Auriel Fournier, director of the Forbes biological station and waterfowl ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) has been elected first vice president of the Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), an international scientific society comprising professional and amateur ornithologists interested in the research, teaching, and conservation of birds. She will serve as First Vice President for two years before serving as President in 2025
“It’s an amazing opportunity to help lead an organization that I believe in and that has invested so much in me,” said Fournier.
Fournier began her journey with WOS when she attended the Society’s Annual Meeting in 2015 as a Ph.D. student.
“I remember it was a very low-key and welcoming place to be, which was nice because academic conferences tend to be very competitive, but at the WOS Annual Meeting, the leadership was going out of their way to talk to students and interact with as many of us as they could, and I knew that meant a lot to me,” said Fournier.
The following year, Fournier was nominated to serve on the 2017 WOS council. She was elected and served for three years in the role.
“I learned a lot about how the organization worked, and that we are willing to question how we are doing things and are open to change,” said Fournier.
Fournier plans to build on the WOS’s commitment to mentorship for ornithologists through the sponsorship of research, teaching, and conservation.
“WOS is well known for being student-focused, making sure that professional opportunities are aimed at students, like the annual meeting, virtual events, and the opportunity to publish a journal and get small grants.
The WOS produces the quarterly Wilson Journal of Ornithology as the latest iteration of scientific journal publication supported by the Society since 1888.
"A big part of making this organization run is listening to our members and making WOS a welcoming and safe place for students to succeed,” said Fournier, “So our efforts include a mentorship program for members six months ahead of the annual meeting, so we can pull back the curtain on how professional societies work and how they can get involved.”
Other initiatives include caregiver grant programs so that members who take care of others can receive financial support to attend meetings, reducing the price of memberships to make it more affordable for students, and restructuring travel grant support.
“We understand that travel reimbursements may still make attending conferences prohibitive to those who may not have that kind of discretionary income, so we now offer those travel funds upfront, so coming up with the money isn’t a barrier to participation,” said Fournier,
However, Fournier acknowledges that there is more work to be done.
“These are quick and easy things we can do, but it is just a small piece to a bigger picture for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she said, “We have a long way to go for membership to reflect society, but it speaks well of WOS that they’ve been investing in me and others, and that we, in turn, are willing to invest back into the organization.”
Media Contact: Auriel Fournier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prairie Research Institute, Illinois Natural History Survey