About the RMA
The Resource Modeling Association (RMA) was founded in the early 1980s by a group of applied mathematicians, applied population biologists, fisheries scientists, and resource economists, primarily from the West coast of North America to organize annual meetings to discuss the application of models to resource management. Since then, the Association has extended its meeting activities to be international in scope. Recent meetings have been held across North America, in Mexico, Europe, South Africa and Australia.
The RMA also has a standing committee on resource policy issues, whose responsibility it is to maintain a membership expertise data base. This data base is available to organizations trying to identify scientists whom they can consult on resource management and policy issues. A newsletter is published periodically with information concerning member activities.
What goes around comes around:
Traditions at RMA meetings
by Gordie Swartzman
former RMA President
Even an organization in its teens has a need for tradition. The advantage of youth in this case is the freedom of expression regarding traditions. If it works, try it again. If it works again, it's a tradition.
Sometimes I wonder if we are unique among organizations in our traditions. Almost all professional organizations have field trips, but somehow our field trips always stand out in my memory as something special. For one thing, they are great equalizers because they are generally dirt cheap. They are almost always outdoors and involve something aerobic, be it hiking, kayaking, canoeing or rafting. There are always organizational glitches (is that a tradition?). Carpools fail for misunderstandings. The weather may be uncooperative. A campground is closed. But the trips focus on our love of the outdoors, and that surmounts all obstacles. RMA meetings have gotten me places I hadn't dreamed I'd visit, like whale watching in Mexico, hiking the Bitterroot range in Montana or bird watching in South Africa. The trips remind me of the strong independent nature of our members and our roots in respecting and admiring nature.
Then there is the zany tradition. In celebration of the general dog work of being president, RMA traditionally bestows on its presidents the honor of presenting "best" awards at our meetings. This "tradition" was begun by
John Beddington at an RMA meeting in London and has been carried on in both hemispheres to Australia, South Africa, Mexico, the US and Canada.
Another recent tradition has been the incorporation of a best student paper prize at our meetings. This was first begun in Seattle in 1997 and has been carried to every meeting since. The first prize, a made-to-order web page, has been eschewed by every winner. There are other traditions that are less visible. We have a tradition of offering student scholarships to our meetings, where possible, and to provide affordable housing to students. We traditionally have invited speakers to our meetings whose expenses are reimbursed. We traditionally seek outside funding for our meetings, usually from local organizations, thereby making our meetings subsidized and keeping membership and meeting costs down. We have a tradition of informal meetings and try to keep logistics simple.
Mancur Olson, in his book The Logic of Collective Action suggests that groups have a difficult time sustaining themselves because, although the benefits from membership are equally distributed, the work input is highly skewed. We are not exempt from this "tradition". I sometimes despair that Olson's exceptions, namely some overriding benefit outweighing the inputs or some psychological advantage inherent in group membership, are not enough in evidence in RMA to sustain it.
Clearly the way RMA is run is no way to run an airline and, unlike business, our objectives do not appear to continue to grow. Still, I like the keyword "traditions" RMA evokes for me. Collegiality, informality, equality. Not quite as compelling as Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, but close enough.