of a direct discharge”, and the case was heard by the Supreme Court on November 6 (an analysis of the argument, “Context Trumps Text as Justices Debate Reach of Clean Water Act” can be found at, 11/7/19). A decision will be made sometime during this session of the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, comment opportunities continue to arise, with the most recent being a proposal by the EPA to change the implementation of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The changes would significantly restrict a state or tribe’s authority in certifying infrastructure projects that would impact its waters and watershed habitats. A nine-page comment letter, signed by CASS society members as well as the Ecological Society of America and the Society for Ecological Restoration, was submitted to the EPA.

Once again CASS societies jointly sponsored a booth at the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference in Hawaii in November. Promotion of diversity in aquatic sciences has become a common theme among CASS societies.

We are continuing to have group discussions on ways to collaborate on climate issues, and AFS is developing a climate statement that will be distributed to the larger aquatic science community for sign-on.

As two CASS societies will be having a joint meeting in 2020—ASLO and SFS, June 7–12 in Madison, Wisconsin—it offers an opportunity to strengthen CASS coordination. Two representatives from AFS have indicated that they will be attending the conference, and so we will be able to have “face time” with one another. Another suggestion that was offered was for CASS societies to offer a complimentary conference registration to any other member society president.

NALMS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to join with the other 8 CASS societies to help plan the second Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting (JASM) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 14–21, 2022. This may well represent the pinnacle of aquatic coordination (!) and will provide a unique learning and networking opportunity for attendees (by comparison, the first JASM conference, held in Portland, Oregon in 2014 included a mere 4 societies). Representatives from NALMS are serving on the planning committee for this meeting, which will be in addition to the NALMS annual symposium in the fall of 2022.